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Montreal Canadiens prospect performances at the 2020 World Juniors

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Daily updates on how the Habs prospects are faring in the Czech Republic.

Czech Republic v Russia - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens have four prospects representing their countries at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship. Their performances will be updated daily in this article.

Tournament statistics

Player Draft year Country Pos GP MIN/GP G A P SOG
Player Draft year Country Pos GP MIN/GP G A P SOG
Alexander Romanov 2018 Russia D 7 20:48 1 5 6 23
Cole Caufield 2019 USA F 5 13:29 1 1 2 9
Jordan Harris 2018 USA D 5 15:52 1 0 1 9
Mattias Norlinder 2019 Sweden D 7 9:07 0 0 0 4

Alexander Romanov

Dec. 26: Russia vs. Czech Republic

Romanov was the the first Habs prospect to play a game at the 2020 World Juniors, and the only one to record a point on the opening day. He was credited with a secondary assist after his work at the blue line got the puck down low, where Vasili Podkolzin eventually batted it in during the last second of a power play.

It wasn’t a perfect game from last year’s defenceman of the tournament. Free to play more of a rover role for the team rather than the shutdown style he’s been deployed in in the KHL, he was contributing to the offensive and transition games, and landing some big hits. He was also occasionally getting himself out of position, perhaps trying to take on too many responsibilities. After a team-high 23:11 of ice time, he finished the game with two shots on goal, and an even goal differential.

Now with an 0-1 record after the first day, Russia will need to rebound over the remainder of the preliminary round to secure a top seed. Alternate captain Romanov will once again be the go-to player to turn defence into offence when the team takes to the ice again on Saturday.

Dec. 28: Russia vs. Canada

Romanov looked very composed on the ice versus Canada, in stark contrast to the scrambly play from the blue-liners on the opposite side of the ice. He was calm while carrying the puck, especially while handling it just inside the blue line on a few Russian power plays. Without possession, he was keeping good positioning in his own end and waiting for the play to enter his area of the ice before committing to a play.

He didn’t register any points in a 6-0 bulldozing of Team Canada, but did finish with a plus-three goal differential.

December 29: Russia vs. USA

The defenceman’s composure is a major standout in a tournament more known for its wild swings, major breakdowns, and end-to-end play. Romanov made few mistakes in the contest versus the Americans. With the team down three goals in the third period, head coach Valeri Bragin was giving his top defender just short rests between shifts.

That trust was rewarded with a goal from the blue-liner. One of the five shots he had on target in the game came after walking in to the top of the circles and blasting a shot through a bit of traffic to put the team on the board.

Dec. 31: Russia vs. Germany

Two more assists were added to Romanov’s stat line in a 6-1 win over Russia. They came on consecutive power plays as the defenceman quarterbacked the special-teams unit from the blue line. He helped transfer the puck from the right to the left side of the zone on the first goal, setting up a cross-crease passing play. The second assist was a wrist shot through traffic that resulted in a scramble, and eventually a 5-0 lead for Team Russia.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #1 — Russia vs. Switzerland

Romanov played another 20 minutes in the first elimination game of the World Juniors, ranking just behind Yegor Zamula, which is becoming a bit of a trend. He had two of Russia’s 36 shots on goal as his nation knocked Switzerland out of the tournament and earned the first semifinal spot.

Jan. 4: Semifinal #1 — Russia vs. Sweden

The defencemen didn’t register any points in the first semifinal, despite his four shots on goal, but he did do his part on the defensive side of things.

Early in the second, he kept a Russian lead intact with a skilled stick-play to knock the puck away from a Swedish player looking at a potential break.

Down a goal in the third period, he used his physicality to simultaneously prevent a shot from the tournament’s most dangerous forward, Samuel Fagemo, and create a turnover in his team’s favour. Russia collected the puck and went on to score the goal that tied the game and sent the teams to three-on-three overtime.

He was one of the first players into the pile when Ivan Morozov scored the game-winner after blowing past Rasmus Sandin on line changes for both teams, celebrating Russia’s return to the final for the first time since 2016.

