For the second year in a row, the Montreal Canadiens only have three prospects representing their countries at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship, though two of them are serving as their team’s captain. Their performances will be updated daily in this article.
Dec. 26: Canada vs. Czechia
Guhle made it known to his opponent early on that he was going to lead Team Canada with his physicality, and several Czech forwards were crunched along the boards in the opening period while trying to beat him into the offensive zone. He has the skating talent to keep step with just about anyone, zeroing in on an onrushing attacker and stopping him in his tracks. It was part of perhaps an overaggressive start from Canada’s defence in general, which was allowing a few chances to the opponent rather than thwarting them. That was reined in somewhat as the game went on, though Guhle maintained his physiscal brand of play.
With possession of the puck, he made good decisions with his passes in transition, while he was more conservative in the offensive zone, moving laterally along the blue line and either wristing shots toward the net or just cycling the puck down the boards if there was no option in front.
Owen Power was getting the top offensive minutes on the power play (deservedly so; he used them to net a hat trick), but Guhle was doing the brunt of the defensive duties, playing 27 shifts in the game for a total of 19:53. He had no points in the game, but came close with some shot-passes to the crease that should result in assists or a screened goal or two as the tournament continues.
Dec. 28: Canada vs. Austria
With a weaker opponent and no real concerns about losing the game, Canada played a very aggressive style of offence versus Austria, and Kaiden Guhle was in on the act. He was often found right up near the opposing net looking to get involved in the scoring. It was an all-out attack in the opening period, as Canada got out to a 25-6 shot advantage.
Guhle ended up with three shots in the game, and also collected his first point of the tournament by helping to set up the 9-1 goal from Mason McTavish, making his pass from the goal line.
This game was a chance for everyone to get involved in the offence, and 16 of the 20 players did register at least one point. It would be a mistake to expect the same on Wednesday, however, because Germany is looking like a strong team despite missing some top-quality options. We should probably expect to see more conservative play from Guhle as a result, focusing more on his shutdown skills than his playmaking ones. And maybe more of this:
Next game: Dec. 29 vs. Germany
Dec. 26: Czechia vs. Canada
As is the case for the other two Canadiens prospects in the event, Mysak is there to be a reliable 200-foot player whom the coach can rely upon at any time during a game. “Mysak!” was a popular call from Czechia head coach Karel Mlejnek on Sunday night, as he sent out his captain to play a team-high 21:26.
Unfortunately, he also spent some time in the penalty box after tripping a player while aggressively trying to turn the puck over on the penalty kill. A second infraction was taken by a teammate before the whistle was blown on the delayed call, and Mysak was one of three Czech players in the box to watch a long five-on-three for the hosts. That ended up being the turning point in the game, as Mysak’s team went from a surprising 3-3 tie when he entered the box, to a 5-3 goal that ended his sentence early. Czechia didn’t score another goal in the game.
The good news is that that should have been the most difficult game the Czechs will play in the preliminary round, and they have more realistic chances of winning the upcoming games. It’s sure to be Mysak featuring in the key moments of the remaining three matches as well.
Dec. 27: Czechia vs. Germany
Mysak very nearly turned defence into offence in the game versus Germany when he broke up ice on a short-handed two-on-one. He was interfered with on the odd-man rush to have the chance thwarted, though it did result in a penalty that evened up the sides.
He did get his goal a bit later, with his team on a power play. He attempted to pass the puck from his spot on the left-side half-boards, but it pinballed off Arkadiusz Dziambor, who tried to prevent the pass but deflected into the net instead, for Czechia’s first and ultimately only goal of the game.
Mysak’s deployment wasn’t nearly as extreme as it had been in the opening game, but instead of leading the club in ice time, he led it in shots, with seven. Several of them came after moving in close to the net, but were usually shut down by goaltender Florian Bügl.
The Czechs missed a good chance to get the one win that will probably see them through to the playoffs, though their one point may yet prove enough to to stay ahead of Austria in the Group A standings. Their third of four games in the preliminary portion of the event goes Wednesday after a needed day off.
Dec. 29: Czechia vs. Finland
Due to a positive test on Czechia’s roster, this game was forfeited by Mysak’s team.
Next game: Dec. 30 vs. Austria
Dec. 26: Finland vs. Germany
Kapanen isn’t expected to be a star for Finland in this tournament, but the second-round selection from the 2021 NHL Draft will play a steady game in a middle-six capacity. In the first day of the tournament, which his team played versus Germany for a second year in a row, he was getting minutes in all situations.
His role was to patrol the middle of the ice in the game, serving as a conduit between the defence and his wingers, and he played that role well. On the power play he was doing hard work to win pucks and distribute it around the zone, and had some key clearances around his own crease on the penalty kill. He finished with an even goal differential on the day in 16 minutes of action, with one shot on goal in his team’s 3-1 win.
Dec. 27: Finland vs. Austria
Despite his team taking a 7-1 win over what could very well be the weakest team in the tournament, Kapanen did not record a point versus Austria on Monday afternoon.
The coaching staff recognized the quality of the opponent, and with Finland having played the day before, ice times were very evenly distributed among the players; most defenceman played a bit more or less than 20 minutes, nearly all the forwards played right around 15, making sure the club was as fresh as possible for the next game on Wednesday.
Nearly every player had a shot in the game for Finland, which outshot its opponent 48-9, though Kapanen was one of the few who didn’t. Perhaps the coaches will need to make more use of his defensive talents versus Czechia, a team that should pose more of a challenge.
Dec. 29: Finland vs. Czechia
Finland was credited with a win when Czechia was forced to forfeit due to a positive COVID-19 test. Kapanen’s team claimed three points in the standings as a result.
Next game: Dec. 31 vs. Canada