Three days deep, the group stage is beginning to reveal which teams are exceeding expectations and which have become a pickup full of burning dung.
Wednesday, the Swiss and the Swedes played a tight game that finished in a 4-2 win for the Tre Kronor on a pair of late goals.
In the day’s other contest, Slovakia bounced back some from their record-setting performance Tuesday against Canada where they tied an all-time low with six total shots. Wednesday they managed to put 20 on net but allowed 50, setting the stage for a 5-2 loss.
Here’s a look at who was shining during Wednesday’s action.
Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Sweden
Yes, he’s on the standouts list again. His name is going to keep popping up. If the tournament ended after three days, Eriksson Ek would be in the conversation for tournament MVP.
Wednesday he opened the scoring for Sweden and scored the game-winner late in the third. He also led the team with seven shots.
His play at both ends of the ice was once again exceptional. He’s making plays on zone entries, seeing the ice well and helping turn the puck out in the defensive zone.
Wild prospect Joel Eriksson Ek with his second of the game gives Sweden the 3-2 lead. Set up from Leafs prospect Carl Grundström #WJC2017 pic.twitter.com/eYSNSnFIVv
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 29, 2016
Carl Grundstrom, W, Sweden
In both of Sweden’s games, Grundstrom has played well. He’s a shifty skater who seems to be perpetually moving the puck in the right direction when he’s on the ice. He plays with intensity and is an agitating presence to opponents.
Wednesday, he moved into a new situation on Sweden’s top line alongside Eriksson Ek and Alexander Nylander in the middle of the game and continued to succeed. He might not be topping “Players to Watch” lists, but he’s clearly been a player to keep your eye on and he’s earned the trust of the coaching staff, playing 19:58, the most among all forwards.
With two assists Wednesday, including one on the above game-winner, he has four points in two games. He’s been a tenacious presence in both games so far.
Joren van Pottelberghe, G, Switzerland
Switzerland kept the game close or tied all the way to the final five minutes of Wednesday’s game against the Swedes. A lot of that was because of a strong performance from van Pottelberghe. He faced 46 shots and allowed just four goals, two of which came in the final 5:08 of the game.
That last bit is unfortunate, but without a strong performance from the 19-year-old they wouldn’t have been in a place where the game was just a bounce away.
Though Nico Hischier, Calvin Thurkauf, Damien Riat and Jonas Siegenthaler all played well again, the game was dominated by Sweden. It made van Pottelberghe, a Red Wings draft pick, the obvious standout.
Tage Thompson, W, United States
His development has been so impressive over the last two years. He was good in the United States’ opening game and he was once again Wednesday after shifting lines to play on the third line with Player of the Game Jack Roslovic and Kieffer Bellows.
Many Americans could be on this list with 12 different skaters recording at least one point. But Thompson was solid throughout the game as the U.S. crushed the Slovaks by putting 50 shots on net. The Connecticut forward’s five shots was second only to captain Luke Kunin’s eight shots in the game.
Additionally, Thompson’s stick and edge work were great on his goal.
Hoy freakin' crap this goal from USA's Tage Thompson is beautiful https://t.co/RWQg0vubHB
— CJ Fogler 6'7" IQ 269 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) December 29, 2016
Colin White, C, United States
Joey Anderson joined White’s line Wednesday, but the real stars of that show are White and Clayton Keller. They’ve found some chemistry, feeding off each other’s speed.
White’s first-period marker was pretty, but the result of good work by Keller in the defensive zone. He and White blowtorched the defense and put one in the back of the net. They both had many opportunities Wednesday and continue to be an invariably dangerous line for the Americans.
He gets highlighted with some love for Keller, but there are plenty of Americans who could have wound up here. Jack Ahcan has been good in both games. Troy Terry made some nice plays and scored a goal Wednesday. Charlie McAvoy played like a number defender again against Slovakia. Caleb Jones has been a great partner for him, playing a defensive game while being willing to take risks and activate from the blue line.
Though there were two goals against in the final tally, the U.S. was dominant and played a much more thorough game Wednesday. Mistakes on the blue line and in the offensive zone defined swaths of their tournament opener. That trepidation was gone in their second game.
Clayton Keller feathers a beauty to Colin White to give the USA a 2-0 lead. @CanadianTire #BigPlay #WorldJuniors https://t.co/JLvAqi0ZFz pic.twitter.com/CoF5AsKqZe
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 29, 2016