The Washington Capitals first-rounder was definitely the best goaltender in the tournament and Russia has a medal for a seventh straight year because of him
So here’s how voting works for the world junior all-star team: media folks are given a form and it’s due in by the end of the first intermission of the gold medal game. So there’s a bit of a dance, because the most important game of the tournament hasn’t been resolved yet.
But I’m guessing that won’t matter this year, because Russia’s Ilya Samsonov is gonna get the nod for best goalie. The Washington Capitals first-rounder was absolutely stunning in the bronze medal game, despite the fact he appeared to hurt himself on at least two separate occasions. Samsonov stopped 38 Swedish shots, including many high-caliber chances in a 2-1 overtime victory. And really, he should have had a shutout, had New Jersey pick Yegor Rykov not served up a turnover directly in front of the crease in the second period.
“That was the most outstanding game by him,” said Montreal first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev. “Like, I’ve seen him before like that, but today he made the craziest saves of his life. It was pretty amazing.”
The fact Samsonov was rebounding from a heartbreaking semifinal loss to Team USA the night before compounded the impressiveness of his performance today. Truly, for the Russians to medal in a tourney where they didn’t have a very deep team (by their high standards), was quite a feat.
“Players were completely exhausted, physically and emotionally,” said captain and Minnesota pick Kirill Kaprizov, through a translator. “But you should just step on the ice and battle and fight to the very end because a bronze medal is still a medal.”
Russia has now medalled in the past seven world juniors, by far the longest run by any country right now. Coach Valery Bragin has been a big factor and Russia’s ability to finish strong even when their round robin play has been spotty is well established.
“Obviously our coaches are, I think, the best coaches in the world,” Sergachev said. “With our strategy, we’re pretty good.”
Now the question turns to Samsonov’s future. He’s already playing against men in the KHL and with Washington employing one of the best netminders in the world in Braden Holtby, there’s no rush to get the kid to The Show. As Sweden’s Rasmus Asplund pointed out post-game, Samsonov is basically an NHL goalie already. Given the kid’s size, athleticism and compete level, it’s hard to argue against his opponent’s assessment.
For Sweden, this is a third straight year coming in fourth. As if the result itself wasn’t hard enough, it kind of vindicated Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme, who controversially said before the semis that Sweden had trouble winning after the first round of the world juniors.
Do the Swedes need a summit? No. Denis Gurianov’s overtime goal came off an error by 16-year-old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who, based on projection, may already be a force from the blueline when the world juniors return to Buffalo next year. Canada went through a similar drought just a few years ago and now the home team is in the final for the second time in three years. Of course, Sweden will still have to keep Russia on its radar next time, because you can never count those kids out.