In what has been a tournament filled with outstanding performances—except perhaps at the ticket offices—Canada and Sweden have outlasted all the rest and will come together in the World Junior Championship gold medal match tonight. Neither team lost a game in regulation during the tournament, with Canada only falling in a snowy shootout at the hands of the United States in the outdoor game.
Both teams are loaded with future NHL talent, including the almost consensus 2018 first-overall pick in Rasmus Dahlin. Dahlin has been incredible all tournament long, looking just as poised and confident as always. The 17-year old defenseman plays for Frolunda in the SHL, where he has 11 points in 26 games and has graced highlight reels all season. While other 2018-eligible players have impressed at the tournament, Dahlin has cemented his spot as a franchise-changing prospect and the prize of the draft lottery.
It’s not just Dahlin starring for Sweden though. Their group of 2017 first-round picks—Elias Pettersson, Lias Andersson, Erik Brannstrom and Timothy Liljegren—have all shown moments of brilliance throughout the last couple of weeks, and all look like they’ll make their NHL debuts before long. Alexander Nylander has shown off his elite offensive skill, and reminded Buffalo fans that even though he’s struggled at the AHL level he still has tremendous upside.
For Canada, a team that has just a single first-round pick on the whole roster, the scoring responsibility has been spread throughout. Every Canadian player save for Dante Fabbro has at least a point in the tournament, with St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou leading the way. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Cale Makar (that aforementioned first-round pick, fourth-overall to the Colorado Avalanche last year), who has worked his way up from the seventh defenseman on the roster. Makar has been a dynamic powerplay quarterback and will be relied upon again tonight against the tough defense of the Swedes.
It will be a very tough matchup for both sides, as neither has given up very many chances. With the quick-strike offense both teams possess, the game could hinge on which experienced defense corps makes the fewest mistakes. It also could be an Olympic preview for some of the players, as Kyrou and Victor Mete are possibilities to go to Pyeongchang for Canada, while several of the Swedes (including Pettersson and Dahlin) playing in the SHL could crack their squad.
So who will take home gold tonight? Who will win MVP? Who have you been most impressed by in the tournament? Vote below, and use the comment section to discuss.
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