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World Juniors

Finland casts Valimaki in leading role

Flames defenseman prospect named captain for 2018 WJC

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Defenseman Juuso Valimaki has embraced his leadership role with Finland at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

The Calgary Flames prospect will be Finland's captain at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, to be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo.

"It means a lot," Valimaki, 18, said Thursday. "It's a huge honor for my home country and playing with that jersey on and having the C, it's something special for sure. It's a really big honor."

He said he's more of a quiet presence in the room than a rah-rah guy.

"I think I'm a guy who leads by example," he said. "I try to be a nice guy, positive guy … not negative or yelling all the time. Before games I like to be really focused, by myself, not very loud. We have other guys who are better at that. I'm more a guy that leads by example."

Valimaki is second on Finland with 13 shots on goal through three games here. The 16th pick of the 2017 NHL Draft also has been on the top defense pair and played in all situations.

"He has big-time leadership qualities," Finland coach Jussi Ahokas said. "He takes charge on the ice, defends well, also can make smart plays with the puck. The big thing is on the team he is a leader, and we need those kind of guys."

Here are four other things we learned Thursday:

 
Sweden coaches using technology to improve

Players and coaches on the ice for Sweden practices have been utilizing a GoPro camera and iPads as additional teaching tools.

The idea came from goaltending coach Nizze Landen, who said he has used the GoPro for nearly a decade.

"I have the GoPro on the puck and then you hook it up with internal Wi-Fi in the GoPro and you can transfer to the iPad and you can show the goalies," Landen said. "You can have the GoPro a couple meters away. It's easier for the goalie if they understand what they have to do or what they don't have to do. … You have it to make a clear picture for the goalie. It's much easier for me using the iPad and show him the picture compared to me talking and using words. You have to use 10 times more words than the picture says."

The technology has other applications as well. Landen said he uses it for shooters to find holes on goalies. Coach Tomas Monten used it Thursday to help his centers on faceoffs after he felt his team struggled in the circle during its 3-2 loss to the United States at USA Hockey Arena on Wednesday.

"We used the cam to see how puck looks from above, where it lands and where they get beaten, how their feet are moving," Monten said. "We had our video coach as the referee, just to see his hand moving and when you can start moving your stick and where the puck lands and stuff like that. We'll see if it helps [Friday against Canada]."

Monten said he could have forward Isac Lundestrom (2018 draft eligible) and Jesper Bratt (New Jersey Devils), and defensemen Erik Brannstrom (Vegas Golden Knights) in the lineup against Canada (1 p.m. ET, NHLN). Each sat out Wednesday because of illness. Lundestrom practiced Thursday. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (2018 draft eligible), who has the same illness, is more likely to play against Finland on Saturday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Forward Linus Lindstrom (Flames), who didn't play Wednesday because of an injury, practiced and could play Friday.

 

Motzko wants Tkachuk to play his game

U.S. forward Brady Tkachuk, a projected first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, has brought energy and enthusiasm to every shift on the ice.

It's a family trait, similar to the playing style of his brother, Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk, and his father, United States Hockey Hall of Fame member Keith Tkachuk. 

Brady Tkachuk (6-foot-2, 194 pounds), who will be a freshman at Boston University this season, has two points (one goal, one assist), eight shots on goal and four penalty minutes in three games at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week. The U.S. next plays Finland on Friday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Not counted in the statistics are hits, and Tkachuk frequently has bounced opposing players off the boards on the forecheck. In international tournaments referees have a lower tolerance for physical play, but U.S. coach Bob Motzko said he wouldn't alter anything in Tkachuk's approach if he were to make the team for the 2018 WJC.

"No chance I'd ask him to change his style," Motzko said. "I wouldn't change anything about him. His motor goes. If he keeps his stick on the ice he'll be safe. When you go in to throw those hits, just keep your stick down low and not get it up. We don't want to change anything there. … It's pretty exciting how he plays."

 

Sabres prospects looking ahead to World Juniors

Canada forward Cliff Pu, Finland goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Sweden forward Marcus Davidsson and U.S. forward Casey Mittelstadt have some extra motivation to play in the 2018 WJC.

With the tournament being held at Key Bank Center and HarborCenter in Buffalo, the Buffalo Sabres prospects would be playing in front of their future home fans.

"I've never played or skated in Key Bank Center," Pu said. "That would be a great experience. Having the tournament in Buffalo would be a special experience for me."

The players got a taste of the passion of Buffalo hockey fans during development camp in June. 

"When the stands are packed for a development camp practice, that shows it good enough for me," Mittelstadt said. "I guess I haven't really thought about what it would be like in December, but it was a pretty cool experience to be there and how full the stands were. Made it pretty special."

 

Andersson eyeing WJC, Rangers

Sweden center Lias Andersson likely will be in New York in December. The question, though, is will it be Buffalo or Manhattan?

Andersson could be a key piece for Sweden at the 2018 WJC. He had three goals in seven games at the 2017 WJC and has three points (two goals, one assist) in three games at the Summer Showcase. 

He also could have a role with the New York Rangers, who selected him with the seventh pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. After trading center Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes and losing center Oscar Lindberg to the Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft, there are spots available at training camp. And Andersson said he'll arrive at training camp next month with the intention of taking one of them.

"I know they're a little bit short on centers," he said. "Just go there with the mindset to make the team. … I've played pro [in Sweden] for 1 1/2 years. I'm used to the pro game. I think I'm ready to step in, if not this year than the year after that. I'm going [to training camp] with confidence to make the team."

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