The marquee scouting event of the truncated 2020-21 season is over. It’s been great to see best-on-best in the same age class with the opportunity to compete against one another.
If nothing else, the hockey at the 2021 U18 World Championship was extremely entertaining. We witnessed overtimes, shootouts and late regulation-game heroics. We saw sensational goaltending, excellent special teams play and several amazing individual performances.
Here’s a look at some takeaways from the 2021 U18 World Championship.
The gold medal is the first for Canada since Connor McDavid played in the 2013 tournament, and Canada’s fourth-ever gold medal in the 23-year history of the event.
The Russians lost in the gold-medal game for the second straight tournament. They suffered a 4-3 overtime loss at the hands of the Swedes in 2019 when Detroit prospect Lucas Raymond had a hat trick, including the game-winner.
Medal Run Ends
With their 5-2 loss to Sweden in the quarters, the U.S. failed in its bid to medal for a 17th straight tournament. The last time the Americans were left without a medal was in 2003.
How about the kids?
On the strength of seven goals for 14 points, Connor Bedard tied McDavid for the most points by an underager. Shane Wright and Bedard fell one point short of the Canadian record of 15 points in a single tournament, set by Tyson Jost in 2016.
Equally as impressive was the performance by 2023 draft-eligible counterpart Matvei Michkov. The 16-year-old Russian lead the tournament with 16 points, and his 12 goals fell two short of the tournament record owned by Cole Caufield and Alexander Ovechkin.
Having not played a game in over 400 days, Canada’s captain Shane Wright showed no signs of rust with a hat trick in Canada’s dominant opening night win over Sweden. He sat the next two for Canada before torching the competition for another six goals and a total of 14 points.
The nine goals set Canada’s single-tournament record surpassing McDavid, who had eight in 2013.
OHL players accounted for 31 of Canada’s 51 goals, while WHL players accounted for 19. Corson Ceulemans (AJHL) scored once.
Canada won all seven games with a plus-38 goal differential. Until Michkov’s goal to open the scoring in the gold-medal game, Canada had never trailed. All told, with deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 against Russia, Canada trailed for a grand total of 11:56 seconds all tournament.
Canada led all countries in several categories: goals for (51), goals against (12), power play efficiency (43.3%), penalty killing (83.9%), shots on goal (295) and shooting percentage (17.29%).
Only two players failed to record a point for Canada: Denton Mateychuk, who only dressed for 3 games, and Guillaume Richard, who ended up tying for the team lead with a plus-14 rating.
Lacrosse or Hockey
Defenceman Dmitri Kuzmin’s lacrosse-style goal in the second period of a 7-1 win over Switzerland on Day 2.
The Michigan? The lacrosse goal?
Whatever you call it, Dmitri Kuzmin just scored one!
Belarus now holds a 2-0 lead over Switzerland in the 2nd period. #U18Worlds
— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) April 27, 2021
Not to be outdone by late 2004-born Russian Michkov, who pulled off a lacrosse-style goal of his own. In fact that marker for Michkov was the first of four in a 6-1 win over Germany.
Highly rated Swedish prospect Fabian Lysell may be the most enigmatic player entering into the 2021 NHL Draft. While consistency and selfishness have shown up in his game, there’s no doubting the high-end skill. Lysell finished the tournament with nine points.
Finland won its first game 4-3 over Russia in the shootout. Samu Tuomaala tied the game with 1:26 left to play in regulation. Ville Koivunen and Verner Miettinen sealed in in the shootout.
Against the Czech Republic, Tuomaala netted the 6-5 game winner with 19 seconds left in regulation.
In the first game they trailed 3-1 with 12:35 left in the game, when Koivunen struck to bring the Finns to within one. With the goalie out, highly rated Tuomaala scored to tie it at three with just 1:26 left in the game. Koivunen scored the lone shootout marker for the Finns to win it 4-3.
In its final preliminary round game, Finland lead the U.S. 4-3 late in the third before Ty Gallagher tied the game with two seconds left in regulation. Unfortunately, the Finns succumb in overtime.
The dramatics were not done there. In their semifinal game against Russia, Finland trailed by two to Russia and pulled the goalie with just over four minutes left. Joakim Kemell brought the Finns to within one and, with the goalie out again, just missed on a last-second shot that was steered wide.
All of those close games took their toll as Finland fell 8-0 to bitter rival Sweden in the bronze-medal game.
Typically, this tournament is about the current year’s draft prospects. And while this rang true, there were several notable performances by under and double underaged prospects.
Shane Wright (CAN): 9 G | 5 A | 14 P | +12 | 17 shots | 5 GP
Ivan Miroshnichenko (RUS): 6 G | 2 A | 8 P | +8 | 37 shots | 7 GP
Danila Yurov (RUS): 4 G | 7 A | 11 P | +4 | 25 shots | 7 GP
Brad Lambert (FIN): 0 G | 5 A | 5 P | -3 | 13 shots | 5 GP
Lane Hutson (USA): 0 G | 5 A | 5 P | +5 | 6 shots | 5 GP
Ludwig Persson (SWE): 2 G | 2 A | 4 P | +3 | 12 shots | 7 GP
Yegor Sidorov (BLR): 0 G | 5 A | 5 P | +3 | 16 shots | 5 GP
Mikko Matikka (FIN): 1 G | 3 A | 4 P | +2 | 12 shots | 7
Matvei Michkov (RUS): 12 G | 4 A | 16 P | +7 | 35 shots | 7 GP
Connor Bedard (CAN): 7 G | 7 A | 14 P | +12 | 30 shots | 7 GP
Moving On Up
Here’s a list of players for the 2021 NHL draft that improved their draft stock.
Mason McTavish, Dmitri Kuzmin, Samu Tuomaala, Nikita Chibrikov, Isak Rosen, Anton Olsson, Liam Dower Nilsson, Olen Zellweger, Francesco Pinelli, Benjamin Gaudreau, Sean Behrens, Dylan Duke, Daniela Klimovich, Fedor Svechkov, Prokhor Poltapov, Martin Rysavy, Anri Ravinskis, Ville Koivunen, Niko Huuhtanen, Samu Salminen, Viljami Juusola.
Check back Wednesday for the May edition of the Sportsnet Top 32 NHL Draft Rankings.