Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: Yes, They Are

"Is he really that good?" I hear this all the time from casual fans who don't truly understand the talents of top junior players like Cody Glass, Henri Jokiharju and Kieffer Bellows. The answer is yes, they are and the World Junior Championship is a chance to see it for real. Cody was cut from Team Canada, but Henri, Kieffer and Joachim Blichfeld are on full display, along with other top WHL talent like Sam Steel, Tyler Steenbergen, Kailer Yamamoto and Carter Hart. With regard to the players from the Dub, it's all good. 

Everybody's All-Americans: Naturally I was ecstatic when Team USA, in the pre-game words of Kieffer Bellows, came out hot. The Americans obliterated Team Denmark 9-0, outshooting them 36-17. It all started early when Team USA took a 5-0 lead in the first period and Denmark never recovered. Of course I was excited for my home team, but I had expected Joachim Blichfeld and his teammates to put up more of a fight. Team Denmark came to this tournament with the same hopes, dreams and goals as the Americans. But it takes more than wanting to win; you have to be prepared before you even show up. I think that was the difference maker; Team USA was ready and Denmark wasn't. And also becuase Denmark probably didn't pay attention to the details: Kieffer is dangerous because he has mastered the element of surprise. It's his signature move, along with this:

Dude, where's my hat trick?: Yes, I have really asked Kieffer this question in post-game interviews. I couldn't help it; he has scored twice in five separate Portland Winterhawks games this season, including the season opener against the Everett Silvertips. And that's in addition to the two goals he scored in Team USA's gold medal win at the 2017 World Junior Championship. 

Superstition guaranteed: I have watched the Portland Winterhawks play against Carter Hart for the past four seasons (five if you count the 2 games he played in the 2013 - 2014 season). I'm embarrassed to admit that never once did I notice that he is - or at least tries to be - the last player off the ice. Nor did I know this was his personal post-game routine/superstition, but apparently it is. If you want to see how serious he is about it, click here to watch him in action.

Strong Finnish: With one goal and one assist, Henri Jokiharju was chosen as Finland's Player of the Game after their 4-1 win over Denmark. Team Finland Captain Juuso Valimaki also had a goal and an assist. Here in the Dub they are opponents, but together on Team Finland they contributed to one of the most ridiculous shot differentials I've ever seen: Finland outshot Denmark 62-7. But it also means that Denmark's goalie Kasper Krog stopped an equally ridiculous 58 shots. Denmark is facing an uphill battle; they are pointless after two games and must improve against Canada and Slovakia this weekend to advance to the quarterfinals. The odds aren't in their favor, but then again, the World Junior tournament is legendary for seemingly impossible comebacks, so I won't gvie up on Joachim and his teammates just yet.

Second time's a charm: This is pretty much the signature move for Team Canada players. Last year, Regina Pats forward Sam Steel was one of the notorious final cuts from Team Canada's World Junior team. The WHL's MVP last year, Steel now has two goals and one assist in Canada's first two games of the tournament. This year, Cody Glass was cut from Team Canada and he admitted afterwards that he didn't have the edge he needed to make the roster. Watching Sam Steel rebound this year gives me hope that Cody can do the same when his second chance comes around next year. 

Two minutes for sportsmanlike conduct: After every World Junior game, one player from each team is chosen as a Player of the Game, then the winning team's flag is raised and their anthem is played. It reminds me of Australia, where opposing teams shake hands after every game. I like this tradition of pausing to recognize and respect both teams. It's a good reminder that both teams worked hard to get here and to do their best in every game. No matter what happens at this year's WJC, one thing is for sure: playing in this tournament will ultimately make the best players in the NHL's pipeline even better. Speaking of which: 

Hot off the presses: Joachim Blichfeld has signed a three-year entry deal with the San Jose Sharks. In the Sharks' statement, GM Doug Wilson stated "We're excited to see Joachim continue to evolve as a player." He's doing that right now, in Buffalo.  

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ilovehomers's avatar

I get less opportunity to watch minor hockey, but I remember seeing Connor McDavid and calling him a floater. Much like what I assume Mantha was like; didnt have to skate much, could just dominate because of his competition.

Was Connor that good? Hell yes he was.

Wasn’t as sold on Sonny Milano, and not sure how he is now.

Posted by ilovehomers on 12/29/17 at 08:53 AM ET

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com