By Thomas Harrington
The three prospects that Anaheim sent to the 2017 World Juniors tournament found varying levels of success. Troy Terry helped the US claim gold, Jacob Larsson and Sweden finished fourth. Julius Nattinen and Finland didn’t even make the medal round.
Terry was one of the surprise selections of the tournament, but his inclusion was definitely the right call. He played in all seven games and had four goals and seven points. However, two of those goals were shootout game winners, as the World Junior tournament counts game-winning shootout goals towards a player’s individual goal scoring stats. Terry played well in the preliminary round, scoring four of his seven points, helping the US go undefeated in the first four games. In the quarterfinal matchup against Switzerland, Terry assisted on the opening goal of the game, a powerplay goal from Jeremy Bracco. It was in the semifinals against Russia where Terry became a hero for the team, and earned comparisons to TJ Oshie. Through regulation and overtime, Terry was scoreless and played almost 20 minutes in the contest. The game went to the shootout and the US and Russia were tied after five rounds. In international hockey, once the first part of the shootout is over, players are allowed to take as many shootout chances as the team wants them too. Terry was the fourth shooter and scored on a nice wrist shot that went five hole. On his second attempt, the sixth overall, Terry skated in slowly, made a nice move, and slipped the puck between the goalie’s legs. On his third attempt, Terry came in quickly, made a nice move, and backhanded the puck five hole, sending the US to the gold medal game. In the gold medal game, the US trailed Canada by two goals twice, but battled back to tie it both times. The third period and overtime were exciting end to end hockey and both teams had plenty of chances to end it. It’s a shame that such a great game was decided in a shootout, but it gave Terry a chance to shine one more time. Both teams missed on their first three shootout chances, but Terry was the only one to score in the fourth round. He just came down the ice with a lot of speed and snapped the puck five hole. Tyler Parsons stopped all of Canada’s shooters, and Terry’s shootout goal was the game-winner for the second game in a row.
In the gold medal game, the US trailed Canada by two goals twice but battled back to tie it both times. The third period and overtime were exciting end-to-end hockey and both teams had plenty of chances to end it. It’s a shame that such a great game was decided in a shootout, but it gave Terry a chance to shine one more time. Both teams missed on their first three shootout chances, but Terry was the only one to score in the fourth round. He just came down the ice with a lot of speed and snapped the puck five hole. Tyler Parsons stopped all of Canada’s shooters, and Terry’s shootout goal was the game-winner for the second game in a row.
Larsson played in all seven of Sweden’s games but only recorded one assist. He saw a lot of time on the team’s top pairing and played very well defensively through most of the tournament. Sweden was arguably the best team at the World Juniors in the preliminary round, rolling through those first four games. In the quarterfinals, Sweden faced off against Slovakia and came away with and 8-3 victory. However, Sweden stumbled in the semifinals against Canada, as the Canadians frustrated the Swedes at every turn and the final score was 5-2. In the bronze medal game, Sweden played against Russia and the game was tied at one after three periods. In overtime, Russia scored the winning goal and Sweden finished without a medal for the third year in a row. In the last 10 years, Sweden is undefeated in the preliminary round at the World Juniors but has only won one gold medal. Larsson played well, but it has to be disappointing for him to finish fourth two years in a row.
After winning gold a year ago, Finland imploded this time around. It definitely hurt them to not have Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi, but they only won one game in the preliminary round. Nattinen played in all six of Finland’s games and recorded only one assist. After being used in more of a shutdown role a year ago, Nattinen was supposed to be one of Finland’s top centers, but he, and the rest of Finland, just had a poor showing. This was the second international tournament in a row that Finland failed to do well in, as Finland went winless at the recent World Cup of Hockey. By going 1-3 in the preliminary round, Finland became the first gold medal winner to fail to qualify for the medal round the following season. Finland faced off against Latvia in the relegation round and won both games, a small consolation prize for the players. Despite the poor tournament, I still think this was a good experience for Nattinen, and he does have the 2016 gold to look back on.
With the tournament now over, Terry, Larsson, and Nattinen have all returned to their respective teams. Terry is back in the NCAA and will continue his sophomore season at the University of Denver. While it could happen as early as this spring, I don’t expect him to sign a professional contract and leave college until the end of his junior year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he spent all four years there. Larsson is heading back to Sweden and will play out the season in Frolunda. I expect him to be stateside next season, fighting for a spot in Anaheim, but likely seeing a good amount of time in San Diego. Nattinen has returned to Windsor in the OHL. In his first game back with the Spitfires, Nattinen scored two goals. He should be with the Gulls next season.
This was the final World Junior tournament for all three of these players, as all of them will be 20 the next time the tournament comes around. However, the Ducks have a couple of notable prospects who will have an excellent chance of playing next year. The first is Sam Steel, one of the biggest omissions from this year’s tournament for Canada. Max Jones is the other, but he’s been battling injuries all season, so his exclusion was not as surprising. And there are always surprise additions to World Junior rosters. When Terry was announced as one of the possibilities for Team USA, I was surprised. The former fifth round pick had a good freshman season, but he didn’t seem likely to make it and he ended up becoming one of the team’s heroes. Also, whoever Anaheim drafts this coming June could also have a chance to represent the Ducks and their home country at next year’s tournament too.
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January 8, 2017