Nothing much was at stake when Sweden faced Russia in the final game of the opening round of the 2018 IIHF world under-20s on New Year’s Eve. Seeding for the quarters signifies not a heck of a lot — unless you put value in a bronze – but if you’re going to win it all, you’re going to have to beat two good teams the vast majority of the time. Once in a while the stars line up: The middle-rank teams, the Czechs, the Slovaks or the Swiss, will sneak up on one of the heavyweights in the quarters and then, their tournaments feeling complete, become savoury meat in the semis. Thus, with an 8 p.m. ET start and parties to get to, a lot of people took a pass on what turned out to be the best game of the tournament. I know, you’re saying that this really hasn’t been a memorable tournament so far and it’s true, unless you’re a fan of outdoor games played in a blizzard. Still, given the speed and skill in play, given the back-and-forth action and unpredictability of the final result, Sweden’s 5-4 win over Russia in a shootout would be the best game in a lot of tournaments I’ve attended over the years. I could have missed it. I’ll admit that I had seriously thought about being some other place on New Year’s Eve. Still, Sweden-Russia was a must-watch for no other reason than it featured the prospects projected to be the first two names called at the 2018 NHL Draft: defenceman Rasmus Dahlin and right-winger Andrei Svechnikov. The world juniors are hit and miss as a draft tournament for scouts — a very limited number of 17- or just-turned 18-year-olds will be on hand in any given year and they’re known players. Not that it’s never impactful: I’m sure Nico Hischier’s eye-popping performance for Switzerland in last year’s tourney had a lot to do with him moving past Nolan Patrick to the top spot in the draft.
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Rasmus Dahlin separating himself from Andrei Svechnikov at world juniors
Sportsnet | Jan 1