The round-robin segment of the World Junior Hockey Championships is over. In its place is a series of win or go home games that will cull the herd until the top four teams in the tournament are left playing in the Gold and Bronze medal games.
And all five LA Kings prospects have made it through to the quarterfinals.
It all starts this morning in Vancouver, as the first quarterfinal matchup features Switzerland and Sweden. Kings' prospect Johan Sodergran, a sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is hopeful to return to the Swedish lineup after missing their last game with the flu, as did so many other Swedes.
From there, a trio of recent Kings draft picks hit the stage for one of if not the most anticipated game of the day between the host Canadians and Finland. Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Markus Phillips will don the Maple Leaf while Kings' 2018 first-round pick Rasmus Kupari hopes to lead his underdog Finns to victory.
The Americans, captained by Kings' fourth-round pick Mikey Anderson, take on the Czechs at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Coliseum in Victoria. The hope is that Jack Hughes will return to the lineup and provide an offensive spark Team USA.
Slovakia and Russia close out the day. While the Russian hockey program has lapped the Slovakians in recent years, this game could be closer than many are likely to anticipate. The plucky Slovaks are giving teams everything they can handle in this tournament.
Video: ARI@LAK: Five Kings prospects play in World Juniors
Before you sit back and take in some of the Kings' best and brightest parts of their future in marquee matchups, let's take a moment to reflect on what each of Anderson-Dolan, Phillips, Kupari and Anderson have accomplished to date.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Team Canada
For most of the teams playing in this year's World Juniors, Anderson-Dolan would have an extensive role near the top of the lineup complete with ample ice-time in both phases of special teams. As is often the case for the Canadians, they're asking a superstar who's been the go-to option for his junior team to just to be another option on Team Canada.
Anderson-Dolan has primarily played as Canada's third line center, playing with a rotating cast of wingers as head coach Tim Hunter looks to get the most out of his group. It seems that the coaching staff wants Anderson-Dolan to operate as a two-way center, capable of contributing at both ends of the ice. And he's done just that.
There is no doubt though that Anderson-Dolan has more to offer. The one goal to his credit thus far is his sole point through four games of round robin action, which included a 14-0 drubbing of the Danish.
That said, Anderson-Dolan's well-established history as a scorer in the WHL suggests that the points have to come eventually. So too does the 11 shots that Anderson-Dolan's mustered thus far. Only four Canadians have more.
Markus Phillips, Team Canada
About the best compliment one could pay a player like Markus Phillips given his role on the Canadian blue line is that he's been mainly difficult to notice on most nights. Such is the life of someone tasked with keeping the opposition's best in check on a game-to-game basis. If one sticks out in that role, it's usually for all of the wrong reasons.
Aside from Pavel Shen's 2-1 goal in a New Year's Eve showdown between Canada and Russia, Phillips has been exceedingly effective in his role. Even that goal doesn't fall solely on Phillips' shoulders -- Evan Bouchard, Phillips' primary defensive partner, had front row seats as the Russian winger took the puck to the front of the Canadian net.
Phillips has been one of Canada's best, most reliable defensemen through the tournament. The host Canadians control most of the goals with Phillips on the ice, as his plus-three can attest. Phillips has also been active at the offensive end of the rink, subtly chipping in with three assists in the round robin portion of the tournament, good for a tie for first in defensive scoring on Canada with Ty Smith.
Rasmus Kupari, Team Finland
Of all the Kings' prospects taking part in this year's World Juniors, none carried a higher pedigree than Rasmus Kupari, whom the Kings drafted 20th overall in the first round of last year's draft.
The Finnish have used Kupari as the team's first line center, playing alongside Aleksi Heponiemi and Eeli Tolvanen to form one of the best lines on paper in the entire tournament.
The points have been hard to come by for Kupari, who one might argue has been among the most snake bitten players in the tournament.
Kupari's 14 shots put him in a tie for 10th in the tournament, but he's only the one assist to show for it. A player like Kupari, in a tournament like this, should be converting on a far higher number of his opportunities than he has been thus far.
Depending on how many games Kupari's Finnish team play in the elimination rounds, I'd expect his production to rebound in a big way. It's worth noting that Heponiemi and Tolvanen have only combined for three points too so this has all the hallmarks of just an abnormally low percentage of shots going in the net with that line on the ice.
Mikey Anderson, Team USA
It says a lot about Mikey Anderson's quality as a person and character in the dressing room that the Americans named him team captain in spite of this being Anderson's first appearance in the World Juniors. Most of the scouts I've spoken to during my time in Vancouver covering the tournament overwhelmingly supported the decision, too. There's no questioning Anderson's merits as a leader.
The Americans have been able to get as much if not more out of Anderson on the ice as they're surely getting in the room. Anderson chipped in with three points (2-1=3) through the round robin portion of the tournament.
The most recent goal helped spur the Americans to come back from a 4-0 deficit to Sweden on December 29 and force overtime - the Swedes did eventually win that game in the extra frame.
While Anderson's offense is surely appreciated by the Americans, it's his sound defensive play that's the hallmark of his game. Anderson has led Team USA in ice-time frequently and has earned a plus-three to date in the tournament.
Johan Sodergran, Team Sweden
This year's iteration of the Swedish roster entered the tournament with a lot of question marks for their forwards' corps. The opportunity existed for Sodergran, a Kings' sixth round draft pick in 2018, to emerge as one of the team's leaders up front.
Instead, Sodergran has played mostly near the bottom of the Swedish lineup. This is hardly something driven by his level of play so much as circumstance. Players like Emil Bemstrom have exploded offensively and the late addition of Isac Lundestrom doesn't help Sodergran's case either. To make matters worse, Sodergran is one of many Swedes that missed their last round robin game with the flu.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery on the part of Sodergran and a return to the Swedish roster in time to make an impact in the elimination games.