Happy holidays everyone! The new year is almost upon us, and you know what that means… The World Junior Championship! The WJCs are my favorite time of year. We get to see the best and brightest from each country as well as the stars that will tear up the NHL for years to come.
I was extremely excited to see the United States play for the gold this year, but I’m not so sure their ticket is punched anymore. Jack Hughes is a stud and will likely go first overall this season, but I’m not sure they have the depth to push past Canada, Sweden, and Finland.
Finland sounds like an odd addition to the two other powerhouses, but their roster just got a big bump.
1. Holiday Cheers
Eeli Tolvanen was just loaned to team Finland by the Nashville Predators. He’ll be joining Henri Jokiharju, Aleski Heponiemi, Rasmus Kupari, and young stud, Kaapo Kakko.
Finland has been a bit of a disappointment over the past few years, they’ve failed to push deep despite having Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujärvi, and Aleksander Barkov.
Tolvanen will hope to power Finland past the other two superpowers in group B, Sweden and the United States.
2. Who Else Is There To Watch?
So Tolvanen is going to the WJCS, but who else is going to represent the Nashville Predators?
No one that’s signed, that’s who. Dante Fabbro has aged out of the under 20 competition, but will compete in the lesser known Spengler Cup. Otherwise, the prospect cupboard is a little bit bare. I like Frederic Allard and I don’t dislike Alexandre Carrier, but even if they were eligible, I’m not sure they’d beat out Canadian defensemen Ty Smith, Evan Bouchard, Noah Dobson, or even Markus Phillips.
3. What Is Happening In Philly?
This last weekend was a bit of a wild ride in Philadelphia. Local media reported that head coach Dave Hakstol had been fired, then the Flyers said that was untrue, then the club reported that he’d been fired.
Now that we have the magical gift of hindsight, let’s go back and review some of the facts. On Saturday night, the Flyers lost five to one against the Vancouver Canucks, and it wasn’t even that close. The Flyers looked like a defeated team and it was clear there was little accountability in the room.
From there, rumors spread and a local reporter tweeted that Hakstol had been fired before the private jet even landed back in Philly. From there, general manager Chuck Fletcher addressed the media and said that no such decision had been made, and that Hakstol was still the coach. While this sounds like it should be the end of the story, this is where things get fun.
This wild rumor apparently weighed heavily on Hakstol’s mind though, and he demanded a vote of confidence within the organization. The Flyers front office met, and decided that Hakstol is not “the man” going forward.
Hakstol was promptly fired, and rumors continued to spread. Many figured that Joel Quenneville would take over, considering his great relationship with Fletcher, but instead Scott Gordon was named interim head coach.
I have no idea if the Flyers’ season will turn around, but if I had to bet, I’d say they’ll miss the playoffs. They’re currently putting all their hopes on the young shoulders of Carter Hart, 20-year-old goaltender of the future. He’s looked great in his two starts, but I wouldn’t bet on him playing this well for the next 30 games or so.
30 year old Patrik Berglund’s contract has been terminated by the Buffalo Sabres. It came as a bit of a shock the the hockey world to learn that Berglund hadn’t been reporting to practices and other team events for weeks.
Everyone likes to joke that no one wants to live in Buffalo, but Berglund left a winning team and over 10 million dollars remaining on his deal in order to leave Buffalo.
Berglund hasn’t made a comment to the media explaining his side of the story, and things surrounding this feel so weird that I refuse to speculate. I just hope that Berglund finds his peace.
5. Junior News
I try to stay away from Junior news, though I often fail, just because I know there isn’t much interest in Tennessee. Despite my best efforts, there’s something I just couldn’t omit. The Prince Albert Raiders are lighting the WHL on fire!
PA currently has 31 wins, two losses, and an overtime loss in 34 games! They’re led mostly by Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect, 19 year old goaltender Ian Scott. Scott currently has a .943 save percentage and 23 wins in 26 games. What’s better is that he’s only given up 42 goals, so just a bit less than 1.5 per game.
Besides Scott, a few skaters are having some great seasons. Brett Leason has reinvented his game and is dominating the competition. His 64 points in 31 games is just about double his career best 34 points, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Otherwise, Noah Gregor and Max Martin are doing a good job of showing their talent despite being overagers.
What’s weird about the club is that most of their first year draft eligible players aren’t making huge contributions. It’s a story to watch as the draft and Memorial Cup inches closer.