The coaching staff may have been more fond of the steady Yegor Zamula, naming him as one of their top three players of the tournament over Romanov, but Canadiens fans will have to be very impressed with what they’ve seen from the prospect through six games; a force in all three zones, and in all facets of the game.

Jan. 5: Gold Medal Game — Russia vs. Canada

Romanov played 21:42 in the final of the World Junior Hockey Championship, getting time in every situation for Valeri Bragin. His shot in the second period led to the 2-1 goal for Russia that stood as the potential game-winner until Canada’s comeback began midway through the third period. In the end, Russia wasn’t able to hold on to the lead, and couldn’t answer the three-goal surge that won Canada gold.

The defenceman left the tournament with a silver medal to go with the bronze he won last year, and was also named to the IIHF’s All-Star Team for the second year in a row.

Tournament complete

Cole Caufield

Dec. 26: USA vs. Canada

Caufield got plenty of ice time in the marquee game versus Canada on Boxing Day, punching out with nearly 18 minutes played. He wasn’t able to register his name on the scoresheet, and finished as a team-low minus-two in the contest.

He made a couple of good passes in the game to set teammates up in great position, but was largely quiet in his first game at the IIHF’s under-20 level. The coaching staff has him on the second unit of the power play, and since the man advantage was often capitalizing early on their chances, he wasn’t getting much opportunity to show off his shot. Considering that Shane Pinto had two power-play goals as a member of the first wave, one from the area Caufield would normally play, a secondary role could be the best the prolific scorer will receive in the tournament.

We’ve been seeing Caufield trying to generate his own chances with Wisconsin this season, and he’ll know after the first game that he will have to do more of that in this tournament.

Dec. 27: USA vs. Germany

Caufield had wrapped up the pre-tournament slate with a four-goal performance versus Germany. When he played them with points on the line on the second day of the official WJC schedule, he was held pointless for a second consecutive game.

The diminutive winger had three shots on goal in the contest, coming in just under 13 minutes of action.

Dec. 29: USA vs. Russia

Caufield was once again held off the board, but is beginning to get a bit more power-play time with the man advantage no longer capitalizing immediately on every opportunity.

He only had one shot in the game, but did get credited with a secondary assist on Arthur Kaliyev’s first goal of the contest by handing the puck off to Trevor Zegras along the boards.

Dec. 30: USA vs. Czech Republic

It seem Caufield was just waiting for the drama to build before registeringt his first goal. In a key battle on the penultimate day of the preliminary round, he netted the winner in overtime to put the United States in position to secure first place in Group B. They’ll have to sit back and watch Tuesday action to see if that position will hold, but they won’t fall any lower than the second seed.

It was a great setup by the winger, making a pass to break his coverage then sprinting to the net as focus shifted to a new puck-carrier. Perhaps this was the goal that will open the floodgates for one of the best Junior-aged scorers in the world.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #3 — USA vs. Finland

Caufield was unable to hit the net in the quarter-final versus Finland, and since none of his teammates were able to solve netminder Justus Annunen either, Team USA was eliminated from the 2020 World Juniors.

It wasn’t the tournament the team was expecting, and probably a bit shocking for Caufield himself, who has never seen such low production at any level he’s played. He wasn’t a top choice for the American power play, and even the game plan for his second unit wasn’t designed to go through him, and that neutralized his impact.

It wasn’t a great birthday present for the winger, but since he was born on the second day of 2001 he will still be eligible to play in next year’s tournament. If he’s not playing with the Canadiens at that time, he’ll likely be in Alberta making up for a disappointing run in his first go-round.

Tournament complete

Jordan Harris

Dec. 26: USA vs. Canada

Listed on the top pairing to start Thursday’s game, Harris finished sixth in ice time among defencemen, only above seventh defender Cam York, who played a mere 2:28. His shift count was close to some of those who played more, and outside of K’Andre Miller’s 19:39, the next five blue-liners minutes were fairly close.

Harris had two shots in the game — only Zac Jones registered more among defencemen — but had no points in the 6-4 loss.

