Chicago Blackhawks prospects in CHL Memorial Cup how are they doing so far?


Chicago, IL — Catching up on the events of the Memorial Cup games three and four, game three saw Graham Knott and his Windsor Spitfires down the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 7-1 Route.

Knott had himself a game. He ended up with 2G, 1A and 5SOG now that is establishing your presence in a game. Knott also has some very good line mates in Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators prospect) and Jeremy Bracco (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect).

Knott’s assist came on a goal by Bracco so to say this line can wreck havoc is an understatement. Knott was named second star of the game as his line mate Logan Brown was first star.

Bracco had 1G,1a and Brown had 1G,2A along with Knotts tallies the line ended up with 4G, 4A. I’d say they had themselves a game.

This line maybe the only one who can give the Erie Otters some trouble who they will be playing against on Wednesday.

Both the Spitfires and Otters are currently undefeated in this tournament so Wednesday’s tilt will be a good one to say the least and could be the decider of who wins the entire tournament.

As I have state before Knott is a power forward. He is big, physical yet skilled. He always seems to go to the net. I can’t wait to see how his line does against the Otters and their stellar defense.

Ah Alex DeBrincat and his Erie Otters what is there to say. The Otters are a well run team both offensively and defensively these kids are really good and fun to watch. They set up plays like a pro team. In fact I’d venture to say they may play as well if not better than some pro teams.

In game four they took on Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel’s St. John Sea Dogs but this game was finished almost as soon as it started with the Otters thrashing the Sea Dogs 12-5.

It was hard to notice anyone other the DeBrincat and his Otter team. His line mate Dylan Strome (Az Coyotes prospect) set a record for most points in a game with seven 4G,3A. DeBrincat had an assist on three of his goals and tallied a goal of his own for a four point night.

All year long these two along with either Taylor Raddysh or Warren Foegele have just been amazing. I can’t say enough about DeBrincat his shot is heavy and accurate but maybe his passing is even prettier than his shot.

There was a play in particular where he set up Strome on a rush up the ice I swear it looked like Panarin to Kane or Kane to Panarin it was that pretty.

Chicago get ready, not to put pressure on this kid but I can foresee him coming straight to the Blackhawks or if he is in Rockford it will not be long.

His scoring instincts are unreal he is always in an area to score or set up his line mates. Now this isn’t NHL defenders he’s playing against but I’m excited to see his development.

DeBrincat also plays on special teams both power play at the point and on the penalty kill which is great because it is rounding out his game early.

His defensive awareness if high end and his stick work is NHL ready he may just need some strengthening in the wrists but we will have to see.

The goal DeBrincat scored was a blast from the high slot that was accurate because he looked liked he was just trying to get the whistle to blow as there was a delayed penalty call coming and the Otters were already on the PP so he wanted to get a two man advantage.

I guess when you are hot and a goal scorer everything just goes in.

So far in this tournament DeBrincat is third in points, assists, goals and first in power play goals. Now that is production.

Graham Knott is third in power play goals, first goals and plus minus. Again we can see the balance in Knott’s game.

Tonight the St. John Sea Dogs and Highmore and Noel play against the Seattle Thunderbirds and both teams are desperate so this should be a good tilt.

The one to really watch though is Wednesday when the Otters take on the Spitfires in an OHL showdown. I’d say though if you can tune in to all these games.

Good Luck to all the Blackhawks prospects in their games.

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Chicago Blackhawks – IIHF Men’s World Championships Panarin gets Bronze, Kruger gets Gold


Chicago, IL — The final day of the IIHF Men’s World Championships set out with Team Russia taking on Team Finland for the bronze medal which would be followed by Team Sweden taking on Team Canada for the gold and silver medals.

I was sad to see the close of this two-week event for several reasons. It was still giving those of us whose teams were no longer in the NHL playoffs a last chance to see some of our players before summer starts.

As a huge international hockey fan I always love seeing the teams in the countries sweaters compete for rights of whose country really is the best. Now more than ever I won’t be passing up opportunities to see international hockey competitions.

With the NHL foregoing PyeongChang, South Korea Olympics in 2018 this maybe the last time we get to see some of these players on the international stage.

