Each Friday throughout the season Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.
World Junior Championship
What a tournament! The semifinals and the final; I didn't think the United States and Canada could top the game that the U.S. and Russia played on Wednesday (a 4-3 shootout win by the United States in the semifinals), but somehow they did. It was a back-and-forth game that the U.S. won 5-4 in a shootout to win the championship. It was captivating and entertaining. The skill, the talent, the poise, the depth, the mental toughness, the teamwork; all those things were there for both teams. Every time we didn't think the game could get better, it did. That's what made it so impressive to watch. United States goalie Tyler Parsons was incredible. Our E.J. Hradek at the NHL Network said he would be the guy, and he was. Parsons was money. The Calgary Flames' prospect got hurt in the semifinal but wanted to stay in and battle. He was great in the shootout on Wednesday and even better on Thursday. He won the Memorial Cup last year with the London Knights and now has won the World Juniors.
Jordan Greenway, power forward for the U.S., I think is NHL-ready right now. He is an X-factor and a difference-maker. He can do it in a lot of different ways and couldn't be contained in the tournament. Defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a right-hand shot, showed great poise. Quietly, Caleb Jones, Seth Jones' brother, played big minutes in a shutdown role. And of course Troy Terry -- four shootout goals in two games, an iconic performance. He should never have to pay for another meal in the continental U.S. again after what he did.
It's great for our game and is reflective of the growth of our sport. I think the way these teams played in the final is what made Team North America so exciting to watch in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Alexander Nylander, Thomas Chabot, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal. You can go up and down the rosters of all the teams competing in the tournament and find soon-to-be stars. That tournament was one for the ages.
Video: WJC Gold Medal Game Highlights: USA wins in shootout
Columbus Blue Jackets
After 16 straight wins, the Blue Jackets' streak ended Thursday with a 5-0 loss at the Washington Capitals. But I've been blown away with how difficult Columbus is to play against. The Blue Jackets pressure you and make you uncomfortable in your game and force you to play at a pace and a level of compete that might not be tailor-made for your style. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has played like a Vezina Trophy winner. Captain Nick Foligno is back to his All-Star form. Defenseman Zach Werenski is a superstar rookie. Cam Atkinson has been amazing. And I like the response by coach John Tortorella at the end of the game. He said he was proud of his guys, which goes a long way since this was a franchise record and the second-longest winning streak in the history of the NHL. They just didn't have it on Thursday but have a lot to be proud of.
The Blue Jackets had a plus-52 in goal differential before the game Thursday (now plus-47). The next closet teams are the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild (each plus-38). Columbus has played 37 games and lost six in regulation.
Video: 16 great plays from the Blue Jackets' historic streak
Jeff Carter, Tyler Seguin
Here's a story that no one is talking about: Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings has 21 goals this season. That in itself is amazing in 39 games, but the Kings have 93 goals this season, meaning Carter has scored 23 percent of their goals. Carter has had three 30-goal seasons and is on pace for another one. He's almost single-handedly kept Los Angeles in the wild card race and Pacific Division race. I know he's done everything and won everything in the League and internationally, but there's no slowing down for the 31-year-old. He still has amazing speed, a great release and can score goals in different ways.
Speaking of which: On Wednesday I had a chance to speak to Tyler Seguin, who himself is having a fine season. He has 14 goals and 39 points in 39 games. The Dallas Stars are without captain Jamie Benn and haven't played well 5-on-5, but one thing that was interesting is that the great players always want to get better. Seguin told me he is working on his deflections and tips to add to his arsenal. And wouldn't you know it, on Wednesday he scored a deflection goal. He's just finding ways to get better and showing the appetite and the hunger that great players have to push themselves to be better.
Video: MTL@DAL: Seguin redirects Johns' shot past Montoya
Toronto Maple Leafs
I asked Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello of Toronto's management staff to tell me something I wouldn't know about Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, etc. They told me that not only do they have composure, but they work hard at becoming good players every day and are passionate about it. The interesting thing for me with that was going to practice, the last guys on the ice were some of the guys who are having the best seasons. Frederik Andersen was taking shots from Matthews, Nylander and Connor Brown.
There's no surprise as to why those guys are doing what they're doing. They are the hardest- working guys in the group. They all love the game and put in the work and believe Toronto can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. True, the Maple Leafs have plenty of young players with skill, but you also can't forget about their work ethic and how much they love being at the rink, on the ice, making plays and working on their skills.