The Canadians are the preeminent hockey power until further notice, so any game against a team lower on the totem pole than Russia, Sweden, Finland or the United States has blowout potential.
This game didn’t read that way though. Not before puck drop, anyway. The Czechs have been playing the role of spoiler all tournament, from their surprise 5-4 victory over the Russians to their quarterfinals win against a heavily favoured Team Finland. Like most underdogs, they’ve built their success in large part due to their goaltending. Sometimes a goaltender goes a run, and there’s no accounting for the title dreams they’ll crush.
This game should have been close. At the very least, competitive hockey didn’t seem like a tall ask.
— Shayne Pasquino (@shaynepasquino) January 5, 2018
And when 2018 NHL Entry Draft prospect Filip Zadina got the Czechs on the board first, the table seemed set for just that. The Canadian firepower proved too much to handle though, and by the first horn, Sam Steel and Drake Batherson had retaken the lead.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) January 5, 2018
In the second period, Drake Batherson added to the Canadian lead early scoring his second of three goals on the night, and then the floodgates opened. Maxime Comtois, Jordan Kyrou, and Batherson again scored for Canada. The Czechs changed pulled Josef Korenar, who used all his magic in their quarterfinals match against the Finns and had nothing left in the tank.
It’s a hat trick for Batherson pic.twitter.com/Cj4LgYjqfb
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2018
Boris Katchouk for Canada and Zadina, again, for the Czech Republic added goals in garbage time, which comprised the entirety of the third period.
Drake Batherson (2017 OTT 4th)
Drake Batherson (OTT) wasn’t in contention for a roster spot on this team over the summer per Dom Ducharme. Played his way here and solidified spot in Canada-Russia series. Named a top 3 player for this team in the tournament. Seven goals.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 5, 2018
As an overage prospect who didn’t produce at even a point per game in the QMJHL, Batherson wasn’t even on CanucksArmy’s radar for last year’s draft. I don’t think he got a single ranking from any of our writers. Goes to show — probability isn’t destiny.
With tonight’s hat-trick, Batherson has seven goals in six games this tournament and no helpers. He’s in the lead for Cy Young consideration with a stat line like that.
The interesting thing about Batherson is that there hasn’t been any one part of his game that sticks out as elite. He has a good shot, but it’s hardly exceptional. There’s probably a good amount of luck that goes into shooting 41%, but he’s also playing some damn good hockey. And considering he wasn’t even on Team Canada’s radar for the tournament a few months ago, that makes for one hell of a story.
Cale Makar (2017 COL 1st)
I was a big fan of Makar’s game ahead of last year’s draft, but the question mark was always how he would fare against better competition once he left the AJHL. He’s doing just fine with UMass-Amherst in the NCAA, and he’s been producing offence at an obscene rate relative to his ice-time for Team Canada in the World Juniors. Questions answered, it would seem.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) June 13, 2017
In limited ice-time, Makar is scoring at over a point per game pace. He’s second on Team Canada in points with eight in seven games behind only Kyrou who’s just one ahead. His skating is fantastic and the way he snaps the puck off his stick, whether it’s a crisp tape-to-tape pass or an accurate snap shot.
Makar’s coaches voted him one of Canada’s top three players of the tournament, which is interesting given how sparingly they used him from the start of the tournament right through their quarterfinals match with the Suisse.
Top 3 players of Canada in the tournament as selected by the coaches: Drake Batherson (OTT), Conor Timmins (COL) and Cale Makar (COL).
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 5, 2018
Filip Zadina (2018 NHL Entry Draft Eligible)
Anytime a player in their draft year gets a sizeable role in the World Juniors, you know there’s something special about them. Enter Filip Zadina, who spent the entire tournament on the Czech Republic’s first line and rewarded them with eight points in six games, including two goals against Team Canada tonight. What a player. And a team player at that.
Filip Zadina: I was glad to play well, but I’m so sad because we lost. My goals mean nothing. We will do anything tomorrow, we will die on the ice to bring a medal back to Czech Republic.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 5, 2018
Whether you should or not (recency bias can really mess with player evaluations), you’re going to start hearing a lot of people talking Zadina up as a potential second overall in this year’s draft. Zadina has the second-highest SEAL adjusted scoring last time CanucksArmy’s Jeremy Davis did his draft rankings. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all?
Zadina plays such a smart, mature game. His shot is excellent and he does a good job of finding cracks in the defensive coverage for his teammates to set him up to use it.