18 April 2019


2010 WJC Faceoff report - Fin up front

Several leaders are emerging after two complete round-robin games in pool play at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships. Puck possession is an integral part of any competition and faceoffs are a key contributing factor.
Finnish centre Joonas Nattinen (Montreal Canadiens) has absolutely robbed his opponents on the draw. Posting the best percentage (82.86%), Nattinen has given hard-working Team Finland possession to work with at key times and has taken 35 faceoffs in the two contests. His countrymen have not been nearly as successful, with young Mikael Granlund (2010 draft-eligible and 30/55=54.55%) providing one other reliable Fin up front, though he has raised eyebrows with minimal point production. Granlund's physical play against older players here should not be overlooked however. Keeping the score close and agitating their rivals seems to be a Finnish tendency, so an improvement in special teams play, especially the powerplay will have to begin with the puck. Nattinen especially has given them the opportunity and a chance on every play.
Team Canada is proving that the standing favouritism internationally comes in part because of sound fundamental play, one of which is 'dominance at the dot'. Hence, the home-side has not allowed a goal-against thus far (despite the comparably weak opponents) and have shrugged off the opposing powerplays. The top foursome of Adam Henrique (New Jersey Devils), captain Patrice Cormier (New Jersey Devils), Brayden Schenn (Los Angeles Kings), and Luke Adam (Buffalo Sabres) have combined to win 66 of 103 faceoffs or 64.08%. 
Team Sweden has had a lot fo success to commence play as well. Early accolades go to faceoff ace Anton Lander (Edmonton Oilers) who has won 15 of his 21 draws for a sparkling 71.43% rate. Washington Capitals' hopeful Marcus Johnasson has been less than impressive (51.06%), despite taking the majority of the draws, and stands seventh on team scoring with three assists in two games on a strong team. The Swedes will have a big test against Russia today; Marcus Kruger (Chicago Blackhawks, Dennis Rasmussen (undrafted, 70%), Jakob Silfverberg (Ottawa Senators, 66.67%), and Martin Lundberg (undrafted, 60%) will be factors alongside the shifty moves of Andre Petterson (Ottawa Senators), leading scorer Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson (Edmonton Oilers), and a show-time defense which is high-lighted by 2011 draft-eligible rearguard, Adam Larsson.
Strong penalty-killing by Team Russia is the direct result of strength on the draw; the trio of Alexander Burmistrov (51.22%), Yevgeni Kuznetsov (62.5%), and captain Nikita Filatov (Columbus Blue Jackets, 62.5%) have proved their importance at centre ice. Burmistrov and Kuznetsov are both eligible to be selected in future National Hockey League Entry Drafts, while Filatov has lit up the Kontinental Hockey League this season after leaving the Blue Jackets under dispute. Kirill Petrov (New York Islanders, 50%) leads the Russians in scoring with one goal and three assists in two games thus far.
Team Slovakia has two main faceoff leaders in Prince George Cougars' (WHL) leading scorer Marek Viedensky (San Jose Sharks, 56.76%) and Samuel Mlynarovic (HK SKP Poprad, 70%) compliment the immense talent of Richard Panik (Tampa Bay Lightning, five points) and Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings, three points) on the forward corps. They perhaps have their stiffest test of the tournament against Canada tonight.
The Americans have been delighted with the prowess of AJ Jenks (Florida Panthers) in the faceoff circle. Jenks has led Team USA with 24 wins against his ten losses (70.59%) and has solidified faceoffs as a strength alongside the goalkeeping of Michigan-born Jack Campbell. Derek Stepan (New York Rangers) leads the team with four points in their two matches and London Knight (OHL) and Philip McRae (St.Louis Blues, 56.25%, and son to ex-NHL tough guy Basil) has instrumental to faceoff success for the team.
Team Latvia, the Czech Republic, Team Austria, and Team Switzerlandhave been overmatched thus far in most aspects of play, though the Czechs did have two strong periods against Finland, before ultimately losing the game. Robert Kousal (undrafted, 52.38%) and Tomas Knotek (undrafted, 51.85%) of the Halifax Mooseheads will be pivotal in the Czech fortunes in Saskatchewan. Knotek is normally a left winger and has been respectable 'at the dot' and added two assists so far, to augment his stellar QMJHL point production the last three seasons. Jeffrey Fuglister (undrafted) of Switzerland has been the best of latter bunch, posting 21 wins and 19 losses (52.5%), with one tough contest against the Canadian side.
As the round-robin portion of the tournament nears an end, the teams that have embraced physical play, a willingness to compete, and have the skill level to maintain those levels will emerge victorious, cementing their place in the playoff rounds.  For others, it could mean the difference between being relegated to the lower division for next year's event or remaining in the elite tournament.

29 December 2009
Robin Keith Thompson
Team stats: http://stats.iihf.com/Hydra/205/IHM205000_84_3_0.pdf
Faceoff stats: http://stats.iihf.com/Hydra/205/IHM205000_85F_3_0.pdf - after Day 3 (2 games each)
video coverage: http://www.tsn.ca/world_jrs/

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