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Canucks World Juniors Recap: Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Tom Willander, and Elias Pettersson kick-off their tournament exhibition schedule

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Photo credit:Tre Kronor on Twitter
Dave Hall
4 months ago
The 2024 World Junior Championships are just one week away, and today, Team Sweden opened up their Exhibition schedule with a match against the Swiss.
As the host team, Sweden is not interested in playing around and brought a team comprised of several skilled 19-year-olds, and is expected to contend for a Gold Medal.
In today’s matchup, the Swedes got right to work and dressed a lineup similar to what we should see on opening day, with the exception of Axel Sandin Pelikka, who was not in the lineup but is expected to be Sweden’s primary defending option.
From a Vancouver Canucks prospect perspective, the lines were set as expected.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki was lined up next to Anton Wahlberg and Noah Östlund, forming a reunion of the line that feasted among the Five-Nation’s U20 tournament, just one month ago.
Barring a total lack of production, you can expect these three to see significant minutes, and in the team’s eyes, act as one of the more feared trios within the entire tournament.
On defence, we saw Tom Willander skate on the team’s second unit, which was also expected.
The one minor adjustment for fans will be to see him slide over as the team’s left-side option.
Yes, it can be unusual for a right-shot defender.
However, the Swedes elected to bring only two left-shot defenders, meaning one was bound to be making the move over, and Willander just happened to draw the short straw today.
Ultimately, this will be a good test to see how he fares on his offhand, and certainly something that he can add to his already jam-packed toolkit heading forward – assuming he’s successful.
Finally, we have Elias Pettersson, who took on his expected role as a shutdown defender on the third pairing.
Looking at the special team’s units, we got a brief look at what Sweden will decide to roll out. However, the game did not see a ton of penalties.
On the power play, Jonathan Lekkerimäki was in his usual spot, manning the half-wall, where he has been all season long with Örebro.
This is the sharpshooter’s bread-and-butter spot and will be the catalyst to both his own, and the team’s offensive success. With four of his 10 SHL goals coming from this area, they appear to be in good hands.
Neither Tom Willander nor Elias Pettersson were on either power play unit during the game. It’s exhibition play, so there’s still a slight chance that Willander slides into deployment at some point over the next three weeks, however, given that he was unable to get a look, even with Sandin Pelikka out of the lineup, that may not come to fruition this year.
On the penalty kill, both Willander and Pettersson split duties, each taking on a unit. The penalty kill was perfect in the game, and that’s likely a trend you can expect as the tournament kicks off, as their shutdown group is quite strong.
Overall, this team’s game has very few holes and should be a top producer in nearly all facets of the game.
The Swedes would pick up the win over the Swiss by a score of 4-2 today, and despite winning in regulation, they even picked up brownie points in overtime, as they played an extra five-minute frame for practice.
With Vancouver Canucks prospects in mind, Tom Willander was the clear standout player.
After a somewhat quiet first period, the Boston University defenceman was all over the ice and showcased his impressive passing ability and elite-level skating. Willander, accustomed to playing on the larger ice surface, should feel right at home during the tournament, and fans can expect his quick, aggressive motor to go at all times while having the time and space to showcase his strong two-way toolkit.
He was the lone Canuck prospect to collect a point in the match, picking up a secondary assist by delivering a cross-ice feed to his defensive partner.
While he may not be the go-to option for this team, Willander is expected to provide a heavy dose of secondary production at both ends of the ice throughout the tournament.
Elias Pettersson may not have showcased any flashy plays, but he quietly proved to be a valuable asset for the Swedes in today’s match.
He was making sound decisions in his own end and providing forwards with his typical crisp transition passes, emphasizing his versatile game. Fans should not expect him to contribute significant point totals, however, his well-rounded skills make him a valuable presence on this team’s backend, especially on the penalty kill.
If there was one slight blemish on the game, it was that Jonathan Lekkerimäki was quiet throughout its entirety. While he was on the ice for the goal in which Willander picked up his assist, that was the extent to which he contributed on the offensive.
Of course, with it being an exhibition match, this should act as a cause for concern. He’s grown tremendous chemistry with his fellow linemates over the years and given his offensive prowess, especially on the man advantage, he should be looked at as one of the top threats to look for in the tournament.
Team Sweden will face the high-flying United States squad in their next and final exhibition match, presenting an exciting matchup between two tournament juggernauts.
The puck is set to drop at 10:30 AM (PST), and whether it’s in-game clips or post-game recaps, we will have you covered.

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