Saturday night in Sweden, the United States team had a "pre-competition" game with Canada. The two presumed favorites went into the matchup with a lot to prove as there is a split opinion on which team should be the favorite going into this World Juniors Championship.
The Blackhawks have 4 players on team USA; Frank Nazar, Oliver Moore, Gavin Hayes, and Sam Rinzel. In the second period, both Oliver Moore and Sam Rinzel would score nice goals on wristers. The goals came on long shifts where the US team used their speed and passing to tire-out the Canadian squad.
The Americans would go into the 3rd period with a 2 goal lead but in said 3rd, the Canadiens would put physical play front and center and would become square at 5 midway through the final frame. Overall, a few things became very clear about this matchup: USA has a clear speed and passing advantage whereas Canada had a clear physicality and grit advantage.
For me the Americans' best player is Ryan Leonard. This kid is a pro. Skilled, physical, and hard to play against on every shift. He could play in the NHL right now. From a Blackhawks perspective, of the 4 prospects, it has to be Oliver Moore that shows the most potential out there at this level of competition. Moore's backchecking, speed, and skill was apparent most of his time out there.
Gavin Hayes didn't get much time, but when he was out there he showed an ability to play through contact and make tough passes for scoring chances. Sam Rinzel was called upon on the PK and late in the third for defensive duties which is invaluable as a young player going up against all 1st round pick lines for Canada.
The 3rd period would be a physical one, almost every whistle / stoppage would be met with hits and "get togethers" by both teams. Canada was led by Macklin Celebrini, Nate Danielson, and Matt Savoie from my perspective as the 3 of them added in a skill advantage for Canada when on the ice. Speaking of the ice, it was impressive how the puck and skates glided on this surface. It appeared like an upgrade over most NHL sheets from my view.
In the end, the game would go to overtime (3 on 3 for 5 mins) where Lane Hutson would win it high glove side on a gorgeous 1 on 1 play. It will be a treat to see these two battle it out when it counts!