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WJC roundup: Highlights of Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin and Mikko Kokkonen

All three players will finish the round robin on New Year’s Eve in a playoff spot.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

After four days at the 2020 World Junior Championships, one thing is clear: No one knows who is winning Group B. The so-called group of death has lived up to its billing with all of the teams having at least one loss and one win. The standings look like this:

Group B as of December 29

Team GP PTS W OTW OTL L GF:GA
Team GP PTS W OTW OTL L GF:GA
USA 3 6 2 0 0 1 13:10
CZE 2 3 1 0 0 1 7:7
GER 2 3 1 0 0 1 7:9
CAN 2 3 1 0 0 1 6:10
RUS 3 3 1 0 0 2 10:7

With two wins in regulation to get six more points, Canada is in first place, even if the USA win their next match. By losing to the USA in their third game, the Russians can only get six points in total, while the USA could end up with as many as nine. The possible outcomes are numerous, but despite the beatdown Canada took from Russia, they are in a good position to finish first. Standing in their way is the host country in the big finale on New Year’s Eve.

Group B Schedule

  • December 30: GER vs CAN at 9 a.m.
  • December 30: USA vs CZE at 1 p.m.
  • December 31: RUS vs GER at 9 a.m.
  • December 31: CAN vs CZE at 1 p.m.

The urgency in Group B to finish in first or second is real. Group A is more set.

Group A as of December 29

Team GP PTS W OTW OTL L GF:GA
Team GP PTS W OTW OTL L GF:GA
FIN 3 7 2 0 1 0 17:5
SWE 2 5 1 1 0 0 8:4
SUI 2 3 1 0 0 1 7:8
SVK 2 3 1 0 0 1 4:9
KAZ 3 0 0 0 0 3 5:15

Finland and Sweden are all but guaranteed to take the top two spots, and Kazakhstan cannot advance beyond last place. So the only thing to be decided is the order of the two pairs of teams with a wide gap in quality.

Group B’s first-place team plays Group A’s fourth; the second plays the third; the third the second and the fourth the first. So for Group B’s teams fighting to the last game for ranking, the difference between second and third is the difference between playing a real contender in the quarterfinals or playing a team that would need a huge upset to win it.

Group A Schedule

  • December 30: KAZ vs SWE at 9 a.m.
  • December 30: SVK vs SUI at 1 p.m.
  • December 31: SWE vs SVK at 9 a.m.
  • December 31: FIN vs SUI at 1 p.m.

Sweden and Finland played each other on opening day, and Sweden took that one, so they hold the edge should they end up tied in points on the final day. The head-to-head winner is the first tie-breaker. The formula for three- or four-way points ties is more complex, and you can find that here.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where Sweden doesn’t continue their round-robin winning streak to 52 games and finish in first place. The reward for that in Group A could be the host Czechs, the surprising Germans or the Russians.

Leafs Prospects

Mikko Kokkonen

Unexpectedly, Finland’s third-unit defender has scored two goals, both in blowout games. He’s noted for sending in hard shots from the blueline, and twice they’ve just gone all the way:

Kokkonen’s two goals are his only points so far, and he has been playing 14:23 per game, which is just a little less than he usually plays in the Liiga. He doesn’t even turn 19 until this tournament is over, so his performance as part of a very good Finnish team has been perfectly fine, if not all that exciting.

Rasmus Sandin

If you know Sandin, and the way he’s been playing top pair on the Marlies since late last season, you won’t be surprised that he’s a major piece of Team Sweden. He has one assist so far, and has averaged 23:22 in his two games played, which is tops on the team. He is the leader of their defence and has looked solid and professional so far.

Nick Robertson

Robertson has two goals and two assists in three games played, and has featured on either the first or second line for Team USA as well as the first power-play unit and the penalty-kill unit at times.

He has the highest time on ice in USA’s win over Russia, and is averaging 18:36 per game. The only USA players with more ice time are both defencemen.

I think he’s having a good tournament. Robertson is currently ninth in scoring.

Once the quarterfinals are set, the first day of 2020 is an off day, and then the quarterfinals are packed into January 2. The semifinals are on Saturday and the medal games are Sunday, January 5. It’s possible all three Leafs prospects come home with some hardware.