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2017 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Denmark preview

The path leads onward and upward for ambitious Danes.

Dennis Pajot

For Team Denmark, the World Juniors are not about medaling — not yet at least. They’re about improvement, not just on the international stage, but at home as well.

After two straight years of reaching the quarter-finals, securing their first regulation win in 2016, and twice threatening to upset Russia, one would imagine that this year’s goal is similar.

Denmark will face off in the preliminary round against the rest of Group A, consisting of Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and their familiar foe, Switzerland, at the Bell Centre.

Roster

Team Denmark

# Player Position League Current Team Age
# Player Position League Current Team Age
1 Emil Gransøe G NAHL Topeka Roadrunners 18
31 Kasper L. Krog G Denmark SønderjyskE 18
30 Lasse M. Petersen G WHL Red Deer Rebels 19
5 Oliver Gatz Nielsen D Denmark Herning Blue Fox 18
15 Morten Jensen D SuperElit Rögle BK/J18 19
3 Anders Koch D Denmark Esbjerg Energy 19
2 Oliver Joakim Larsen D Denmark Odense Bulldogs 17
12 Christian Mieritz D SuperElit Leksands IF/J20 19
7 Mathias Røndbjerg D Denmark Rungsted Seier Capital 19
8 Nicolai Weichel D Denmark Rungsted Seier Capital 19
14 Niklas Andersen C/RW Denmark Esbjerg Energy 19
10 Rasmus T. Andersson LW/RW SuperElit HV71/J20 19
11 Joachim Blichfeld RW/LW WHL Portland Winterhawks 18
18 William Boysen RW Denmark Rungsted Seier Capital 19
17 Mathias From LW/RW SHL Rögle BK/J20 19
22 Frederik Høeg-Jørgensen C/LW Denmark Odense Bulldogs 19
9 Jeppe Jul Korsgaard LW/RW Denmark Aalborg Pirates 19
19 Nikolaj Krag Christensen C/LW SuperElit Rögle BK/J20 18
21 Tobias Ladehoff RW Denmark Aalborg Pirates 19
23 David Madsen C/RW SuperElit Växjö Lakers HC J20 17
16 Jonas Røndbjerg RW SuperElit Växjö Lakers HC J20 17
27 Alexander True C WHL Seattle Thunderbirds 19
13 Christian Wejse C/LW QMJHL Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 18

The team sees 11 players making their return, and will again be helmed by former Hab Lars Eller’s father, Olaf, who has orchestrated both of the team’s remarkable successes in past years.

Strengths

While, like last year, Denmark lacks the firepower of an Oliver Bjorkstrand or Nikolaj Ehlers, several returning players proved that they can succeed without them in last year’s tournament.

Denmark’s strength has always been its team game, and its refusal to give up even while being hopelessly outgunned and outmanned. In the past, their tenacity has allowed them to stick with teams like Russia and the USA who ought to have, at least on paper, beaten them easily.

Denmark is composed of largely 18- and 19-year-olds, including three drafted players in Nikolai Krag Christensen (St. Louis), Mathias From (Chicago), and Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose). They’ll be joined by team captain Alexander True and goalie Lasse Petersen, who were a part of the squad’s run last year.

True, From (if he’s healthy), Jeppe Korsgaard, Krag Christensen, Jonas Røndbjerg and newcomers Rasmus Andersson and Blichfeld will be among those looked to for offence, while Petersen and the other Danish goalies must be prepared to hold the fort against what is likely to be an absolute barrage of shots.

Weaknesses

Denmark typically gives up a lot of shots nearly every game, which puts tremendous pressure on the goalie, and on the entire team, as Denmark definitely defends by committee. Moreover, after two years of beating Switzerland, and nearly upsetting powers like Russia, the element of surprise may no longer work in their favour.

They also don’t have the firepower or defensive prowess of a Sweden or a Canada, or the obvious star power of a Strome, which does mean that they’re going to need their entire team to step up if they’re to keep up with with the groups top teams.

X-Factor

Every year, the team’s X-factor has been their heart and their refusal to give up combined with coach Eller’s ability to keep a group of youngsters motivated and focused on the daunting task of improving on the year before, and beating the odds.

Their highly team-oriented style of play, especially defensively, allowed them to have some success last year, and will likely factor in this year as well, even if it is not able to entirely neutralize teams like Sweden.

Denmark’s best chance of remaining in the competition is likely to beat Switzerland again, and then push as many games to overtime as possible. Two years ago, they took the Czech Republic to an extra frame, and Russia and Switzerland to the shootout. Last year, they beat Switzerland clean, and pushed Russia to overtime. If they can pick up a win against another team, like the Czech Republic, that would definitely be a step upwards.

Whether or not they’re able to beat Switzerland again, or play upset against any of the other teams, they’re bound to be worth watching.