What a day in Alberta.
The Finns beat up on an undermanned Austrian team with 2022 NHL draft prospect Brad Lambert continuing his strong showing at the U-20 event three more points including an impressive goal that put both his high-end speed and silky smooth hands on display. Russian super-prospect Matvei Michkov was yet again among their best players, adding a goal with some nice hands in tight.
First Star - G Jesper Wallstedt | Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt was an absolute STAR! The Minnesota Wild prospect made 48 saves for the shutout in a game where the feisty and young Slovak squad was looking to put their name on the map with a great performance over one of the best hockey nations in the world. Unfortunately for them, Jesper Wallstedt had other plans for them. Make no bones about it, Slovakia was the better team tonight, pretty much start to finish. They just didn’t have Wallstedt.
While there were incredible saves made by Wallstedt throughout the game, there was a series of saves - along with some key shot blocks - on a five-on-three which turned into a six-on-four when Slovakia pulled their goalie. With just over 12 minutes to go in the third, Swedish blueliner Leo Lööf hit Slovak defenseman Šimon Nemec high and was thrown out of the game and given a major penalty. This left the Swedes undermanned for five full minutes and then a delay of game penalty put them down two men. Wallstedt showed that he is the best goalie prospect in the world with the otherworldly ability to see the play a step ahead, make the correct read, and calmly make every save asked of him.
Wallstedt’s uncanny ability to look like a literal goaltending robot with his incredible technical ability in net was on full display. He is a truly special talent and mature beyond his years in the crease. He has been stellar in the SHL against men and his performance both this year and last at the world’s premier junior event have been outstanding. Not only is he a remarkable netminder, but his mask features a really cool tribute to Swedish goaltending legend Henrik Lundqvist.
Second Star - G Florian Bugl | Germany
The German team was enthusiastically belting the anthem after the game and Florian Bugl was a big reason why. Named player of the game, Bugl made big save after big save. The young German netminder had the kind of game that makes you think some scout is going to bang the table come draft day and push for the 19-year-old goaltender.
Stopping 39 or 40 shots in this one, Bugl helped Germany in a big way when it comes to securing a quarterfinal berth. The 6’0” goalie’s only mistake came while the Czech squad was on the powerplay as Jan Mysak had a bounce go his way and was a bit fortunate to beat Bugl. His glove hand was fantastic, making a number of big glove saves throughout the game. He was moving in hsi crease well and never really allowed the Czech squad to ever feel like they got into this game despite the one goal that did get by him.
Germany’s fate is in their hands when it comes to qualifying for a quarterfinal berth. With a win over the Austrian team on New Year's Eve could secure them third place in Group A, a game that many thought could be deciding who would have to play in the relegation game prior to relegation coming off the table this year due to COVID. Bugl was the starter in last year's World Juniors and he may have just earned himself the job again this year.
Third Star - W Ville Koivunen | Finland
The Finns have looked quite good to start the World Juniors and Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Ville Koivunen has been a big reason through two games. The young forward plays the game with such a strong sense of where his teammates are and where the opportunities to exploit his opponents exist. He has above average tools but nothing that truly stands out as special, aside from his diagnostic ability all over the ice.
He found himself on the scoresheet three total times, twice in the goal column. Koivunen opened the scoring about three and a half minutes into the game. With linemate Brad Lambert circling the Austrian net, Koivunen came streaking into the slot just as Lambert emerged behind the net. Lambert put the puck on his tape and Koivunen made no mistake. He also scored the first goal of the third period to put the Finns up 5-1 and real get the rout going. With Lambert floating a puck the the netfront, Koivunen collected the puck and tucked a spinning backhand into the net for his second of the night.
He was also dishing the puck though with a slick backhand feed off a great forecheck behind the Austrian net. Corralling the puck after Lambert and an Austrian defender were pinned to the boards, Koivunen found Helenius in the slot for an easy goal for the hulking Finnish forward. The line consisting of Koivunen-Helenius-Lambert has been one of the most dangerous at the World Juniors and the trio shows no signs of slowing down.