I am still holding out hope the NHL changes their mind but I don’t know. If the NHL does not go one would have to think that Russia will be the favorite to win gold with the majority of their players being from the KHL.

I personally loved watching this Russian team play, of course I am partial to Artermi Panarin as a Blackhawks fan. Bias aside, they were just flat out fun to watch. Because of Panarin I was rooting for Russia to get the bronze and they did not disappoint.

Panarin was again on the third line with Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Kuznetsov. If nothing else Team Russia is consistent with their lines thanks Oleg Znarok.

Team Russia ended up winning the game 5-3 and the Bronze but the game was not as close as the score seemed until the third period where Team Russia started to do a bit of an implosion like they did against Team Canada. Today however their skill prevailed.

Panarin had a relatively quiet day with one assist but he did have plenty of opportunities that just didn’t get finished off. There were a couple of times he was in the slot area and deferred to shot by passing. I was screaming at my TV SHOOT Artemi.

His assist came on the lethal Russian power play where to say he exercised patience in getting the defender to go down and slid the puck to Gusev for the tally which again showcased Panarin’s vision and hockey sense.

Panarin knows more about hockey than I do and he is a skilled playmaker but in the NHL I would like him to shoot more especially in the slot with an open line to the goalie.

It will keep goalies guessing and defenders won’t know what he is doing which may open up ice space. Patrick Kane had to learn this as well and look how things have worked out for him.

So Panarin ended the game with 1A, 1SOG and ended the tournament with 17 points – 4G, 13A in one less game due to injury good enough to be the leading scorer points wise in the entire tournament and was named top forward.I’d say the little Breadman did pretty well for himself and his team. He will probably be named to the All Stars one would think.

The one thing in watching this tournament it was very apparent that for Panarin to develop more he needs to play in the NHL on the smaller ice because on the big ice and against none NHLers Panarin just dominates and the game is just too easy for him.

Congratulations to Team Russia and Artemi Panarin on winning Bronze.

The final game of the tournament had Marcus Kruger and Team Sweden taking on Team Canada for Gold.

The game was a very close affair with the goalies taking center stage. You would have to say Team Canada dominated the play until Viktor Hedman scored on a really weird knuckler from the point that he got past Canadian goalie Calvin Pickard to put Team Sweden up 1-0 late in the second period but Team Canada tied it up in the third.

The game went tied late into the third period and was forced into overtime it was just an awesome game and fitting that it was the gold medal game and it would go to overtime that was just end to end exchanges of chances. The only bad thing is that this game was decided by a shoot out which don’t get me started on that.

That is my only complaint about how these international IIHF tournaments are structured. I just don’t think medal rounds should be decided by non-hockey skills competitions. Still be that as it may it was Sweden who walked away with the Gold leaving Canada with the Silver.

Kruger had himself a good tournament he ended up with 3A. We all know what Kruger does for a team is not measured on the score card or stats sheets per say.

Congratulations Team Sweden on being Golden.

Again I’ve got to think this tournament was a success the crowds were good the competition was great. There were some upsets like the Swiss beating Canada and the USA getting beat by both Germany and Finland.

The European crowds look like one big party with their singing, whistling, flag waving, banging drums and dancing in their seats and along the concourses. They seem to have more fun than we do over here in North America. I actually prefer the whistling to goalie chants just a side note.

After seeing this and the World Juniors I now have this on my bucket list to go to an IIHF event either Men’s Worlds or World Juniors because even on the TV it comes across as a blast. Well done.

Congrats to Artemi and Marcus you guys were awesome I would’ve preferred watching you in Chicago Blackhawks uniforms but glad I at least got to see you a little while longer. Enjoy your summers and I can’t wait to see you in Blackhawks training camp.

Is it September yet?

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Chicago Blackhawks – Game two of CHL Memorial Cup Alex DeBrincat and Otters win 4-2


Chicago, IL — The CHL’s Memorial Cup round robin tournament continued Saturday with its second game between OHL Champion Erie Otters featuring the Chicago Blackhawks 2016 2nd round pick Alex DeBrincat against WHL Champions Seattle Thunderbirds.

I have listened to the Otters games on the radio both in the regular season and their playoff because of DeBrincat but to say I was excited to see him play was an understatement.

