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Wennberg, Merzlikins standing out among Blue Jackets at Worlds

Swedish forward shining with five points in early going of tournament

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

At the World Championships, as Bon Jovi might say, we're halfway there, and some members of the Blue Jackets organization are seeing their teams livin' on a prayer. 

The group stage has passed the midway point, with each country having played four of its seven round-robin games, and some of the seven players with CBJ ties have excelled while others are seeing their teams struggle.  

Each of the two groups has eight teams, with all countries playing the other seven teams in their group in the round-robin stage, which runs through Tuesday. From there, the top four teams in each group will move on to the quarterfinals Thursday, with the last-place teams relegated out of the 2020 tournament. The semifinals and finals will be over Memorial Day weekend.

Here's a look at how things have gone so far for the Blue Jackets -- current team members Zach Werenski (United States), Pierre-Luc Dubois (Canada), Vladislav Gavrikov (Russia), Alexander Wennberg (Sweden), Alexandre Texier (France) and Elvis Merzlikins (Latvia) as well as draft pick Veini Vehviläinen (Finland) -- who are taking part in the tournament, which is taking place in Slovakia. 

D Zach Werenski, USA 

OK, we're cheating a bit here, as Werenski is yet to suit up after deciding earlier this week to take part in the tournament and then flying overseas. Team USA is off to a solid start with eight points thanks to two wins, an OT win and a loss. The Americans sit in fourth place in the group, one point behind Canada but four points behind surprising group leader Germany, which is unbeaten. The Americans have a three-point edge on Denmark for the final spot in the quarterfinals, though, and would all but assure moving on with a win Saturday vs. the Danes.  

C Pierre-Luc Dubois, Canada 

Dubois missed the first two games but has been on the ice for the last two for the Canadians, who sit third in the group with a 3-1 record after dropping the opener vs. Finland. Dubois skated on a line with Mark Stone and Jonathan Marchessault on Thursday in a win over France, and in his two games thus far the CBJ center has an assist and a plus-2 rating. 

F Alexander Wennberg, Sweden 

Wennberg wasted little time getting going, scoring on his first shift of the tournament in the Swedes' blowout win over Norway on Monday and later adding another goal and an assist in that game. Sweden also took out Austria by a 9-1 final on Thursday and Wennberg has racked up the points thus far, posting a 2-3-5 line in his two games. The Swedes are 3-1 and in third in Group B behind unbeaten Russia and Switzerland.

Tweet from @JacketsInsider: Alexander Wennberg gets on the board for Sweden at the World Championships. #CBJ 

D Vladislav Gavrikov, Russia 

Gavrikov has been a solid presence on the blue line for the unbeaten Russians, playing in all four games thus far for a team that has outscored its foes 23-2. Gavrikov is yet to have a point, but the defensive stalwart is plus-1 in the tournament. Gavrikov has been on the ice for just one goal against, and Russia has pitched three straight shutouts. 

F Alexandre Texier, France 

French hockey isn't quite at the level of the game's powers, and the team is seventh in Group A with just one point earned via a shootout loss vs. Denmark. The French are just one point ahead of Great Britain for the last-place relegation spot, with the teams set to meet Monday. Texier has impressed according to observers thus far but is yet to notch a point in four games. 

G Elvis Merzlikins, Latvia 

The netminder has built a large part of his reputation through impressive performance at the World Championships, but after an excellent first showing in a 3-1 loss vs. Switzerland, he gave up five goals Thursday in a 6-3 setback vs. the Czech Republic. Merzlikins has given up seven goals in his two starts and has a .905 save percentage while splitting the net with Kirsters Gudlevskis. The Latvians are 2-2, good for fifth in Group B, but they will need to finish strong to advance as the country is three points behind the Czechs and Sweden for the final qualification spot. Merzlikins is also the author of one of the moments of the tournament thus far when he leveled Swiss forward Kevin Fiala.  

Tweet from @IIHFHockey: #LATSUI #IIHFWorlds Even Merzlikins is getting in on the hits this game. @lhf_lv Stay up to the minute with game action with the IIHF App: ���������

G Veini Vehviläinen, Finland 

A sixth-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets this past year but as of yet still unsigned, the netminder took Kårpåt to Game 7 of the Finnish Liiga finals and has dominated his domestic league the past two seasons. Vehviläinen has one start thus far at Worlds and it was vs. Team USA on Monday, and the goalie shook off a tough start (two early goals, including one off his mask) by taking the game to OT before giving up a goal to Dylan Larkin to give the Americans the 3-2 win. Vehviläinen and the Finns have 10 points and are second in Group A, two points behind Germany and ahead of both Canada and Team USA.  

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