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Keller’s two goals lead USA over Latvia in World Junior opener

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Team USA’s opener at the 2017 World Junior tournament was a tale of two different games.

For the first 40 minutes of their game against Latvia they looked extremely sloppy and were fortunate to be playing a team that opened as a 250-1 shot to win the tournament.

But once they shook off some rust and found their stride in the third period the talent gap between the two sides started to become apparent as the United States rolled to a 6-1 win.

The United States received a two-goal effort Clayton Keller, as well as goals from Patrick Harper, Colin White, Jeremy Bracco and Jordan Greenway.

The final score looks lopsided, but Latvia put up a pretty good fight through the first two periods as the United States stumbled out of the gate and seemed to be doing everything it could to allow Latvia to hang around. During one particularly ugly stretch early in the second period (with the game still tied at one) the United States allowed a breakaway, a 2-on-1 rush, and then a 3-on-1 rush in less than five minutes.

That sequence came after Renars Krastenbergs converted on a breakaway of his own late in the first period to even the score.

Had Latvia been able to convert on any of those chances early in the second period it could have sent the game in an entirely different direction. But they didn’t, and the United States was able to put it all in the rear view mirror and capitalize on Latvia’s missed opportunities.

Once they avoided that early second period scare, White scored his first goal of the tournament for what would go on to be the game-winning goal.

Have a look at it.

Keller scored his first of the tournament 12 minutes later to help put the game out of reach before adding a second goal in the third period.

Keller, the No. 7 overall pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2016, is one of the top players for Team USA and should be one of the top scorers in the tournament. Keller has 15 points in 10 games for Boston University this season.

Aside from the odd-man rushes and chances the United States kept allowing through the first half of the game, their other big issue on the Monday that has to be corrected was their inability to stay out of the penalty box, taking seven minor penalties and giving Latvia several chances to get back into the game when it was still close.

That level of play will almost certainly not be enough against powerhouse teams like Russia or Canada.

The United States returns to action on Wednesday against Slovakia, before finishing the opening round against Russia on Thursday and then Canada on Saturday.

In other tournament action on Monday, Sweden was a 6-1 winner over Denmark.

DeBrincat, Brown cut from U.S. World Juniors roster

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Alex DeBrincat and Logan Brown, two forwards who’ve put up big numbers in the OHL, have been cut from the United States’ World Juniors roster.

A second-round draft pick of the Blackhawks, DeBrincat, 19, has 30 goals and 30 assists in 28 games for the Erie Otters. He was on the team last year and was expected to be a big part of this year’s squad.

Brown, the 11th overall pick in 2016 (Senators), has 21 points (8G, 13A) in 15 games for Windsor. The 18-year-old has been battling a wrist injury, which may have hindered his chances of making the team.

“We knew coming into the camp that decisions would be difficult and that is a testament to these quality players and the talent pool available to us in the United States,” said USA GM Jim Johannson. “There are still some decisions to be made, but as a staff we are pleased by the team’s continued chemistry and unity that head coach Bob Motzko first started back in August.”

From the USA Hockey press release:

The 24-player roster includes three returnees from the bronze medal-winning 2016 U.S. National Junior Team, including defensemen Chad Krys (Ridgefield, Conn./Boston University) and Charlie McAvoy (Long Beach, N.Y./Boston University and forward Colin White (Hanover, Mass./Boston College).

Of the original 27 camp invitees (three goalies, eight d-men, and 16 forwards), only 23 will make the cut.

Brock Boeser, a forward, has already been ruled out after undergoing wrist surgery.

Canucks prospect Juolevi to captain Finland’s world junior team

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In just a few days, Finland will begin its defense of world junior hockey gold — and it will have a returning champion, Olli Juolevi, as its captain.

The official announcement came Monday.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Juolevi with the fifth overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, bolstering the depth among their defensive prospects. Juolevi, 18, saw some playing time during the pre-season in Vancouver, but he was sent back to his junior team in London.

At last year’s tournament, Juolevi had nine assists in seven games. His performance there left an impression on Canucks management ahead of the draft.

“We thought he had an exceptional tournament for a 17-year-old kid,” Jim Benning told Sportsnet earlier this year. “To step in and help lead his team to a championship… In all my years of scouting, I don’t think I remember a 17-year-old who did what he did this year.

“We just felt of all the defensemen, we liked his all-around game the best.”

On Monday, USA Hockey named Minnesota Wild first-round pick Luke Kunin as its captain for the upcoming tournament.

Kunin, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, was taken 15th overall in this year’s draft. This season, he has 11 goals and 17 points in 16 games.

Colin White, an Ottawa Senators first-round pick in 2015, and Charlie McAvoy, taken in the first round of this year’s draft by Boston, were named alternate captains.

“I couldn’t be happier to have these three quality guys leading this locker room,” said U.S. junior head coach Bob Motzko in a statement.

“We’ve been saying it every day that there’s a pulse with this group. We know Luke, Charlie and Colin are at the center of that through their style of play and their tremendous amount of heart. We’re fortunate to have them leading this team.”

Wild prospect Joel Eriksson-Ek was named captain of Sweden’s team.

Eriksson-Ek already has experience in the NHL regular season, playing nine games in Minnesota, scoring twice with five points, before he was sent back to Sweden.

Related: Coyotes prospect Strome to captain Canada at World Juniors

Coyotes prospect Strome to captain Canada at World Juniors

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Canada’s world junior team features three players that played in the NHL this season.

On Monday, those three were named to the club’s leadership group.

Arizona’s Dylan Strome, who appeared in seven games this season and scored his first NHL point, has been named captain for the tournament, Hockey Canada announced.

Islanders forward Matthew Barzal — who played two games before getting sent back to WHL Seattle — is one of the alternates, along with Ottawa d-man Thomas Chabot, who played in one game this year prior to returning to the QMJHL.

This figures to be a big tournament for Strome, who was part of the disappointing Canadian team that lost in the quarterfinals to Finland last year.

Strome finished tied with Mitch Marner for the team lead in scoring, with six points in five games, and will now have a chance to follow in the footsteps of Curtis Lazar, the last player to captain Team Canada to gold on home soil (Lazar was the leader of a dynamic ’15 team that went undefeated en route to gold in Montreal and Toronto).

 

Barzal, Chabot, Strome highlight Canada’s World Junior team

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A trio of rookies that made their NHL debuts this season will represent Canada at the upcoming world junior championships.

The Islanders’ Matthew Barzal, Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot and Arizona’s Dylan Strome are among the 22 players that made the cut for the tournament, which will begin later this month in Montreal and Toronto.

Chabot, the 18th overall pick in 2015, played one game with the Sens this year before being sent back to QMJHL Saint John. Barzal, the 16th overall pick that same year, played two games for the Isles before getting returned to WHL Seattle.

Strome, the third overall pick in ’15 — behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel — played in seven games for the Coyotes this season, scoring his first-ever NHL point in the process. He’s now plying his trade for OHL Erie.

The full roster:

Goaltenders: Carter Hart, Connor Ingram

Defensemen: Chabot, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, Dante Fabbro, Noah Juulsen, Jérémy Lauzon, Philippe Myers

Forwards: Barzal, Strome, Julien Gauthier, Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli, Dillon Dubé, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mathieu Joseph, Tyson Jost, Michael McLeod, Taylor Raddysh, Nicolas Roy, Blake Speers.