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World Juniors

Kakko, top European prospect for 2019 NHL Draft, not feeling pressure

Forward impressing Finland teammates at World Junior Summer Showcase; Poehling practicing with U.S.

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

KAMLOOPS, British Columbia -- Kaapo Kakko doesn't believe there's any pressure as the projected top European prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Kakko (6-foot-1, 187 pounds), 17, certainly hasn't looked out of place at right wing on the top line with center Rasmus Kupari (Los Angeles Kings) and Aarne Talvitie (New Jersey Devils) for Finland at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week at Sandman Centre. He's made good decisions and has exhibited elusiveness and toughness.

"There's no real pressure; it's a great opportunity for me to play the game and begin the season in Finland's top league (with TPS)," Kakko said through an interpreter. "I need to show that I can be the No. 1 guy."

Kakko had 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 38 games in Finland's second division last season. He also had one assist in six games for TPS in Liiga but is expected to earn a full-time role this season. He scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) alongside Kupari and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Montreal Candiens) in seven games to help Finland win the gold medal at the IIHF 2018 World Under-18 Championship in April.

"He's a very good talent; one of the best players at his age," Kupari said of Kakko. "Sometimes I watch him and say, 'Wow, how did he do that?'"

Kakko considers himself more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer.

"I like to play in the offensive zone and play and handle the puck, creating plays and scoring situations for teammates," he said.


Poehling progressing after surgery

Ryan Poehling had surgery for tonsillitis and a deviated septum on July 7 and will not participate in any game action for the United States this week.

The 19-year-old center, who was selected No. 25 in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, has been able to skate and work out on his own at the camp, which concludes on Saturday. 

"I've been sitting out the past month, laying in my bed and eating applesauce. So to come here, it's good for me," Poehling said. "You have to get out of bed, do the things necessary to get back into the routine.

"I won't play in any games; I'm just here to practice and be with the guys because that's the biggest thing at the summer camp. You want to get to know everyone, create bonds that you can carry over into December."

Poehling (6-2, 200), who attended Canadiens development camp in June, will return to St. Cloud State University for his junior season in 2018-19. He has 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 71 career college games, including 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 36 games last season.

He had one goal and two assists at the IIHF 2018 World Junior Championship to help the U.S. win the bronze medal.


Better late than never

Raphael Lavoie of Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is not intimidated as the youngest player on Canada's roster.

Lavoie (6-4, 192), 17, is a possible first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and was a late addition to Canada's roster.

"I was just about to start supper on Friday and they told me you're leaving Sunday morning. It was a quick turnaround so I had to pack my bag and get ready, but I was very happy to get the call," Lavoie said. "If you're not here to want to make the team, you don't have a place here. Even though I got the call late, I'm trying to make the team and make a good impression out here."

Lavoie, a left wing, earned his opportunity after finishing fourth for Halifax in scoring with 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) on a line with right wing Filip Zadina (Detroit Red Wings) and Otto Somppi (Tampa Bay Lightning) in his second season. He won 49.6 percent of his face-offs (260-for-524).

"He's the whole package; he has high hockey IQ and he's fast and that's the way we want to play," Canada coach Tim Hunter said. "Smart hockey players are always the best hockey players."


Sylvegard out to impress

Marcus Sylvegard understands the opportunity to impress NHL scouts this week, and he plans on taking full advantage.

Sylvegard, 19, passed over in the 2018 NHL Draft, displayed a physical, fearless style in Sweden's 3-1 win against USA Blue on Monday. He had three shots on goal and was on the giving end of several hard hits.

"I had a great first game," Sylvegard said. "I think I showed my moves and my physical play. It feels good."

Sweden coach Tomas Monten said it's how Sylvegard needs to play if he wants a spot on the 2019 World Junior Championship roster.

"He knows that for him to make a living, he needs to contribute with that," Monten said. "He can put some pucks in, he's got a good shot … but he's a player that needs to work hard and needs to move his feet all the time, try to create offense with his body and making hits for his teammates."

Sylvegard had five points (three goals, two assists) in 25 games for Malmo in the Swedish Hockey League last season. Monten said Sylvagard was on his radar for a spot on the 2018 WJC team, but he was unable to sustain that level.

-- deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report

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