Alex had a goal and assist in the game and was named first star of the game. What really impressed me though was when he had to back pedal to catch a defender when Erie was on the power play and they poked the puck to center he was fleet a foot enough to tie up the opponent and never really let him get a shot off. Now that son will endear you to Coach Quenneville. He loves his players to be defensively responsible.

The other thing that was very noticeable is DeBrincat is equally adept at passing as he is scoring. He has good on ice vision and really good hockey sense. He actually is good without the puck too.

DeBrincat’s shot though is a snipe he has a quick hard release that is NHL ready. He gets to the tough areas of the ice and doesn’t back down from physical play at all.

Now he won’t get that kind of time in the slot in the NHL but when you can score goals from anywhere and are a danger every time your on the ice some time your bound to get open.

His goal was a pure goal scorers goal. The hand eye coordination is unreal. He was at a bad angle with a knuckling puck but got enough on it with power to get it past the Thunderbirds goalie.

His assist was with his usual line mates Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh with DeBrincat getting the secondary assist. These guys just work together so well. In fact the entire Erie Otters teams is so well ran they are a well oiled machine.

DeBrincat and the Otters next take on St. John Sea Dogs on Monday night which should be a blast as St. John has two more prospects in Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel. So this should be fun to watch how all the guys do.

Good Luck to al.

Tonight Graham Knott of the Windsor Spitfires takes on these Seattle Thunderbirds. Tune into NHL Network to catch Graham Knott.

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks prospects in CHL’s Memorial Cup


Chicago, IL –Yesterday the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup tournament got underway with a good match-up for Blackhawks fans. The game between the favorite St. John Sea Dogs and Windsor Spitfires featured three Hawks prospects.

For the Sea Dogs 1st line center Matthew Highmore who the Hawks recently signed as a free agent and third line center Nathan Noel were featured. On the opposing Spitfires side was 2015 2nd round draft pick Graham Knott.

I have to admit I really enjoyed this game. Thank you NHL Network for showing the Canadian Sportsnet feed.  I wasn’t the only one enjoying the game in the house was Connor McDavid. McDavid the former Erie Otter seemed to enjoy the game.

This was the first time I actually got to see Highmore and Noel and let me just say I was impressed with these kids speed and two-way play.  I can’t wait to see them live.  Highmore controls the play well in the offensive zone but what really impressed me was he was very defensively responsible.

He had a glorious opportunity where he stole the puck from a defender in the offensive zone and took it to the net he just could not get it past the goalie. He also had another chance put couldn’t get the puck under control and missed a wide open net that would’ve tied the game.

Highmore went 13 or 24 in the face-off circle which anytime your over 50% you’re doing pretty well.

Nathan Noel oh my that boy is fierce he is a human fireball. He reminded me of Andrew Shaw how he battled along the boards and he has no regard for his body as he flings it into the boards and opposition.

This kid has speed to burn as well. He is fast and all over the ice. Like Highmore he is also a very good two-way player which coach Quenneville will be thrilled with. What the Blackhawks will like as well is Noel can play both sides of special teams penalty kill as well as power play.

He also scored a goal on the power play from about 25 ft. out. Noel is more of a set up man as you can tell his passing and on ice vision are very good for a young player.

Noel also did very well in the face-off circles he went a remarkable 10 for 13 or 73% Yeah alrighty kid you keep doing that I bet you will see ice-time in the NHL.

Now the host Windsor Spitfires pretty much dominated the game and ended up winning 3-2 as they survived the Sea Dogs late game heroics. Graham Knott gave me the best laugh of the game.

He snuck up on the Sea Dogs on ice huddle to hear what they were saying late in the game much to the displeasure of the Sea Dogs. Oh Graham you are special I see HA.

Seriously Graham Knott is a power forward in every sense of the words. He is big, strong and does skate with a powerful stride. He has a very long reach and uses his long reach well to dig out pucks in the boards.

He likes to get to the middle of the ice slot area, smart guy. He plays very physically and is like a one man wrecking ball. He has the type of size that again the Hawks are sorely lacking.

All in all I thought all of the Blackhawks prospects were very good and very involved in plays and noticeable on the ice. If you get a chance to tune into these games I would suggest doing so as this is the future of the Hawks.

