World Juniors Medal Round Preview

Trouba has been the American's best skater, can he keep it up? - Jamie Sabau

Canada and Sweden are on the sidelines, waiting for opponents.

After winning their respective groups, Canada and Sweden get a relatively long break until the 3rd of January to wait for opponents to get through the quaterfinals.

The United States and the Czech Republic will face off tomorrow morning at 4AM Eastern standard time. The Czechs finished with a better record than the USA, but the Americans had to face tougher teams in their group.

Watching the games, I felt that the USA gave Canada the toughest challenge in the round robin, and might be the second best team in the tournament, although admittedly I haven't seen enough of Sweden to say this confidently.

Alex Galchenyuk leads the USA in scoring, and is tied for second in the tournament with Canadian Jonathan Huberdeau, although Huberdeau scored one of his goals on an empty net, and fed off of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for 3 games.

The best player on the American roster so far though, has to be either Jacob Trouba, who's scored in every game for Team USA, or John Gibson, who's backstopped them with a .946 save percentage and given them a chance to win every game.

The Czechs' star players like Tomas Hertl, Martin Frk, and Radek Faksa have been disappointing offensively, but they've still been getting the job done. No Czech player scored more than twice in the round robin, but Dmitrij Jaskin leads the team offensively with 2 goals and 3 assists in 4 games, along with a +5 rating. Patrick Bartosak has also given them solid goaltending, so it could be a low scoring game against the USA.

Later in the morning, at 8:00AM, when people are actually waking up, mostly getting ready for work, Russia will face off against Switzerland.

For the Swiss, a balanced team performance has been the name of the game, as it usually is. 6 Swiss players have 4 or 5 points in the 4 games they've played. Switzerland has no real star players on their roster, and has to win by playing an excellent team game that stifles the more talented Russians.

Russia on the other hand, is loaded with high end talent. but has also had balanced scoring. The trouble for Russia is that they just aren't scoring enough. Perhaps it was due to the strength of the teams they were facing, but they were actually outscored by Switzerland in the round robin. They have been an exceptional even strength team though, with 12 roster players with +2 ratings or better, and only one minus player, Kirill Kapustin. Only Nail Yakupov and Nikita Kucherov have managed a point per game so far.

The real question for Russia though, is whether they go with Andrey Makarov or Andrei Vasilevski in goal. They can't really make a bad choice, but the right choice might be key when it gets to the semifinal. Vasilevski is the higher touted goaltender, but Makarov is older and has played against the tougher teams.

If Russia wins, they'll be facing Sweden in the semifinal. Canada on the other hand, will face the winner of USA vs the Czech Republic unless Switzerland manages an upset over Russia.
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