A budding superstar for the Chicago Blackhawks shines at Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp. A New York Rangers former first-round selection is beginning to heat up in Sweden and Montreal Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi returns from Finland.
Dach Shines in Team Canada Scrimmage
Team Canada’s preparation for the 2021 World Junior Championship continued on Sunday night with their second Team Red vs. Team White scrimmage. In their first scrimmage of the camp, Team White came away with a 4-2 victory. Kirby Dach led the way for Team White in their second scrimmage, a 6-3 victory. Tyson Foerster and Cole Schwindt both missed the action with upper-body injuries and are listed as day-to-day. Dylan Cozens and Braden Schneider suffered injuries during the scrimmage that aren’t serious and are also listed as day-to-day.
Dach had two goals and one assist in the game, tied for the most points of the night with Connor Zary and Philip Tomasino. His assist on Tomasino’s goal was one of the plays of the game, a beautiful spin-o-rama pass that found the Nashville Predators prospect alone in front. Games like this show how lucky Canada is to have Dach available for the World Juniors. He’s been the best player on the ice, and if not for the pandemic, he would’ve been playing for the Blackhawks and unavailable for the tournament.
Team White finished the game with a 32-30 shot advantage and outshot Team Red 24-20 over the final two periods. Canada’s three-game intrasquad series comes to an end on Tuesday as Team White faces off against Team Red at 12 p.m. EST. While Dach may be a lock to make the team, head coach Andre Tourigny has tough decisions on the horizon. Canada will be looking to defend their gold medal after winning last year’s tournament.
Lundkvist Heating Up in Sweden
Rangers prospect Nils Lundkvist is finally starting to heat up after a slow start to the 2020-21 Swedish Hockey League season. Drafted 28th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, he amassed an impressive 11 goals and 20 assists for Luleå HF during the 2019-20 season. He finished second on the team in scoring, trailing Erik Gustafsson by one point. He represented Sweden at the 2020 World Junior Championship and tallied one goal and seven assists in seven games en route to a bronze medal.
Lundkvist had two goals and two assists through his first 12 games this season. However, in his last three games, he’s amassed three goals and two assists; he scored four points in two games over the weekend. In his most recent game against Färjestad on Sunday, he registered two goals, the second was a blistering wrist shot shown below.
Lundkvist is rapidly developing into one of the best young defensemen outside of the NHL, and Rangers fans should be excited about his impending debut in New York. He’s part of an impressive crop of young Rangers defense prospects along with Braden Schneider, K’Andre Miller and Matthew Robertson.
Kotkaniemi Returns From Loan
In October, Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi was loaned to Finnish League club Ässät. Drafted third overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, he split the 2019-20 season between the NHL and the American Hockey League. With the Laval Rocket, he amassed one goal and 12 assists in 13 games played. With Montreal, he managed six goals and two assists in 36 games played. It was a bit of an underwhelming season compared to his rookie year when he had 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games.
With Ässät he amassed two goals and six assists in ten games played. He started slow with one point in his first four games, but slowly improved and finished with seven points in his final six games. Kotkaniemi will now return to Montreal and prepare for NHL training camp.