Magazine Musings: U.S. 2, Slovakia 1

The Five Biggest Takeaways From The United States' 2019 WJC Opener

Magazine Musings: U.S. 2, Slovakia 1

 

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the United States’ 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship opener, a 2-1 win over Slovakia on Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Center in Victoria, B.C.

 

Start Your Engines

 

Even the most talented teams take a while to hit their stride as players look to find their legs as they fight off the nerves in the opening game of the tournament. The U.S. didn’t have an inspiring start, although they did generate several good chances and held the shot advantage 8-5. 

          

The opening period also provides a glimpse of how this team will play. Led by Jack Hughes, the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft, the overall team speed of the U.S. squad was on display. Tyler Madden and Jason Robertson also generated quality chances in the opening frame.

 

Perhaps no two players are dealing with more pressure in the tournament that the Hughes brothers. In addition to Jack Hughes, who has already been anointed the odds on favorite to hear his name called first at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, his older brother Quinn has the eyes of British Columbia staring down at him after the Canucks drafted him 7th overall last year. Both brothers lived up to the early scrutiny, with Jack Hughes assisting on the first U.S. goal while Quinn played a solid game at the back end while generating some good scoring chances by jumping into the play.

 

Regrouping

 

The U.S. started out the second period with a breakaway from Jason Robertson, who was arguably the Americans best player tonight. Robertson’s hustle created the team’s best scoring chance when he was hauled down by a Slovak defender and was awarded a penalty shot. Goaltender Samuel Hlavaj, who finished with 32 saves, was up to the task and kept the game scoreless.

       

After surrendering a goal late in the second period, the U.S. used the intermission to regroup and began the final frame with a strong push.

       

The U.S. drew an early penalty and tied the game when Jack Hughes fed Mikey Anderson at the point who slipped a shot past Hlavaj, who was screened on the play by Evan Barratt. 

            

Barratt’s hustle paid off three minutes later as he picked up a puck out of the corner and unleashed a wicked backhander from the slot for what was the game winner.

 

Barratt’s Beauty

 

Barratt is someone who isn’t getting much due this year, despite being the leading scorer among the NCAA with 29 points.

 

Barratt was extremely noticeable in the third period to help pull the U.S. in front. He played a role in the first goal and created the second, emerging from the corner and releasing a backhander that beat Hlavaj over the glove side to put the U.S. up 2-1.

 

Barratt almost added another with eight minutes remaining in the period with two more strong chances. The Blackhawks draftee (2017, third round, 90th overall) is on as much of a hot streak as any U.S. forward up front and it looks like he’s not slowing down anytime soon.

 

Goaltending

 

Kyle Keyser earned the starting nod in goal for the U.S. and the Coral Springs, Fla., native showed why he is one of the top netminders in the Ontario Hockey League. Keyser turned aside 13 shots, including a third period penalty shot from Andrej Kukuca.

            

Despite Keyser’s strong showing in goal, U.S. head coach Mike Hastings has some tough decisions ahead of him with both Cayden Primeau and Spencer Knight also deserving of an opportunity to stare down opposing shooters.  Primeau has enjoyed a solid season at Northeastern University, while Knight is a projected high draft pick after another sensational year with the National Team Development Program. As the youngest of the three goaltenders, Knight may find himself the odd man out in the rotation as coaches tend to stick with the hot hand in a short tournament.

 

Kazahkstan Coming, Lines

 

The U.S. will continue preliminary round play on Friday (Dec. 28) against Kazakhstan. It will only be the fifth-ever meeting between the two nations, with the U.S. holding a 4-0-0-0 advantage.

 

Their last meeting was in 2008, a 12-0 U.S. victory. With their contest with Slovakia now in the rear view mirror and Kazakhstan coming up, the U.S. should have the pair of games to be fully tuned up when they take on Sweden and Finland for Group A supremacy. 

 

While the lines are always subject to change, here’s how the U.S. lined up against Slovakia in their opening contest.

 

Poehling – Norris – Robertson

Cates – Barratt – Madden

Farabee – Hughes – Wahlstrom

Cockerill – Chmelevski – O’Brien

Drury

 

Hughes  – Kemp

Samberg  – Anderson

Samuelsson  – Miller

St. Ivany

 

Keyser

(Primeau)

 

User login

Poll

Who is your favorite American NHL player?: