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Blackhawks World Juniors Prospects Update, 1/6: Final Games and Final Thoughts

Now that the games are behind us, let’s talk shop.

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Ohhhh Canadaaaaa

The final buzzers have sounded, Canada is going home with gold medals, and Sweden is going home with nothing. But what do Blackhawks fans get to take away from this tournament?

FINAL: Canada 3, Czechia 2 (OT)

D Ethan del Mastro, Canada

Final game stats: 0 G, 0 A, 2 SOG in 24:32 of ice time

Final game: Del Mastro seemed to be a favorite among the coaching staff, which explains how he clocked such high TOI, especially in big games like this. His play this game was no exception: although he didn’t have a point, he was reliable on the blue line and knew when to engage physically. He slipped up in the beginning of the second period, getting a lazy penalty for tripping, but was otherwise able to stay calm and collected and focused on getting pucks up-ice. He was especially successful this game at breaking up rushes, and successfully forced the puck through some Czech players to make more offensive plays.

Tournament stats: 0 G, 3 A, — SOG in 7 games

Overall: Del Mastro’s confidence with the puck improved dramatically over the course of the tournament, concurrently with his playing time. In the group stages, his passes were picked off more often, and he stepped up less frequently in the offensive zone. By the end of the tournament, he seemed more comfortable feeding cross-ice passes to players like Connor Bedard or Zack Ostapchuk. He’s an older player (well, by old I mean almost 20 years old) and an assistant captain, so his strong presence on the blue line seems informed by his leadership capabilities and familiarity with the professional side of the sport. (Readers: I’m curious to hear your thoughts ... does del Mastro remind you of any other players?)

His quality of play — especially by the end of the tournament— suggests that he could be a strong blue-liner, so long as he feels comfortable playing with and against more experienced players.

Top play:

D Kevin Korchinski, Canada

Final game stats: 0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG in 5:08 of ice time

Final game: Korchinski pulled the short straw and got the short shifts again this night, only playing for 5 minutes, which I guess is an upgrade from last game’s 4 minutes on ice. It’s hard to create a lot of meaningful opportunities in such a short amount of time, but he didn’t look bad out there, and he started the play that ended with Shane Wright’s second-period goal. He received some criticism for underperforming this tournament, yet his skating is strong and he was quick on the transition.

Tournament stats: 1 G, 3 A, 3 SOG in 7 games played

Overall: Korchinski was one of the Blackhawks’ more talented players at training camp, and during the beginning of the tournament he exhibited the same high quality of play. Yet in the first two knockout games his TOI was cut, which may have resulted from Korchinski being an offensive d-man and Team Canada wanting to let Connor Bedard handle the offense while they placed more defensively focused players on the blue line. Nevertheless, when Korchinski was out on the ice, he looked good. I admired how willing he was to step up (whether that be for a poke check or take the puck in deep), and he looks like a dynamic player who helps the team with quick transitions between offense and defense. However, I think his D partner must be a reliable, well-positioned skater because of how much Korchinski loves to play offensive. The Blackhawks need to make sure that there is a counterweight to his offensive style of play, so the defense does not get pulled out of position or the blue line is caught unaware when he makes an offensive rush.

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D Nolan Allan, Canada

Final game stats: 0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG in 17:02 of ice time

Final game: Allan has maintained a consistent presence on the blue line this tournament, averaging about the same amount of points and TOI over the past 7 games. This game was no different: although he didn’t have a point, Allan helped Canada have a solid back line. His TOI in the second and third periods dropped, possibly because Canada tried to become more offensive to regain their lead against the Czechs. Nevertheless, he played well, and had a few good passes through the neutral zone to help Canada transition into a rush.

Tournament stats: 1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG in 7 games played

Overall: No offense to Allan, but of all four defense Blackhawks prospects, we probably saw the least out of Allan this tournament. I’m not saying he played badly — in fact, he was pretty reliable — but he lacks del Mastro’s strong skating, Korchinski’s finesse, or Stjernborg’s leadership capability. His ice time remained about the same the entire tournament, and his place on the second line did not change, but he rarely aided Team Canada’s offensive rushes. However, whenever he stepped up, he usually was successful — check out his goal against Austria below. His quiet style of play isn’t necessarily a bad thing: he’s generally reliable and could become part of a solid pairing with another defenseman that matches his energy.

F Colton Dach, Canada

Tournament stats: 0 G, 2 A, 5 SOG in 4 games played

Overall: Dach was playing well in the World Juniors, and then he went home for the rest of the tournament in the Canada vs. Sweden match after a gnarly upper body injury. As a fourth-line forward, he wasn’t hogging a ton of playing time, but his TOI was improving throughout the tournament, largely because of his grit. He played confidently: Dach looked comfortable carrying the puck, and often made rushes in deep all by himself. He has good stick-handling ability, speed, and finesse. It’s a shame we did not see more of him. However, his career is far from over. He turned 20 on Wednesday, and the additional experience will serve him well. He’s fast and scrappy, but with a little more perspective (and being jostled around a little more) he could become a more grounded player and a more consistent left-winger.

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Bronze-medal game: USA 8, Sweden 7 (OT)

What a game, what a finish. Team USA, fresh off their loss to Canada on Wednesday, took on a refreshed Sweden this Thursday for the bronze-medal game. The first period started off tame enough, with Team USA scoring the first goal 2:51 in. The second period, however, is when the pucks started flying. By the end of the second period, the score was 5-5. Sweden took the lead in the third period, the US tied it again 4 minutes later, but it got exciting in the final two minutes— USA scored at 58:23, and Sweden tied it back up with 37 seconds left in the game. Overtime was forced, but the US worked quick and scored the game winning goal two minutes in, grabbing the bronze medals and sending Sweden back across the water.

F Victor Stjernborg, Sweden

Final game stats: 0 G, 0 A, 1 SOG in 18:16 of ice time

Final game: Despite the high-scoring game, Stjernborg again emerged pointless. His ice time dropped from last game, and he only won 39 percent of his faceoffs. Compared to his last few games, his play dropped, but his energy and his stick-handling remained positive. He’s a talented player but was ultimately unable to re-create his heroic effort against Finland.

Tournament stats: 1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG in 6 games

Overall: I’m going to miss saying Captain Stjernborg — it sounds kind of like a character from Star Trek. Anyways, his play was a bit all over the place. Though he rarely produced a point, he was consistent in feeding good, quality passes, and held an above-average faceoff percentage in most of the games. His game- winning goal against Finland shows he has the skill to score in big moments, but you shouldn’t have to rely on high-pressure scenarios for forwards to score points. He has a similar record with his club team, the Växjö Lakers in the SHL, with no goals and 4 assists in 26 games. He’s only 19, so hopefully Stjernborg can learn to produce more, but so far he shows potential with his skating and stick-handling, and his leadership capabilities indicate that he should be able to merge well with a new team.

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Overall thoughts:

With the way the Hawks are playing right now, I’ll accept anyone who knows how to skate.