After Day 1 of the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki, the first four games of the tournament are in the books, and two Blackhawks prospects took the ice for their respective countries. Defenseman Joni Tuulola and hosts Finland scored five times in the third period to surge past Belarus 6-0, while forward Nick Schmaltz and Team USA defeated archrival Canada 4-2 in an opening game that was moved up from its traditional time slot of New Year’s Eve.
Tuulola is playing on Finland’s second defensive pairing with 2016 draft-eligible Olli Juolevi—their oldest participant at World Juniors with their second-youngest—and the 19-year-old got involved in plays early. There was a scary moment early in the second period as Tuulola was clipped in the head, but he remained in the game, helping the Finns overcome an inspired goaltending performance by Ivan Kulbakov as they outshot the Belarusians 37-10 in the tilt. Tuulola finished the game with one minor penalty and a +2 plus/minus rating.
Schmaltz is centering Team USA’s third line while seeing time on the second power-play unit; he also contributed to an extended penalty kill, helping the Americans buckle down on a 5-minute major after Alex Debrincat was ejected for spearing. Despite not picking up any points, Schmaltz had an impressive outing at both ends of the ice, often dropping deep into the defensive zone to retrieve pucks and then start plays from his own end. The 2014 first-round pick ended the game with two shots on goal.
- Sweden opened with an ill-tempered 8-3 win over Switzerland, achieved without the services of defenseman Gustav Forsling, who was injured in pre-tournament play but should return to the lineup. The 2014 fifth-round pick led all defensemen at last year’s World Juniors with eight points (3G, 5A) in seven games and is expected to be a big offensive contributor for Tre Kronor when he sees action... Forward Fredrik Olofsson, a freshman at the University of Nebraska–Omaha, was one of the last cuts for Team Sweden ahead of the tournament.
- Radovan Bondra, the Blackhawks’ fifth-round pick in 2015, will be in action for the first time tomorrow with Team Slovakia against Belarus. At least three prospects will play on Monday, and it could be all four as Sweden waits on Forsling’s status.