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WJC 2015: Five Blackhawks prospects in action for USA and Sweden

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
Team USA, featuring four Blackhawks prospects, has gotten off to a good start at the 2015 World Juniors tournament, winning its first two group stage games. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

The annual IIHF U20 World Championship tournament is the hockey world’s favorite holiday tradition, offering fans the chance to watch the most exciting junior-age players compete head to head as well as a glimpse of the sport’s future stars. Last year, Blackhawks fans were treated to an incredible performance by 2012 first-round pick Teuvo Teravainen, who captained Finland to its first gold medal since 1998 and led all players with 15 points (2G, 13A) in seven games.

This year, Chicago is again well-represented at World Juniors, with defenseman Robin Norell suiting up for Sweden a second time and four forwards—plus Head Coach Mark Osiecki, normally the associate coach in Rockford—hoping to help Team USA reach the pinnacle. Through the first two games of the tournament, here’s how each prospect has fared.

D Robin Norell, Sweden

Norell was reunited with last year’s defensive partner, Robert Hagg (Philadelphia’s first-round selection in 2013), to form a veteran duo for Sweden in their tournament opener, a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic. He then moved to a pairing with Gustav Forsling (VAN, 2014) in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Denmark. The shutdown blueliner has been held without a point in two games, in addition to collecting one shot on goal and one minor penalty.

Sweden plays Russia in a battle of Group B heavyweights this afternoon at 4 p.m. CT. NHL Network will offer live coverage at the conclusion of the USA-Slovakia match.

C Nick Schmaltz, USA

Schmaltz has been a noticeable presence on Team USA’s second line alongside 2015 draft-eligible Auston Matthews. Chicago’s 2014 first-round selection ranked third on the team with four shots on goal in a 2-1 shootout win over Finland on Friday, then assisted on Matthews’ game-winner in a 6-0 win against Germany on Sunday.

C Tyler Motte, USA

Motte has played primarily a checking role on a line with Hudson Fasching (LAK, 2013) and University of Michigan teammate Dylan Larkin (DET, 2014), and that line broke out in a big way on Sunday, combining for six points and 15 shots on goal against Germany. Motte collected an assist and now has six shots on goal through two games; he is expected to start on USA’s top line this afternoon against Slovakia, playing with captain Jack Eichel and Alex Tuch.

C Anthony Louis, USA

Louis has seen plenty of action in Team USA’s first two games, rotating on a line with fellow Blackhawks prospect John Hayden, Northbrook native J.T. Compher (BUF, 2013) and Miles Wood (NJD, 2013), and seeing occasional power play time. Louis has no points and four shots on goal through two games.

C John Hayden, USA

A Team USA alternate captain, Hayden has been held without a point, with four shots on goal in two games so far.

The Americans will take on Slovakia today at 3 p.m. CT, as they try to overtake with Group A leaders Canada. Viewers can find the game on NHL Network or stream it live on Preview below:

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