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Early returns on Canucks' World Junior prospects; YoungStars ticket update

August 11, 2022, 2:08 PM ET [162 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Vancouver Canucks' three prospects at the World Junior Championship all had relatively quiet debuts as the tournament got underway in Edmonton earlier this week. But all three of their teams landed in the right side of the win column in their first games. And it may take some time for players and teams to really get their feet under them, starting ice cold in the middle of summer.

Here's how the Canucks' trio has fared so far:

Jacob Truscott - USA:

Team USA took down Germany by a 5-1 score in their opener.

Truscott lined up on the right side of the second defense pairing — an unusual position for him. At Michigan last season, he spent a good amount of time paired with fellow lefty Luke Hughes, but it was the more offensively minded Hughes who played on the right, setting him up for good shooting positions.

Neither Truscott nor his partner Wyatt Kaiser factored into the scoring on Tuesday. Truscott played 14:26 and finished with one shot on goal.

On the top pairing alongside Brock Faber, Luke Hughes had a two-point night, played 22:15, and was named the Americans' best player on Tuesday.

Next up for Team USA: Switzerland, at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Swiss opened their tournament with a solid effort, losing 3-2 to Sweden.

Joni Jurmo - Finland

The Finns also cruised to an easy Game 1 win, beating Latvia 6-1.

The result is not surprising, considering Latvia was promoted to this tournament from Division 1A after Russia’s ban went into effect following the Ukraine invasion in February.

Finland's top line did the heavy lifting. Joakim Kemell and Aatu Raty had four points each, while captain Roni Hirvonen had three and was named the Finns' best player.

I'm keeping a particular eye on Kemell — the only 2004-born player on the Finnish roster. He was selected 17th overall by Nashville at the draft in July, two spots after Vancouver took Jonathan Lekkerimaki. And he has a similar profile to Lekkerimaki — an offensive-minded right winger who, at this point, is slight of stature. Kemell's listed at 6'0" and 176 pounds on the IIHF website, and Lekkerimaki is at 5'11" and 172 pounds.

I think these two will be fascinating comparables for each other for years to come. Kemell came out on top for Game 1 at World Juniors, but there's a long, long road ahead.

Anyway — more on Lekkerimaki in a minute. This is supposed to be about Jurmo!

He also started on the right side of the second pairing, partnered up with Kasper Puutio. He got off to a bit of a shaky start, seeing only three shifts in the first period as he was replaced by seventh defenseman Aleksi Heimosalmi, the more offensive-minded 19-year-old who was a second-round pick by Carolina in 2021.

Heimosalmi finished with 16:40 of ice time and a pair of assists, including one on the power play.

Jurmo wrapped up at 10:30, with three shots on goal. And he was plus-one thanks to his partner Puutio's goal with 1:20 left to play in the third period.

Dressing for his country for the first time ever in a major international tournament, it's understandable that Jurmo might have been a little overexcited, especially playing in the very first game. It'll be interesting to track his journey over the next 10 days, playing on a good team that should have medal aspirations.

The Finns are up first on Thursday, facing the Czechs at 11 a.m. PT.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki - Sweden

We had to wait until Wednesday to see the Canucks' brightest prospect. But let's not forget that Jonathan Lekkerimaki is two years younger than Truscott and Jurmo. And for the most part, World Juniors is not a tournament where 18-year-olds make hay. Joakim Kemell's performance on Day 1 is the exception, not the rule.

Lekkerimaki is one of just two 2004-born players on the Swedish roster, and he's six months younger than the other one, his Djurgarden teammate Liam Ohgren.

He started on right wing on the second line with a pair of 2002s who are returnees from the 2021 tournament — Oskar Olausson and Theodor Niederbach. But after a low-event first period, he was swapped out for big 20-year-old Daniel Torgersson, who went on to score Sweden's first two goals while paired with Olausson and Niederbach and was subsequently named his team's best player.

Lekkerimaki finished with 10:59 of ice time and one shot on goal.

It won't be easy for him to reclaim his spot after that outcome, especially when the Swedes allowed two late goals to Switzerland and had to hang on tight to get their win. I'm preaching patience here. And the returning Swedes should have a chip on their shoulder in this tournament. They saw their generation-long preliminary-round winning streak snapped against Russia in December of 2020, then went home without a medal when they were knocked out of the quarterfinals in a 3-2 loss to the Finns.

That being said, Swedish coach Tomas Monten should have a chance to play with his lineup if he chooses in his next game. Sweden faces Austria on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. PT.

And to wrap up today — more prospect news, looking ahead to next month.

Single game tickets go on sale on Friday for the Canucks' Young Stars Classic in Penticton, which is scheduled for Sept. 16-19.

The Canucks' press release highlights Linus Karlsson, Danila Klimovich, Nils Aman and Arshdeep Bains as some of the home team's prospects that are expected to participate.

Top prospects listed from the other three participating teams include Edmonton's last three first-round draft picks — forwards Dylan Holloway (2020), Xavier Borgault (2021) and Reid Scheafer (2022).

Calgary is set to bring 2020 picks Connor Zary, Jeremie Poirier and Rory Kerins, along with 21-year-old free-agent signing Adam Klapka. The Flames didn't have a first-rounder in 2022 and, in fact, had just three draft picks.

Winnipeg's roster is expected to include polarizing 2022 second-rounder Brad Lambert along with 2021 first-rounder Chaz Lucius, 2020 second-rounder Daniel Torgersson and 2019 second-round pick Simon Lundmark.

Maybe not quite on par with Connor McDavid's debut at YoungStars in 2015, or Elias Pettersson lighting up Penticton in 2018. But it's great to see this event return and it should be fun to get a look at all the top prospects from the Western Canadian teams!
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