Tomorrow I will have another recap on the Erie Otters game which is currently going on against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Alex DeBrincat already has a goal in the game. I will also finish up the IIHF Men’s Worlds with Artemi Panarin of Russia going for Bronze and Marcus Kruger of Sweden going for Gold.

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – IIHF Men’s World Championships Semi-Finals


Chicago, IL — Heading into the Semi Final games today there were some classic rivalries scheduled with Team Russia taking on Team Canada and the second tilt Team Sweden taking on Team Finland. Now you could not ask for any better match-ups as far as rivalry goes.

The best of these was the Team Russia vs Team Canada match-up. It featured the classic opposite styles with Team Russia playing the European puck possession game vs Team Canada and their straight ahead north south North American style physical game.

Although I thought Team Canada would win simply because Team USA seemed to handle Team Russia pretty well and they really did not match up well against the North American game I was still rooting for Team Russia because of Artemi Panarin.

Sorry Team Canada you don’t have any Chicago Blackhawks on your team it’s nothing personal.

Panarin was on the third line with Nikita Kucherov and Evgeni Kuznetsov. Namestnikov was in the game but Russian coach Oleg Znarok decided to stick with the same line that ended last game when Namestnikov was replace due to injury.

Canada was the home team and thus had last change so Jon Cooper pitted a line of Alex Killorn, Sean Couturier and Matt Duchene to keep in check Panarin’s line as they were the only true NHL line.

The Canadian line did a pretty good job of keeping the Kurcherov, Panarin, Kuznetsov line in check but with all that skill you knew it would only be a matter of time til they busted through.

Watching the Russian passing plays is like watching the Bolshoi ballet it is so rhythmic and beautifully orchestrated and on this day the choreographer was Artemi Panarin.

There was a gorgeous tic tac goal play from Kucherov to Panarin who went cross ice to a waiting Kuznetsov by the side of the net for easy tap into an open net to get the scoring started.

Team Russia had a lot of chances on the power play early and were stopped however they finally broke through when maestro Panarin got things rolling into the Canadian zone setting up another tic tac goal play. This time it was Panarin to Shipachyov to Guzev and just like that it was 2-0 Team Russia.

The third period however was all Canada as they mounted what has to be a heartbreaking comeback for Russia to win the game 4-2 in regulation. The partisan Russian crowd looked very disappointed and can you blame them Russia led through most of the game.

So Team Russia will now be relegated to playing for the Bronze medal tomorrow against Team Finland. Team Russia should be favored in this game but you never know.

Panarin added two more assists to his total which keeps him in the lead in scoring but I’m sure Artemi would’ve rather won the game.

So Panarin ended the game with 2 apples, 2 SOG and 16:45 TOI. Panarin has 4G and 12A so far in the tournament with one more game to go. Panarin was named one of three players of the game for Team Russia.

His ice time was limited in the third period with all the penalties Team Russia took while Canada did not score on them they did however keep out of the game their more skilled offensive players as they were forced to penalty kill.

Seven penalties is too many and this is something Team Russia needs to clean up as they ran into the same problem against Team USA.

The second Semi Final game saw Team Sweden easily defeating Team Finland 4-1. This game was a typical Sweden vs Finland game tight checking and defense first type game. Yet Team Sweden managed to close this out pretty easy.

Marcus Kruger got on the score sheet with an assist on old buddy Joakim Nordstrom’s goal. Kruger and company have now punched their ticket for the opportunity to play Team Canada for the Gold medal tomorrow.

The Bronze medal game will be first at approximately 9:00 Am Chicago time and then the Gold medal game will be 1:00pm CT. You can catch these games on either NHL Network or the NBC sports app.

Good Luck Artemi and Marcus!

Video taken from YouTube IIHF

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Chicago Blackhawks – IIHF Men’s World Championships Quarterfinals


Chicago, IL –Finally the tournament got to the secondary rounds and on this day it did not do well for Team USA who got shut out by Team Finland 2-0 and were thus eliminated from the tournament after winning top spot in group A.

You’d have to say that was a fail but give Team Finland credit. Not sure if Team USA was over confident after defeating Team Russia or they just had a bad day.

