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Grading the Canadiens prospects’ World Junior Championship performances

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One player stood out from the pack in the annual internatioal under-20 tournament.

Peter Kovalev/TASS

Cole Caufield, USA, Grade - D

Expectations were high going into the tournament, not only on Caufield himself but also on Team USA. The quarter-final loss to Finland was nothing but a disappointment, and Caufiled had not much to show for the tournament: one goal and one assist.

The goal, a game-winner against the hosts in overtime, was the highlight. In Caufield’s defence, it was more the coaching and his utilization over the tournament that was suspect, however he didn’t really show a lot with the time he did get.

He receives a passing grade, even if the expectations might have been too high going in. He has the tools as everyone knows. This was a short tournament and it won’t change my opinion of Caufield’s future. He will be a prolific scorer in the professional ranks, but this was an extremely rare case of him not standing out in a competition with his peers.

Jordan Harris, USA, Grade - C+

The revelation in the US team was Jordan Harris, who earned his coach’s trust with a stable defensive game that had a quality offensive element as well. He rarely put a foot wrong defensively and made a USA team that was lacking in that department more secure. Having come into the tournament as the last guy in, he quickly adjusted to the bigger ice surface and was rewarded with more ice time for every game.

Not many people would have placed a bet on Harris being the first Montreal prospect to score a goal in the World Junior Championship, but that was how things played out, and it will be something that many will remember after the tournament.

Mattias Norlinder, Sweden, Grade - D

In the same boat as Caufield, Norlinder had a coach who didn’t really give him the chance to shine. It’s tough to award a higher grade for either player than a passing one.

Norlinder was there when a stacked Swedish defence needed him. He didn’t put a skate out of place when asked to play on the penalty kill or when he was given more minutes because of different injuries.

Alexander Romanov, Russia, Grade - A

The big Russian came away from the tournament with a place on the All-Star Team but lost his Best Defenceman award defence to an offensive blue-liner from Sweden, Rasmus Sandin.

While stable defensive play by Romanov carried Russia throughout the tournament, his leadership off the ice and his play on it was a big reason why Russia came away with the silver medal. Not as offensive as he was last year, he was the backbone that the Russian coaching staff leaned on when Russia was in trouble.

It is clear that the defensive role that Romanov has played in CSKA has benefited his overall game as a defender. He was clearly the best defender on the Russian team (even if the coaching staff was more enamored with the game of Yegor Zamula when it came time to name its top players) and was double-shifted during the third period quite often. The increased playing time speaks not only to his defensive acumen but also to his stamina. He led the team in all facets of the game, and the nation probably would not have achieved the same level of success without him.