World Juniors Recap: Vancouver Canucks prospects help Team Sweden roll past Germany

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Hall
5 months ago
Team Sweden and the Vancouver Canucks’ prospect trio continued their winning streak, securing a 5-0 victory over Team Germany on Thursday to improve their record to 2-0 in the World Junior Championships.
Despite a closer-than-expected first 40 minutes, with Sweden holding a 2-0 lead, the team dominated the third period, solidifying their perfect 24-0 record against Germany.
Notably, German goaltender Mathias Bittner made 35 saves and was a major factor in keeping the game within reach.
Still buzzing from their historic win against Finland in their tournament opener, the Germans presented a potential trap game for the Swedes, and it felt closer than they would likely have hoped for despite the victory.
With the win, Sweden now shares the top spot in Group A with Team Canada, setting the stage for a pivotal matchup on Friday as the two teams vie for sole possession of first place in the group.
Looking at the Canucks’ prospects, we were handed another strong performance from all three, despite showing just one assist combined.

Jonathan Lekkerimäki

As a 19-year-old with two tournaments under his belt, there is no sugarcoating the fact this is a huge showing for Jonathan Lekkerimäki.
Today, for the second consecutive game, he continued to shine for Team Sweden and show off his progressed development.
Despite having one point to show on the scoreboard, the top line, consisting of Lekkerimäki, Noah Östlund, and Anton Wahlberg, consistently generated scoring opportunities right out of the gate.
In the opening minutes, Lekkerimäki gained the zone, delivering a drop pass to Östlund, who executed a spectacular toe drag only to hit the post with his shot.
During the second period, Lekkerimäki set up Östlund again for a breakaway chance, but the German goaltender, Matthias Bittner, made another crucial save to keep the game close.
Later in the second, Lekkerimaki forced the turnover at his blueline, leading to a strong drive by Wahlberg, only to be stymied yet again by the netminder.
While the line didn’t register points through 40 minutes, they maintained a buzzing presence throughout the game and felt destined to collect one in the final stanza.
And boy, did they want one.
Their barrage began early, as Lekkerimäki took the puck from the corner and drove to the inside of the ice, snapping his patented release, only to hit iron.
Rather than admire his shot, he would follow the puck to the corner before making a strong drag-and-release shot on target.
Minutes later, Sweden would find themselves on a power play, where Lekkerimäki has feasted all year long. He opened up the shooting range, unleashed several shots, and came inches from finding his third of the tournament.
Once again, however, only to be bested by the German netminder.
Finally, in the closing moments of the lopsided affair, Lekkerimäki’s interception in the neutral zone led to a play that eventually saw Östlund finding the back of the net.
It’s not a goal for the Canuck product, but a well-deserved point from a line that had generated all game long.
This goal summarized his play well, offering a slick move around the defender, only to hound the defender and gain possession back.
Through two games, he is not only standing out with his incredible release but showcasing his ability to hound puck carriers on and off the puck. He had created several plays throughout the match, and he’s showing the masses that he is not a simple “one-trick pony” and can drive a line on his own, as well as score goals.
He finished the game with three shots — he now leads the Swedes with eight shots through two games — and was a plus-one with an assist through 15:21 of ice time.

Elias Pettersson

Elevated to the team’s top pairing, Elias Pettersson continued to deliver a workhorse performance for Team Sweden.
For those who may not be closely following the games and are fixated on point production, there might be a misconception that Pettersson isn’t making a significant impact for Team Sweden.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, Pettersson has been an understated force, taking on crucial responsibilities from the backend and earning the trust of this coaching staff.
Through two games, Pettersson has led the Swedes in ice time, and his contributions extend beyond the scoresheet.
Despite appearing to tweak his knee early in the first period, he persevered and logged a team-high 23:17, making him the only Swede to surpass the 20-minute mark.
While he may not provide much in terms of the highlight reels, Pettersson is playing a vital role in providing substantial shutdown minutes and has proven to be an ace on the penalty kill for the team.
Sometimes, a player’s value goes beyond offensive statistics, and at the moment, Pettersson stands as the heart and soul of Team Sweden’s defensive lineup.

Tom Willander

Entering the tournament as an 18-year-old without power play time, the optimal scenario for Willander is one where he doesn’t draw attention with any noticeable mistakes.
So far, he’s lived up to that expectation.
Grabbing 19:32, the 2023 first-rounder finished second on the team in ice-time, and for the second straight game, was a plus-two on the day.
While he hasn’t made any standout offensive plays, with the exception of this glorious opportunity (below), Willander, much like Pettersson, is contributing with a strong presence in his own zone, effectively neutralizing the threats with his aggressive nature and active stick work.
He is playing sound defensive hockey and has played a pivotal role in the team’s perfect penalty kill.
Right now, no news is good news, and while fans may want to see some offensive production, he is showing up in all other areas of the game.
Following matches against two lower-tiered opponents (Latvia and Germany), Sweden is gearing up for its first encounter with a high-powered foe, as they are set to face off against Team Canada on Friday morning.
Both teams are perfect through two matches, and the victor will ascend to the top spot in Group A, positioning themselves favorably as they embark on the second leg of their four-game preliminary schedule.

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