Canucks World Juniors Preview: Sweden gears up to face USA in Gold Medal tilt

Photo credit:@orebrohockey on IG
Dave Hall
5 months ago
Vancouver Canucks fans can rejoice as all three prospects are set to partake in the Gold Medal final at the 2024 World Junior Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
In the semi-finals, top prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki showcased his incredible release and scored twice, helping Team Sweden secure a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic.
The win earned them a spot in the gold medal game, marking their first appearance in the final since 2018. The Swedes will be vying for their first gold since 2012 and first on home soil.
On the opposing side, the United States emerged in a closely contested 3-2 semi-final match against the Finns, rebounding from a shaky start.
These two teams have a recent history against one another, and we’re not just referring to the World Juniors matchup. In 2022, several members of each side participated in a spirited U18 Gold Medal clash.
The game, highlighted by Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who led the tournament with 15 points across six games, saw Sweden emerge victorious in a spirited battle to take home Gold. The bad blood formed that day adds an undeniable additional layer of intensity to the upcoming showdown.
“I feel like we definitely have U-18 Worlds on our mind,” US Captain, Rutger McGroarty, said. “I feel like … I mean, I’m going to say it: We don’t like those guys and they don’t like us, so it’s going to get real personal. It’s going to get emotional, but we have to stay even-keel.”
The Gold Medal matchup between Sweden and the USA is truly a match made in heaven and a final that many predicted from the beginning. As the old saying goes, the cream always rises to the top, and both finished the tournament as the two top performers, leading their respective groups after four preliminary matches.
The United States has showcased an incredible offensive tournament, scoring a whopping 39 goals across six games. In comparison, Sweden sits in a not-so-close second with 25 goals scored.
The Gold Medal game promises to be an exciting clash between two high-calibre teams that have dominated their opponents throughout the tournament.
It’s win-or-go-home time, and we can expect to see each of these teams lay it all on the table for Gold.

Jonathan Lekkerimäki

The 2024 World Junior Championships have been a dream tournament for 19-year-old Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who took control of the semi-final clash against the Czech Republic and put the game in his own hands or, more fittingly, in the flex of his stick.
In that crucial semi-final, he netted two goals, both in the third period, with his first serving as the game-winning goal. Currently tied with the US’s Gavin Brindley, Lekkerimäki leads the tournament in goals with six. Moreover, his four power plays sit at the top of the field, while his 30 shots rank second in the tournament.
Lekkerimäki has consistently answered the bell throughout the tournament, and his remarkable performance in the World Juniors serves as a testament to his strong bounce-back year.

Tom Willander

Tom Willander has been a consistently reliable presence for the Swedish backend. Alongside his defensive partner, Theo Lindstein, who currently leads the tournament in defensive points, Willander holds the tournament lead in plus/minus with a plus-11 rating. Notably, the defensive duo has yet to be on the ice for a single goal against in the tournament.
Willander’s contributions extend beyond statistics, as we saw by a crucial play in the quarterfinal match. Despite slipping in the offensive zone and momentarily putting himself out of the play, he showcased exceptional hustle to strip the puck, disrupting a significant rush opportunity for the opponent.
His defensive prowess not only saved a potential game-tying goal but also initiated a counterattack that led to an insurance goal, earning him his third point of the tournament.

Elias Pettersson

Elias Pettersson will skate in his final match at the U20 level, and it’s been a strong showing for the 19-year-old. Despite just one assist, and a minus-three to show for his efforts, he has been an unsung hero on the backend, providing a heavy physical presence and shutdown role. Friday will provide his toughest matchup yet, but if this tournament has taught us anything, it is that Pettersson will be ready and up for the challenge to deliver at least one or two heavy body checks.

Vancouver Canucks prospects

Jonathan Lekkerimäki: 6GP | 6G |3A | 9PTS | +4
Tom Willander: 6GP | 1G | 2A | 3PTS | +11
Elias Pettersson: 6GP | 0G | 1A | 1PTS | -3
The puck is set to drop at 10:30 AM Pacific Time.

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