Photo: Team Russia forward Yevgeni Svechnikov (L), shown here competing at last year’s U18 tournament, has been the top offensive player for Russia at the 2014 U18 World Championship (courtesy of ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
The preliminary round of the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship is over and the playoff match-ups are set. Despite the odd surprise performances to start off the tournament, the teams have finished off group play in a manner conducive with most expectations coming in. Take a look at who’s up against whom in the playoffs and who you should expect to move on to the next round.
Photo: U.S. NTDP forward and 2016 prospect Auston Matthews competed in 20 USHL games this season, scoring 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points on the season (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
After dropping their opener at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship, Team USA has strung together three straight wins to finish the preliminary round as the top team in Group B. This could have the U.S. on a collision course with Canada in the gold medal game, which would be a rematch of last year's U18 finale.
Photo: Team USA defenseman and 2014 prospect Jack Glover has been a participant in the NTDP program the past couple of seasons, and is committed to attend the University of Minnesota (courtesy of Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
For USA Hockey, the IIHF U18 World Championship has become the ultimate opportunity to show its teeth and what the program has achieved. The team has been medaling for years and is coming off a disappointing loss to Canada in last spring’s gold medal game, one in which it outshot its northern neighbors, 35-12. This year’s squad is once again heading to the tournament with gold ambitions in mind, but will be looking a bit different than in years past.
Photo: Team USA defenseman and 2014 prospect Brandon Fortunato totaled 17 points in 26 games along with a +23 rating for the NTDP squad competing in the USHL during the 2013-14 season (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
Although not as heralded as some of his defensive mates on Team USA's squad competing at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship, defenseman Brandon Fortunato has been an effective player for the NTDP squad during the 2013-14 season.
Photo: Team USA forward and 2014 prospect Alex Tuch has been an offensive force for the NTDP squad competing in the USHL, notching 32 points in 26 games in 2013-14 (courtesy of Chapin Landvogt/HF)
Team USA likely entered the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship knowing they would face difficult opponents over the course of the tournament. But it is likely that they didn't expect a major challenge, let alone a tough loss, in their opening contenst against Switzerland.