David Gustafsson

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Finland eliminates U.S. 1-0 at World Juniors; Canada, Russia win

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Joonas Oden scored late to give Finland a 1-0 victory over the United States on Thursday and send the defending champion into the semifinals of the world junior hockey championship.

In a rematch of last year’s final, Oden broke the deadlock on a power play 4:23 into the final period, one-timing a shot from the slot past goaltender Spencer Knight at Werk Arena in Trinec.

The U.S. pulled Knight for an extra attacker and a 6-4 advantage with 1:15 left but Finland held on.

Finland will play Canada in the semifinals on Saturday, with Sweden facing Russia.

Alexis Lafreniere marked his return from injury with a goal and an assist as Canada routed Slovakia 6-1 in their quarterfinal.

Lafreniere wristed a shot past Slovakia goaltender Samuel Hlavaj to increase Canada’s lead to 5-0 on a power play midway through the second period at the Ostravar Arena in the eastern city of Ostrava.

The 18-year-old center, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, recovered from a left knee injury he sustained against Russia in the team’s second group-stage game on Dec 28. He missed the following two games against Germany and the Czech Republic.

Captain Barrett Hayton scored two goals and added an assist for Canada.

Lafreniere assisted on Hayton’s opening goal in the first period. Connor McMichael, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Liam Foudy contributed second-period goals to build a decisive lead for the Canadians.

Hayton scored his second on a power play in the final period.

Oliver Okuliar spoiled goaltender Joel Hofer’s shutout bid with a late consolation goal.

Canada is the most successful team at the world juniors with 17 titles but is looking to bounce back from a disappointing sixth-place finish last year when it hosted the event.

In the last quarterfinal, Nils Hoglander scored twice for Sweden in a 5-0 win over host Czech Republic.

Hoglander opened the scoring on a power play in the first period and added his fifth goal of the tournament in the second. Hugo Gustafsson, Victor Soderstrom and David Gustafsson also scored for Sweden in Ostrava.

Hugo Alnefelt stopped 23 shots for the shutout.

Earlier in Trinec, Dmitri Voronkov scored two power-play goals and Russia beat Switzerland 3-1 to become the first team to reach the semifinals.

Alexander Khovanov also had a goal and an assist and goaltender Yaroslav Askarov made 14 saves as Russia outshot the Swiss 36-15 in Trinec.

Gaetan Jobin scored for Switzerland.

Russia, which also beat Switzerland in last year’s bronze medal game, last won the title in 2011.

Looks like Kirby Dach is sticking with Blackhawks

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It looks like the top three picks of the 2019 NHL Draft will also play through at least the 10-game deadline that burns a year off of their entry-level contracts.

In the case of Jack Hughes (first pick, nine games played with the New Jersey Devils, little reason to expect anything but a full season barring injuries) and Kaapo Kakko (second pick, already 10 games played with the New York Rangers), this was all quite expected.

Third overall pick Kirby Dach, however? Now he was a wild card.

The Chicago Blackhawks decided to end any will-he-stay-or-will-he-go drama on Wednesday, stating that Dach will stay at the NHL level for the “foreseeable future.” The team’s official website uses the phrase “for the duration of the season,” if foreseeable future was too vague.

“Stan [Bowman] and I sat with him yesterday and told him he’s going to be here,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said on Wednesday. “He’s played well. He’s shown he can help us and he’s only going to get better. I think the player he is now, there’s likely going to be a huge improvement as the year goes on and the player (he is) in February I’m sure is going to be an impact player for us.”

It’s an interesting choice.

Dach, 18, has scored one goal and one assist through six games. That last matter is part of what makes this interesting: the Blackhawks saw enough in six games to make this announcement, when they could have taken some more time before that 10-game cutoff.

On one hand, Dach is acquitting himself quite well. His possession stats are pretty promising, which is heartening even with the sort of cushy deployment (about two-thirds of his shifts start in the offensive zone, via Hockey Reference) you’d expect from a rookie jumping right from the draft to the big time.

On the other hand, Dach is getting fairly modest ice time at just under 12 minutes (11:59) per game. For some perspective, the only players with lower TOI average for Chicago are Zach Smith (9:47) and Brendan Perlini (7:49), the latter of whom was traded.

Would hit-or-miss ice time, even as a nominal third-liner, be the best course for Dach’s development? That’s debatable, especially since Dach could either see more time as he matures, or less time if he falls into the doghouse that many rookies find themselves in, for reasons that range from fair to arbitrary.

(NHL coaches are notorious for giving rookies and young players short leashes, even if veteran replacements are clearly more limited.)

The Blackhawks are at least somewhat focused on the present, rather than going on a conscious tank, so there are other ways to look at Dach: he’s a competent asset already, seemingly, and at the dirt-cheap price of an entry-level deal.

Is it the best way to manage this asset, both from the perspective of developing Dach and also taking the best advantage of those entry-level years? Personally, I’m skeptical, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, it’s an impressive jump from the towering center.

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With the help of Cap Friendly’s handy entry-level slides listings, here are a few other 10-game deadline situations to ponder:

  • Jack Hughes, nine games played: Check that box.
  • Ville Heinola, eight GP: The 20th pick of 2019 has made a nice impression with the Winnipeg Jets, but there are rumblings that his days are numbered. David Gustafsson is a Jets forward with six games played who may also be worth monitoring.
  • Joel Farabee, five GP: The Flyers forward’s apparently had some bad luck early on.

It’s tough to tell if the Flyers are leaning one way or the other with Farabee, who has an assist in his first five games, and has been getting decent ice time.

  • Oliver Wahlstrom, five GP; Noah Dobson, three GP: These two intriguing Islanders are probably (like Farabee) a little early to be judged one way or another. Then again, the Blackhawks made that call with Dach just six games in, so we’ll see.
  • Barrett Hayton, four GP: With three points in his first four NHL games, it would be surprising if the Coyotes weren’t looking for every excuse to keep him at this level, especially since Arizona could use that extra skill and creativity.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.