*(Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the New England Hockey Journal)

Friday, April 22, 2011

World Under-18 Semifinals Saturday: USA-Canada, Sweden-Russia

The big-four hockey powers are all in the World Under-18 Championship dance!

USA is attempting to win three U18 gold medals for the first time in history, but it won't be easy. Though Germany pushed Canada to the brink, Soo Greyhounds forward Nick Cousins continued his excellent play in the tourney with a late power play goal with less than five minutes left to propel Canada into the final-four, 4-3.

Russia smoked Finland by a 5-2 score, with defenseman Andrey Pedan getting a pair of assists, while forward Nikita Kucherov continued his tourney-leading points assault with a goal and helper. Kucherov is tremendously talented, but has been graded down for diving and effort concerns this season. We've not seen much of that in the tourney, however. He's been the real straw stirring the drink for the Russians. Pedan is more of a project, a big kid at about 6-5 who can skate and shoot, but played a very conservative game for Guelph of the OHL this season. He's been more active offensively on the bigger ice surfaces of the U18s and is the kind of raw prospect with impressive physical tools who could be worth a look in the third round.

Sweden will take on the Russians, and you have to like the Swedish defensive group. Led by Jonas Brodin, they also boast some studs in Oscar Klefbom and Rasmus Bengtsson and small but skilled Karl Johansson. It will be Russia's high octane offense led by Kucherov and also featuring Nail Yakupov and Maxim Shalunov against Sweden's mobile, heady and dangerous blue line corps. Can't wait!

The Americans have been off since Tuesday when they beat Germany to go 4-0-0-0 in the round robin. This is a tough challenge for them, because like the WJC U20 team who cruised, they have yet to go up against a squad in the tourney with the kind of size and power along with some smaller speed and skill players like Cousins, Daniel Catenacci and high-flying defenseman Ryan Murphy.

USA will need a terrific game from John Gibson to advance to the gold medal game, but they have no shortage of gamers who have managed to alternately grab the ring and be heroes when the team has needed it. One player who has yet to make much of an impact is winger Tyler Biggs. Getting some offense going against Canada would be a good spot for him to start.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Kirk

    Your take on Pedan makes me a little happier. I was high on him coming into the season but he disappointed in Guelph with just 12 points. He had a terrible Subway Super Series but he turned it up in the playoffs with 8 points in 6 games.

    He also seems to be having a great under -18 tourney. I always thought he was slow but maybe he just looks that way with his 6'5" frame.

    Realistically, can he go in the third round? And as a project, where do you see him? Or is he another Boris Valabik? (although Valabik was a first rounder).

  3. Dom- I see a powerful skater who doesn't have a quick burst, but covers ground with his long stride. He's been particularly effective in puck retrieval during the U18 tourney- beats his man to the puck and gets it back up and out to start the transition the other way.

    He's not shooting the puck as much as he could- I see him passing up chances to shoot when the lanes are open and I don't think he has much offensive upside.

    However, he has the look of a pretty effective middle-pairing guy who can play the shutdown role and bring an edge.

    3rd-4th round I would think is where he lands, though he could drop lower because of nationality.