Notes and quotes from the preliminary round of the 2013 World Juniors

By Chapin Landvogt

Aleksander Barkov - Finland

Photo: Highly-rated 2013 prospect Aleksander Barkov of Finland has roots in the country that is hosting the 2013 World Junior Championship, Russia (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Notes

Team Sweden is sporting the best power-play, coming in at 35.71%, while the USA tops penalty killing units at 88.24%. Interestingly enough, no team has been on the power-play more than Sweden and only Russia has been shorthanded less than the USA.

Despite having allowed the most goals against in the tournament, Germany (26 GA) and Latvia (21) do not sport the worst save percentages, which are had by Slovakia (.835) and Finland (.844). And therein lies perhaps the key explanation as to why these two nations, despite each having gained points against two teams in the preliminary round, find themselves in the relegation round.

At the end of the preliminary round, the top five tournament scorers consist of four Canadians and one US player who may all have been in the NHL right now had there been no lockout. Of those five, the Russian-speaking US winger Alex Galchenyuk is number one when it comes to post-game media attention, even if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is close behind.
Speaking of Russian-speaking players representing other nations, the Czech Republic’s Dmitri Jaskin and Finland’s Alexander Barkov haven’t had a chance to skip out on any post-game media interaction as the Russian media has sought their comments with every opportunity. Both have also experienced a plethora of fan support during their games, making the Czech Republic and Finland the darlings of diehards watching hockey when Team Russia isn’t itself on the ice. Not ironically, there was plenty of fan support shown for the Americans when they played Canada.

Not everyone may be keeping track, but the Swedes might lead all tournaments entries when it comes to social media and keeping folks informed per Twitter.

Team Germany’s Dominik Kahun (Sudbury) and Sebastian Uvira (Oshawa) are both, much to the surprise of the Czech and Slovak media contingent, fluent in Czech. Each has a father who played a large portion of his respective career in Germany, much to the benefit of the current German WJC entry.

German 2014 NHL Draft prospect Leon Draisaitl is familiar with the Czech language as well, although not ready to take questions in Czech. His father Peter, of Czech decent, is the first German to ever coach in the Czech Extraliga, where he is currently running the bench for Cesky Budejovice. Leon communicates regularly with his father, who watches the WHL games online, and they continually discuss where and how one can improve. Leon also said that he’s loving his time in the WHL and Canada, feeling it’s the best step he could have possibly taken at this point, looks very forward to the second half of the season there and has been accepted with open arms by the community, and not the least of which by his host mother, who he absolutely ‘adores’. His English is already quite good, but something he didn’t just learn in school and then improve on in Canada. Indeed, he was already exposed to it extensively in DEL locker rooms when he was a child and while hanging out with his father’s various teams.

After a clear check from behind that knocked Tyler Wotherspoon out of Russia’s 4-1 loss, one of the 2013 draft’s biggest prospects, Russian forward Valery Nichushkin, was given 5 minutes and a game misconduct. He was then suspended from participating in Russia’s quarterfinal against Switzerland. He was in no rush to face the press and make a comment about this event. In fact, he hasn’t been too talkative whatsoever. After Russia’s win against the USA, he was asked what he thought of the Americans. He simply smiled, repeated the question, thought for a second and said to the interpreter in what was audibly only but a few short words, “They are a great team. They played well. Nothing more I can say about that.”

In a media scrum, US forward John Gaudreau was asked about his French name and what its roots are. His father was in fact French Canadian, but John doesn’t speak French himself. Asked about why that is, he responded, “Since we were living in America, my father only wanted to teach me one language at a time, so he just taught me American and never taught me French.” He was then later asked what he’s majoring in at Boston College, not having understood the journalist’s use of the word ‘studying’. Once the question was clarified, and as if it were pre-programmed, he responded, “I’m a communications major”.

There was also a lovely moment at the Russia vs USA post-game press conference when US coach Phil Housley, upon receiving his third or fourth question in a row, placed his hand on Russian coach Mikhail Varnakov’s shoulder and said, “I’m actually wondering right now why Mikhail isn’t getting more questions.” Coach Varnakov looked less than enthusiastic about the show of affection.

Quotes

German forward Leon Draisaitl, when asked about playing the point for Team Germany at the WJC, and if he’s doing that for Prince Albert too, answered, “No, I haven’t played on the point in the WHL yet, but I would like to. The coach hasn’t let me play there yet. Coach Hofner wanted to get more creativity from the blueline, so he’s put me there. It’s tough playing there, because the forwards really come at you. That makes it tough just keeping the puck in and under control, but to be honest, I love it.”

German coach Ernst Hofner – When, after Germany had lost 7-0 to Russia, he was asked about Germany’s considerable problems getting the puck out of its own zone, often turning it over straight to the opposing defensemen who were waiting on the blueline, he said, “When you play at this level, a team needs a certain amount of time and games until it has gotten used to the speed and pace of the game. Going into our game against Slovakia, I feel we’ve finally gotten used to how quickly a player has to make decisions and how little time he has to simply react and/or realize that he may have some space to maneuver. There is a learning effect and we were actually better at exactly this aspect than in the game against the USA.”

