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Puljujarvi propels Finland to World Under-18 gold

Forward, a top 2016 NHL Draft prospect, has hat trick in 6-1 win against Sweden in final

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Right wing Jesse Puljujarvi saved his best for last when he scored a hat trick to lead Finland to a 6-1 victory against Sweden in the gold medal game of the IIHF 2016 World Under-18 Championship on Sunday in Grand Forks, N.D.

Puljujarvi, No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, is the third player in history to win the Under-20 World Junior Championship and U-18 World Championship in the same year, according to the IIHF. Forward Jason Zucker and goaltender Jack Campbell accomplished the feat as members of the United States in 2010.

Puljujarvi (6-foot-3, 203 pounds), who was playing despite a sore wrist and illness, had five goals and two assists in the final three games for Finland. Coach Jussi Ahokas utilized Puljujarvi in every situation, including faceoffs and special teams.

"Puljujarvi had an unreal game [in the final]," Ahokas told the IIHF website. "Unreal. We need players like that."

Puljujarvi and goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen were named to the All-Tournament Team. Luukkonen, who isn't eligible until the 2017 NHL Draft, had a 2.00 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in three games. He made 17 saves against Sweden in the final.

In January at the WJC in Helsinki, Puljujarvi led all players with 17 points and was named the best forward and most valuable player of the tournament. His point total was the second-highest by an under-18 player at a WJC; Jaromir Jagr of Czechoslovakia had 18 points at the 1990 tournament.

Puljujarvi had 13 goals, 28 points and 175 shots on goal while averaging 15:04 of ice time in 50 games this season for Karpat in Liiga, Finland's top professional league.

In addition to Puljujarvi's heroics, here are three other things we learned at the World U-18 Championship:

United States wins bronze: Center Clayton Keller, No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2016 draft, led the United States with 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in seven games and had three assists in a 10-3 win against Canada in the bronze medal game Sunday.

Keller was named tournament MVP. The win was the largest margin of victory in the history of the tournament in the bronze medal game. It equaled the most lopsided U.S. win against Canada in U18 history; the Americans defeated Canada 10-3 in their first meeting on April 18, 2002.

The U.S. had won the past two World U-18 Championship gold medals.

The U.S. has won a record 13 consecutive medals at the U-18 World Championship, and their 14 overall medals (nine gold, three silver, two bronze) is the most of any country.

The United States received goals from eight different players against Canada. Logan Brown, No. 7 on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of North American skaters, had two goals and one assist, and Kieffer Bellows, No. 10 on Central Scouting's North American ranking, had one goal. Brown had three goals and nine assists in the tournament, and Bellows had five goals and three assists.

"Effort and attitude-wise, I thought our guys came out with a lot of jump and were ready to go from the drop of the puck," U.S. coach Danton Cole said. "We handled business as men and responded and I'm very proud of our team."

Defenseman Adam Fox, No. 50 on Central Scouting's North American ranking, joined Keller on the All-Tournament Team. Fox had one goal and eight assists in seven games.

Jost sets Canada record: Center Tyson Jost, No. 16 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, set a Canada record with 15 points in seven games. He was named the top forward at the tournament.

Jost (5-11, 191), who played for the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League this season and is committed to the University of North Dakota in 2016-17, passed Connor McDavid (14 points in 2013) for most points by a Canadian player at the tournament. Jost tied Auston Matthews, who led the tournament with 15 points in 2015. Matthews, who played for Zurich in National League A in Switzerland this season, is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final international ranking.

Russia's Nikita Kucherov owns the single-tournament record with 21 points in 2011. Even though Canada did not medal at the tournament for the first time since 2011, Jost impressed every scout in attendance.

"Anytime you get to put that maple leaf across your chest it's special," Jost said. "You're with world-class players and coaches, you learn so much from them over these three weeks. It's a prestigious program and so humbling anytime you get named. It's upsetting because we wanted to do so much more and give back and win that gold medal for our country but we fell short and we're definitely going to learn a lot from this experience."

Gustavsson stars for Sweden: Filip Gustavsson, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of international goaltenders eligible for the 2016 draft, was named the best at his position in the tournament after leading Sweden to a silver medal.

Gustavsson (6-1, 184) had a 2.70 GAA and .905 SV% in five games. He made 55 saves in a 6-5 shootout win against Canada in the semifinal. Gustavsson denied Jost, William Bitten and Brett Howden in the tie-breaker.

Sweden defeated Canada for the first time at the World U-18 Championship since a 4-2 win in 2011.

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