Our Blackhawks ended their tourney with Nick Schmaltz having 3 assists in total in six games played as he missed one day due to injury. Trevor Van Riemsdyk did not have the best of outings as he saw his minutes diminished as the tournament went on.

Still for both it was a good developmental experience. The one thing that stood out to me was Schmaltz needs to shoot more and just keep working on getting stronger. TVR maybe work on foot speed and skating. Good job guys representing hope you enjoyed your time in Cologne. See you at the convention I hope.

So Finland moves onto play Team Sweden who defeated Team Switzerland 3-1. So we have the classic rivalry once again renewed with Finland against Sweden.

Marcus Kruger did not hit the score sheet for Sweden but as I’ve said before Sweden does not really need him to. Sweden will probably be the favorite but you can never discount the Finns as Team USA just found out.

Team Russia faced Team Czech Republic and defeated them 3-0 in another showcase of their firepower.

The Czech team actually started off well and seemed to employ the USA model for playing in the Russian zone but the Russian team is so skilled and with their quick strike and fast transition game it proved to be too much for Team Czech Republic.

With Team Czech Republic now eliminated from the tournament Michal Kempny ended the event with 2G and 1A in seven games. All in all I thought he was solid and jumped into plays in the offensive zone throughout the tournament. I see a progression in his overall game from when he first came to the Hawks.

I sincerely hope he does get re-signed by the Hawks. To let him go would be a mistake in my opinion. He brings a physicality which the Hawks lack on the back end and he is pretty good on the power play as well. Good tournament Mr. Kempny.

Ah now onto Team Russia and our Breadman. Artemi Panarin was again placed on the third line with Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and Vladislov Namestnikov until Namestnikov left the game when he blocked a shot on the penalty kill. He was replaced by Evgeni Kuznetsov for the remainder of the game.

Russia struck fast on a breakaway goal by Gusev and then a power play goal by Kucherov. As I said it doesn’t take much for Team Russia to make you pay.

Panarin had some great chances in the second and third periods after going shotless in the first period.

In the second period he was robbed by the Czech goalie on his patented one timer and then he had rush up ice but hit the post so nothing for Artemi.

The third period saw him have another glorious chance on a breakaway but he couldn’t get control of the puck and missed the net. After these prime opportunities that he missed you could tell he was getting frustrated.

His talent though is just too much to keep suppressed for too long. He finally broke through with a goal on a beautiful 2 on 1 with Kucherov who set him up perfectly and pretty much sealed Russia’s ticket to the Semi Final round.

Panarin still leads all scorers with 14 points now followed by his current linemate Kucherov with 13 points. Artemi ended the game with 1 goal on 4 SOG and 17 + minutes of ice time.

After the game there was an interview with Russian media where you can see Panarin is very hard on himself for missing those opportunities. That’s ok Artemi it just shows us you are human.

Here is the link to the article by Russian hockey: http://fhr.ru/en/main/ofnews/card/?id_4=13661

He and Team Russia will now face Team Canada who defeated host Germany in a 2-1 win to set up another classic semi-final game. All the semi final games will not be played until Saturday so the teams can recoup and get ready for the next opponent.

I’ve got to say I have thoroughly enjoyed this tournament. For Team Russia to defeat Team Canada they will need to clean up their stick infractions and maybe cut down on over passing and tighten their defense in their own zone and they should be fine.

A few observations is that there is a lot of talent overseas and particularly watching Team Russia there are two that really stood out to me Sergei Andronov and Alexander Barabanov, who reminds me of a junior Panarin and he also plays on the PK. Now I have no idea if they want to come to the NHL but there is plenty of talent there and in the KHL.

Also on smaller hockey countries like Switzerland, Latvia, Germany ect.. there is plenty of talent and skill there you just might need to develop it for the NHL a bit.

Speaking of developing talent it was announced that the head coach for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs was hired. Jeremy Colliton who is coming fresh off of a coaching gig in Sweden. So there is talent even off the ice abroad.

I will be blogging on this in more detail later and what it means to the Blackhawks organization from a big picture perspective.

I’m glad this tournament does not play on Friday as the CHL Memorial Cup Tournament is starting on Friday with the St. John Sea Dogs taking on the Windsor Spitfires.

