As a Blackhawks fan there is not a whole lot to cheer for currently. Sure, we can cheer for Isaac Phillips developing into a top 4 NHL defenseman. We can hope that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews' eventual exits go smoothly (as best as they can). We can take notes on Ian Mitchell's game to see if he has what it takes to be an NHL player.
These are all well and good, but truthfully we are all just waiting until the draft lottery and then the draft in Nashville (ceremony and banner raising for hosting the draft to follow perhaps). We all know that the World Juniors Tournament being held right now is more important than these NHL games we keep losing.
The preliminary group round is now over. The presumed favorites all looked good. Canada and USA remain the 2 squads with the best chances at gold. However, there are teams like Czechia, Sweden, Finland, and Slovakia that all look like medal contenders.
From a Blackhawk perspective, they still have 5 players that will play in the playoff matchups:
Finland vs. Sweden (Wow, this is going to be a good one!)
Czechia vs. Switzerland (Czechia the favorite)
USA vs. Germany (US got the most favorable draw)
Canada vs. Slovakia (Canada got the hardest opponent)
On team Canada, all 3 Blackhawk blue line prospects have played important roles in their 4 matchups. Not that it was needed for a team that averaged 7.25 goals per game though. Mostly the Connor Bedard show took over for them.
Kevin Korchinski has 4 points in 4 games (www.iihf.com). Nolan Allan, Ethan Del Mastro, and Colton Dach all have 2 points in the prelim round. It's been Del Mastro though that has seen the most responsibility. It's impressive, the way the team sees him as a leader and depends on him. It makes me excited he could be a future top 4 defenseman for Chicago in just a few years.
Victor Stjernborg has an assist for Sweden, however it's more important to note he is the team's Captain. On a team full of highly drafted future NHL players, it's Stjernborg that is the leader. With a solid frame and a game that translates to a future bottom 6 player, I believe he is someone to keep note of as he develops.
In terms of draft eligible players there are no surprises.... It's all about the Connor Bedard experience right now. Breaking records left and right, Bedard has 18 points in just 4 games. This is unheard of. He is 17 playing against mostly 19 year olds as well.
Almost lost in all this is that presumed #2 pick Adam Fantilli is averaging a point per game. Ho-hum I suppose compared to Bedard, but still impressive. There have been standouts already like David Jiricek (CBJ), Logan Stankoven (DAL), Luke Hughes (NJ), Atilio Biasca (UD), and most notably Jimmy Snuggerud (STL).
Outside of the big names, draft eligible goalie Trey Augustine may now have the net for the Americans moving forward. Once thought of as a late round pick, I believe that a good showing into the playoffs could catapult him into the 3rd-4th round range.
It will be interesting to see some of the fringe 1st round talents in these tougher games. Pay close attention to Charlie Stramel and Gavin Brindley for the US team. Both have played well and are looking to secure mid to late 1st round selections. Axel Sandin-Pellikka of Sweden has played a ton in all situations and I believe is now firmly in that 18-30 range of the draft.
The big names of Leo Carlsson, Eduard Sale, and Dalibor Dvorsky have all been OK so far, but I'm looking for them to step up their games if they are hoping to medal.
The pressure is on Canada and the US teams now. This should be an amazing finish!