The Kids Can Play! Observations From Finland Versus Team Canada

Taylor Hall {Leon T. Switzer – TotalPhoto}

Fortunate enough to land lower bowl seats in the Saddledome for December 23rd’s tilt between the Finland and Team Canada in a pre-WJC tournament game, I thought I’d reflect back on the game with observations from my point of view – some obvious and some maybe not so obvious. This will also highlight specific players to watch from these respective teams throughout this year’s World Junior Championships (U20s).

Of course, Canada has since knocked off the Czech Republic 3-2 in a close affair last night.

{Click on players name for link for more detailed profile where applicable.}


Team Canada



*Starting with the masked crease protector, hometown Calgary Hitmen netminder Martin Jones, an undrafted free agent signed by the LA Kings, didn’t disappoint. The 6’4” goalie is an imposing figure in goal, but also has impressive mobility. He shut out Finland in the 3-nil win, although Finland did have a goal disallowed in the third, that I believe should have counted which would have made the game 2-1. If projected starter Jake Allen falters, Jones is more than ready to take over the reins.



*Blues 1st rounder Alex Pietrangelo will be one to watch in this tournament. He was named Canada’s player of the game. While I think that may have been a tad generous (I will name my personal pick for POG later in the article), he made some brilliant breakout passes and his pinpoint blast from the point in the first opened the scoring. A great combination of size and skill, Pietrangelo is an important cog on the back end for this team.

*I raved about Predators 1st rounder, blueliner Ryan Ellis, in my June 2009 draft preview. Although undersized, Ellis more than makes up for his shortcomings with super intelligent on ice play and vision. He was a powerplay specialist last year, but will have a much bigger role at this WJC and even found himself on the ice in a penalty kill situation in this game.

Islanders Future “QB” Calvin de Haan #24 {Credit – Dustin Hall}

*Islanders prospect defenseman, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic, were both solid.  De Haan’s offensive prowess and skating ability were quite evident. Hamonic was solid defensively, but one can’t forget he can play in the offensive zone as well – as his 39 points in 31 games in the WHL suggests.

*Colten Teubert and new Towers of Power partner in crime, Jared Cowen, give Canada a physically imposing shutdown pairing. Teubert, in particular, dished out some bone-jarring hits in the game.


*Projected #1 overall draft selection for next June’s entry draft and the only yet to be drafted forward on Team Canada, Taylor Hall, showed off his explosive and dynamic offensive abilities. Joni Ortio made two brilliant saves when Canada’s youngest forward broke in all alone on two occasions but he did managed to tweak the twine on a beautiful one-timer setup by Brandon Kozun. An elite combination of speed and skill, and solidly built physically, the young forward has been compared to both Pavel Bure and Mark Messier. Use your imagination to create a hydrid of the two legends of hockey. 

*Maple Leafs 7th overall pick in June, Nazem Kadri, displayed great puck-handling ability, which is no real surprise. I noticed some over-handling of the puck at times, trying to force things. He also exhibited a feistiness and willingness to mix it up. However, he will have to control himself and be assertive, but not reckless. He took two needless penalties in the 1st period back-to-back, with the second taking place in the neutral zone.

*Last year’s Team Canada hero, Oiler 1st rounder Jordan Eberle, was dangerous all night long. I really think he is even quicker than last year. His offensive creativity and nose for the net will be called upon again this year.

*Ducks 2008 3rd rounder Brandon McMillan was very impressive and consistent throughout the game. His two-way play, speed, and nifty deke to score in the third to ice the game,  I felt made him deserving of player of the game.

*Braydon Schenn, the Kings 5th overall selection, is a dynamic two-way center in the mold of Mike Richards. He had a solid, if unspectacular night.

*Joining Jones, Teubert and Schenn as the fourth LA Kings prospect on Team Canada, Brandon Kozun did not disappointment the hometown fans. The Calgary Hitmen forward who left to join Team Canada as the WHL’s leading scorer this season. The diminutive forward has elusive quickness, outstanding on-ice instincts and great hands. As noted above, he gift-wrapped a brilliant pass to Hall for a nicely executed one-timer.

*Canada captain Patrice Cormier and Stefan Della Rovere both bring their leadership and physical play to the table, and both were in fine form. Cormier did take one bad penalty, but plays a strong two-way game. Him and sparkplug Della Rovere sandwiched Finland defenseman Sami Vatanen at one point in the game.  

*Flames 1st rounder and Taylor Hall teammate in Windsor, Greg Nemisz, was fairly quiet on the night. You can see the potential for this guy with his combination of size and skill. He’s having a fantastic season in the OHL. I was more impressed with him in the other exhibition games against Sweden and the Czech Republic.

*Newfoundland native, Luke Adam, gives Team Canada another two-way physical forward with good hands. I was impressed with his consistent play on the night.

*Gabriel Bourque and Adam Henrique round out Team Canada’s forwards. Although fairly quiet nights for both, the two add to Canada’s deep group of offensive forwards.

Even without the formidable eligible players who are currently playing in the NHL, Team Canada will be a tough team to knock off and are in a good position to win an unprecedented 6th WJC in a row – on home soil in Saskatchewan.