So Hawks fans tune in to see some Hawks prospects Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel for the Sea Dogs and Graham Knott for the Spitfires. If you can’t I will try to cover in this blog.

Good Luck to all our Blackhawks and Blackhawks prospects aboard and here in North America.

Video taken from YouTube – IIHF

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – IIHF Men’s Worlds Day 12 Team USA vs Team Russia


Chicago, IL — Day 12 had scheduled another match-up of Team USA vs Team Russia for the bragging right of being #1 in Group A and maybe more importantly for the winner to plant a seed of doubt should they meet again.

Whenever you have these two teams playing each other it always has the potential to be a classic and this one did not disappoint. It was everything I thought it would be and more.

I had some questions of my own I wanted to see and hoped I would get answers to and I did.

Firstly could a young fast USA team beat a seasoned Russian team on big ice?  Would the NHL/North American game translate to big ice?

How would our Blackhawks on both sides do? I was really curious how Artemi Panarin would do against an NHL team and how Nick Schmaltz would do against a skilled veteran Russian team.

Team USA maybe young, but they are fast, resilient and most of all fierce. Facing what was a Russian favored crowd and having to come back from being behind three times they answered the call and stepped it up when they needed to. When they took the lead they never looked back.

You basically had a NHL team in Team USA against a mix of NHL/KHLers for Team Russia but you would have to say that the USA would be an underdog on big ice. Well taking away time and space I guess works no matter what ice you are playing on.

Team Russia is very good in transition which did burn Team USA on several occasions. This is something they will need to tighten up going forward. Watching these two great skating teams was fun.

Coming into the game Artemi Panarin was the tournaments leading scorer with 13 points and Team USA kept him from getting any points while handing Team Russia its first defeat.

What I found interesting was Panarin and his line of Nikita Kucherov and Vladislov Namestnikov were put up against Schmaltz’s line with Dylan Larkin and Brock Nelson.

Now I’m not sure if this was Team Russia’s decision or Team USA’s choice,  but we all see how this turned out. For the most part Schmaltz covered this line pretty well he had one slip up where Kucherov schooled him but in the end it was Schmaltz’s line that had the final say.

Schmaltz had no points himself but either did Panarin. Larkin and Nelson ended up with goals so Artemi’s line was -2. I’d say they did pretty well defensively covering Team Russia’s only true NHL line.

Panarin had a glorious chance late to tie up the game when shorthanded he stepped on the ice and sticked the puck past a defender and was stopped on a breakaway by Jimmy Howard. From there with Vasilevski pulled Nelson potted an empty netter for the 5-3 final.

I’m sure no one feels worse than Panarin for missing what was a golden opportunity.

As a side note Team USA management is Stan Bowman and Dale Tallon. Yeah I’m sure Bowman was there taking in this one.

Trevor Van Riemsdyk only played one minute yes that is correct. Must be punishment for his getting turned inside out the day.

Team Russia took to many stick penalties and were a bit undisciplined. There is no question Team Russia plays with passion maybe a little too much passion and emotion and Team USA made them pay. They played like professionals all the way. Team Russia was getting frustrated as the Americans kept them pinned in their own zone which is not where Team Russia wants to play.

But if these two teams meet up again which is highly likely don’t expect Team Russia to make these same mistakes.

In paying attention to Panarin and Schmaltz I think while they both are very talented they each can still improve their games.

Artemi Panarin is so gifted but he does need to play in the NHL. Watching this tournament he will only be challenged in the NHL,  and if he wants to keep developing his game the NHL is where he can achieve this. He just needs to learn how to make room when none is given on the ice and maybe work on the defensive side of the puck.

For Schmaltz I’d say he needs to get stronger on the puck on the boards and shoot baby shoot. He may need to bulk up a bit but other than that he is good. His on ice vision is very good and tournaments like this will only help him in development.

With this win Team USA now will play Team Finland who ended up fourth in Group B.  Team Russia will now take on Team Czech Republic who finished third in group B. Team Sweden who finished third in Group A will now play team Switzerland who finished second in Group B.

The medal rounds start on Thursday. Good Luck to all the Blackhawks!

Video taken from You Tube IIHF

 

 

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