Finnish defenseman Ville Pokka, when asked about his season back in Finland and whether Islander scouts are keeping tabs on him, said, “I feel good about my season, but I can be better and I have to get better. I want to pick up my game and continually develop all the time. I want to get better all the time. I really liked the New York Islanders' camp last summer. I met lots of nice people there and I got a taste of life and the style of play over there. As far as the scouts are concerned, I have heard from them, but not too much. They want to give me space and not place too much pressure on me. But I do think they are happy with my development. I mean, I really hope so.”

Russian head coach Mikhail Varnakov: When asked if Russia’s very defensive play in its 2-1 victory over the USA was all part of the game plan or rather the forced result of the pressure the US created throughout the game, he said, “This year we’ve been paying more attention to defensive play. We’ve been explaining to the players that playing strong, solid defense allows you to gain control of the puck and then make the transition into the attack. The more time that is then spent in the opponent’s zone, the less is spent in your own zone. But indeed, this is one of the first times we’re really stressing this aspect to our junior team. We are paying more attention to it.”

US forward John Gaudreau, when asked about the play of teammate John Gibson, said, “Oh, he’s critical. I think he stopped like three breakaways and a couple more 2-on-1s just tonight. It’s just his play and his leadership on and off the ice. I think just feeding off of him and how well he’s done gives us momentum, even in the offensive end of the ice.”

Slovakian forward Martin Reway, when asked about his season in the QMJHL, where he currently has 25 points in 24 games, said, “It’s harder because there’s so much more contact than here in Europe. There’s more energy and more speed. It’s just stronger. I’m happy I’m there because I’m a better player now and it’s better for my development. I wasn’t a good player in the defensive zone, and now I’m a much better player there.”

German forward Sebastian Uvira: When questioned after having taken a disappointing penalty in overtime against Slovakia, which led to Slovakia’s 2-1 victory, he was asked about his second season in Oshawa and his progress as a player, “You know, I had a real tough start to the season because of all of my injuries, but now I’m getting on track and it’s getting better. We have a great staff there and they are always supporting me. I’m feeling really comfortable right now. I’m really happy with my own progress. Being in Canada, where they have the best developmental league in the world, I constantly face the best players around. It’s great to be there and to develop there.”

Canadian forward Anthony Camara, when asked about his time in Russia so far after the victory over the USA, said, “I dreamt about the under-20 tournament when I was young. Then there I was to take a face-off tonight and thought to myself how I was now really living the dream. This is just incredible.”

US Captain Jake McCabe, when questioned about the US’s uncharacteristically sloppy and inconsistent play at junctures during the 9-3 victory over Slovakia, said, “I think our first period was fantastic and our second period was really good as well, but over the last five minutes we got away from what was really working. That third period was then, like you said, a little sloppy and I think we were caught playing down to their level. When the opponent has that big of a deficit to come back from, some of our guys may have gotten a little greedy. During the second intermission, we reiterated how we have to stick to the basics and get the puck deep, because teams at this tournament will just jump all over you if you don’t and get caught in the process. We felt we had the game wrapped up in the second period and we wanted to develop good habits. We got away from it at times in the third – with me being a bit guilty of it myself when I threw that pass to the opponent at the blueline – but we definitely got some confidence here and are focusing on the positives. Whoever we face, we’ll be ready for them.”

US Coach Phil Housley, when asked about what a coach does and thinks about when his team is playing somewhat sloppy and not making safe, sound, solid decisions, said, “You just have to point the bad things out and get the guys getting back to developing good habits. That’s the thing about playing with a big lead. You have to know what got you the lead. It’s those small details. You know, our forecheck was excellent, but when we stopped doing it consistently and started losing the puck, well, that was a sign of why you keep doing it and what got us the lead in the first place. That’s all you can do is remind them of why they have to make the right decisions and get them back on track with respect to good habits.”

Slovakian forward Matus Matis: When, after losing to the USA, he was questioned about his two goals against the US, his line having to carry the team’s offense, and his performance in this tournament, Matis said, “I’m feeling really sad right now. We lost and we lost bad. We lost 9-3 and I don’t know what happened. We just somehow didn’t come out and give 100%. Our defense didn’t play that great in the defensive zone and the US has strong guys on offense and it felt like every single shot went in. We really can only say that we should have been better in the defensive zone and we should have played harder.”

Canadian defenseman Scott Harrington, when questioned on what, as a defenseman, is the difference in preparing for Team Russia as opposed to preparing for Team USA, said, “If you look at those two countries and the teams they ice, the Americans might be a little more hard-hitting, at the same time, they too have tons of skill. The Russians… Even they are throwing the body around, so it’s similar, because they’re highly skilled, as well. We ourselves try to execute the same game plan. But these games are highly filled with emotion and we’ve got no time to make plays. You just have to do your job defensively and then get the puck up to your forwards as well as possible.”

Canadian goalie Malcolm Subban: When questioned on how come he was able to play his best hockey against the two best opponents in Group A, USA and Russia, to lead Canada to 1st place in the preliminary round, he said, “Well I think I’ve come to be known as a guy who gets up for big games and I don’t know, I guess I just naturally get more pumped up in bigger games. It’s just the confidence you get when you make a big save in a big game. That just pumps you up. So that’s how it’s been the past two games and I’m feeling pumped.”

You can follow Chapin Landvogt's tweets from the WJC via @csomichapin