Dec. 27: USA vs. Germany

Harris opened the scoring for the Americans after they had fallen behind early to Germany. The defenceman was given plenty of space to walk right into the slot from the blue line, and he fired a puck through plenty of traffic in front to tie the game.

Harris had another shot in the second period, ending the game with a plus-two goal differential and 15:21 of ice time.

Dec. 29: USA vs. Russia

Harris played a quality game, showing off his speed on several transitions into the Russian zone. He was on the ice to celebrate two of the US goals, ending the game a team-high plus-two with two shots on net.

Dec. 30: USA vs. Czech Republic

Harris was trusted with another sizeable portion of the minutes versus the Czechs, and had three shots on goal.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #3 — USA vs. Finland

Harris played 14 minutes in his final game of IIHF under-20 competition, and watched on as the team wasn’t able to find an equalizer late in the third period of the quarter-final. He finished the tournament will one goal, but won’t claim the medal he was hoping for in his first taste of international competition.

Tournament complete

Mattias Norlinder

Dec. 26: Sweden vs. Finland

Norlinder is the seventh defenceman on what is probably the strongest defence corps in the tournament, so he was never going to see a lot of ice in the Czech Republic. He kept his 12 shifts short in the game, averaging just 36 seconds while most blue-liners were on the ice for between 40 and 50.

Perhaps later in the tournament versus inferior competition he’ll be used to spell some of the top defenders to rest them for more important games. That probably won’t be the case on Saturday, however, as Sweden is looking for redemption against the team that upset them in the quarter-finals a year ago.

Dec. 28: Sweden vs. Switzerland

Norlinder is beginning to take the minutes of Adam Ginning on the Swedish roster, playing 11:26 on Saturday. He had two shots on goal, and was using more of his skating and offensive flash than we saw in limited duty versus Finland. He was jumping up into the zone when the puck was near the goal line, getting a great scoring chance from such a pinch in the game. He’s yet to register a point, but with increased ice time could come a bit of offence for the tricky defender.

Dec. 30: Sweden vs. Kazakhstan

Sweden ensured Kazakhstan wouldn’t earn a single point in round-robin play, with a 6-2 win to extend their own prelminary-round winning streak to 51 games. Norlinder kept his shifts short, ending with two shots and a plus-one rating.

Dec. 31: Sweden vs. Slovakia

Norlinder played 12:37 to help Sweden claim top spot in Group A. He was the least-used defenceman in the game, but did get to show off his offensive potential with a good rush up the ice. The tournament so far hasn’t lent itself to his true style of play, but as things tighten up in the elimination portion, he may be turned to if Sweden is ever in need of a late goal.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #4 — Sweden vs. Czech Republic

For whatever reason, Norlinder was used sparingly in a 5-0 rout of the Czech Republic in the last quarter-final of the 2020 World Juniors. With just 11 shifts he wasn’t able to add to the team’s 37 shots.

He still has a knack for jumping into the play when the situation calls for it. He danced around a sprawled forward inside the blue line on one occasion on Thursday, but had his shot blocked just as he was preparing a release from the slot.

At this point he’ll just focus on the limited minutes he does get, and work to be a positive factor for his team to give them a shot at gold.

Jan. 4: Semifinal #1 — Sweden vs. Russia

Norlinder played 11:25 of the semifinal, with no shots or points, but also no negative goal differential to spoil his team’s chances of overcoming its demons and making it to the Gold Medal Game. Some of his teammates weren’t so forturnate to avoid those negative numbers, and Sweden’s nightmarish run continued when Russia netted the winner 3:24 into the three-on-three- overtime period.

Norlinder now moves on to play his limited minutes in tomorrow’s game versus Finland, as the team gets its chance to improve the 1-7 record it has in third-place games since 1999.

Jan. 5: Bronze Medal Game — Sweden vs. Finland

Norlinder played 10 minutes in the third-place game, and finished with a plus-one goal differential. He didn’t see a lot of time in seven games at the tournament, but did leave with a bronze medal around his neck.

Tournament complete