Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

CanucksArmy World Junior Recap: Switzerland 3 – 2 Belarus

Day two of the World Junior Hockey Championships kicked off with a Wednesday matinee between Switzerland and Belarus. This wasn’t necessarily a game circled on every fans calendar, but an important game in some respects.

For one, Belarus is fighting against relegation. Another reason games like these are important is because, when the talent level is even it makes evaluating players much easier. On a personal level, I enjoy watching these games because certain players should dominate, so I watch for that, and there’s always a surprise or two hidden along the way. Let’s see how it went down.

The 17-year-old Swiss forward, Valentin Nussbaumer (2019 NHL Entry Draft eligible) was displaying his distribution skills early on to go with impressive poise in this situation. Unfortunately for Switzerland, Maillard couldn’t finish on this golden opportunity.

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Shortly after, the Swiss benefited from a lucky bounce created off a point shot from Elia Riva which eventually bounced into the back of the net off Nicolas Muller to make it 1-0 Switzerland.

Belarus would get a big goal from their best player and team captain and the end of the first period. 2017 fourth-round pick by the Philadelphia Flyers, Maxim Sushko parked himself in front of the Swiss net and swatted home a rebound to make it 1-1.

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Nussbaumer played just over five minutes in the first, but he made the most of his limited playing time earning himself more frequent shifts as the game progressed. He was gaining the zone at will! He was creating offensive opportunities the entire game during an eye-opening performance for the 2019 draft prospect.

There was no scoring in the second period, and to be honest, it was hard to watch. Passing sequences, controlled entries, controlled exits were few and far between in some of sloppiest hockey I’ve seen this year. Luckily, a somewhat entertaining third period kind of made up for it.

Belarus jumped out to a 2-1 lead 4:25 into the third period off a nice play from Sushko. Sushko retrieved the puck at the top of circles and pump-faked the defender out of the shooting lane and leaned into a heavy wrister which caused some trouble and was eventually batted in by Viktor Bovbel to make it 2-1 Belarus with the power-play goal.

Slightly under four minutes later Nussbaumer capitalized on a turnover and quickly put the puck upstairs to tie the game at two.

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Just after the midway point of the third, Philipp Kurashev blasted a one-timer to put Switzerland up 3-2. The Swiss would never look back, and the Kurashev goal would hold up to be the game winner. The game-winning goal was the cherry on top for Kurashev who played a fantastic game as you can see in the chart below.

Belarus tried to claw back into the game; however, Sushko took a bad penalty late which really took a bite out of the teams chance to even it up. Despite the penalty, Sushko came out of the box and nearly tied the game in the dying seconds, but it wasn’t meant to be.

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  • The top Swiss players were the difference makers in the game. Eggenberger, Karashev and Nussbaumer were all contributing offensively for the duration of the game.
  • What stood out to me the most was how effective Nussbaumer was in all three zones. There were multiple instances when he’d steal the puck in the defensive zone and would continue to carry the puck into the attacking zone. His vision, work ethic, and awareness at his age are impressive. I’m looking forward to tracking his evolution to see where he goes in the 2019 draft. This was the first opportunity I’ve had to watch him play and it’s times like these that remind me why I love the World Juniors.
  • Vladislav Yeryomenko, a right-handed defenceman (my favourite kind) for team Belarus, who is eligible for the 2018 had a strong performance. Most notably in transition out of his own end with a controlled zone exit rate at 47% and total exit rate of 87%.

  • Sandpaper

    Might be nice too watch some of the offensive players in these types of games, but, I find it difficult to really evaluate anyone in these games.
    Most players on these bottom level teams are puck watchers, so it doesn’t really give a true perspective of how these players would react in games against teams that actually take a man or for that matter hit someone.