The World Junior Hockey Championship always provides its fair share of drama and the 2018 preliminary round was no different.
The opening game featured an upset win for the Czechs over the Russians, while the Slovaks did the same to the US a couple of nights later. We witnessed the first-ever outdoor game at a WJC and also Sweden’s preliminary round win streak extended to 44 games.
Here’s the top 10 performances from the 2018 WJC preliminary round.
10. Kasper Krog (DEN) vs Finland: Krog’s Dane mates were up against it all tournament, and came into the event with the idea of avoiding relegation. Despite a 4-1 setback against the Finns, Krog was brilliant in making 58 saves on 62 shots.
9. Team Sweden: The Swedes have not lost a preliminary round WJC game in 11 years. The streak was severely tested in the final prelim game against the Russians where it came down to the shootout. The combination of Oscar Steen’s marker and Filip Gustavsson’s save on Artur Kayumov ran the streak to 44 straight wins.
8. Adam Fox (USA) vs Finland: Fox played just over 20 minutes in a game that looked to be well in hand for the US, but got a little dicey midway through the third. Goals by Aapeli Rasanen and Eeli Tolvanen brought the Finns even before Fox scored with 1:37 left to cap a three-point night as the US edged Finland 5-4 to take second spot in Group A.
7. Jordan Kyrou (CAN) vs Slovakia: Kyrou netted what was the goal tournament at the time, with a jaw-dropping move between the legs of a Slovakian checker and a top shelf finish. The St. Louis Blues prospect added two assists in a relatively easy 6-0 win. His standing here is simply for the highlight value of his tally.
6. Klim Kostin (RUS) vs Switzerland: The St. Louis Blues traded up to ensure they got Kostin as the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft. He has performed admirably in the AHL, but showed his dominance in a tournament among his peer group. No doubt his best outing was a two-goal, one-assist effort to pace the Russians over the Swiss 5-2. Kostin totalled five shots and a plus-3 rating in the win.
5. Casey Mittelstadt (USA) vs Canada: The Buffalo first-rounder has earned the respect of fans for whom he will soon play. Mittelstadt has the magic mitts, presence and a boatload of confidence. Numbers-wise he had better performances than the outdoor game, but considering the cold weather and snowy conditions, he was still able to put his skill on display, forcing coach Bob Motzko to get him out there as often as possible. Mittelstadt assisted on all three regulation goals scored by the US in what was eventually a 4-3 shootout victory.
4. Martin Kaut (CZE) vs Russia: Despite playing just over 13 minutes, Kaut had three primary assists on five of the Czech Republic’s goals in a 5-4 upset win over Russia. Kaut, set-up two power play markers, but his biggest helper was on the game-winning goal just past the six-minute mark of the third period. The tournament-opening win represented just the second time in the past 11 meetings with Russia where the Czech Republic prevailed.
3. Rasmus Dahlin (SWE) vs Czech Republic: You could pick just about any of the four preliminary games for this exciting young phenom, but why not the two-assist performance in a 3-1 win over the Czechs? Dahlin played just over 24 minutes in the contest and was a threat every time he had the puck. He’s worth the price of admission.
2. Samuel Bucek (SVK) vs USA: Bucek, who has made quite the name for himself in social media circles, can also play hockey. He was in on all three Slovak goals in what was the biggest upset of the preliminary round, a 3-2 triumph over the USA.
1. Roman Durny (SVK) vs USA: Durny, a more than capable right-catching goalie put his athleticism on display, going post-to-post all game long in thwarting a 45-shot barrage from the Americans. He helped end his country’s six-game losing streak against the U.S. that dated back to 2009.