The Blackhawks will have three representatives in the semifinal round Friday at the World Junior Championship tournament at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Forward Evan Barratt (2017 third) and the United States face Russia in the first semifinal before defenseman Henri Jokiharju (’17 first) and Finland meet center Philipp Kurashev (’18 fourth) and Switzerland in the second semifinal.
Russia vs. United States
Barratt scored a goal against the Czech Republic in the Americans’ opening game of the tournament, but hasn’t scored a point since. He’s centering the second line with wingers Noah Cates (Flyers) and Tyler Madden (Canucks). Madden is picking up the bulk of the scoring on the line with three goals and an assist. Ryan Poehling (Canadiens) leads the tournament field with eight points (five goals, three assists).
The tournament was suppose to be the big stage for Jack Hughes, who is projected top overall pick in next year’s draft. But the forward missed three preliminary round games with an injury before recording an assist in the Americans’ 3-1 win over Slovakia in the quarterfinals.
The undefeated Russians have a high-scoring top line of Klim Kostin (Blues), Vitali Kravstsov (Rangers) and Grigori Denisenko (Panthers) with seven goals and 11 assists. Aside from their excellent special teams play that rank first and second on the power play and penalty kill, respectively, the Russians have great goaltending from Pyotr Kochetkov. The undrafted netminder is 3-0 with a 1.05 goals-against average and .965 save percentage.
Winger Vasili Podkolzin, who is projected to be a top-10 pick this year, has two assists in the tournament.
The Americans have history on their side as they’ve eliminated the Russians in each of the past two tournaments. The Russians haven’t won the tournament since 2011, but have fallen in the gold-medal game three times since. Team USA, who won gold in 2017, is look to return to the gold-medal game to guarantee a medal for the fourth straight year.
Finland vs. Switzerland
Kurashev leads the Swiss in scoring with five goals and an assist. His five goals are tied with Poehling for the most in the tournament among active players. The Swiss have received good goaltending from 18-year-old Luca Hollenstein, who sports a .978 save percentage in three games. Hollenstein has two shutouts, with a 41-save effort against Sweden in the quarterfinals and 21 saves against Denmark in the preliminary round.
Jokiharju and winger Kaapo Kakko, the No. 2 projected pick in this year’s draft, each have a goal and two assists. Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sabres) made 24 saves, including stopping a penalty shot in Finland’s win over Canada in the quarterfinals.
Finland hasn’t medaled since winning gold on home soil in 2016 in Helsinki. Switzerland has a chance to medal for only the second time in World Juniors history and the first time since claiming bronze in 1998.
Both semifinal games will be broadcasted on NHL Network in the United States and TSN in Canada.
Relegation Game 2: Denmark vs. Kazakhstan, 11 a.m. (KAZ 1-0)
Semifinal: Russia vs. United States, 3 p.m.
Semifinal: Finland vs. Switzerland, 7 p.m.