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World Juniors

World Junior Summer Showcase Day 2 notebook

Thomson out to prove self with Finland; Wahlstrom on fast track for U.S.

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Lassi Thomson has been waiting all year for a chance at redemption.

The 18-year-old defenseman, selected by the Ottawa Senators in the first round (No. 19) of the 2019 NHL Draft, remembers being the final player cut from the Finland team that won the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on Jan. 5. 

He's here at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week to prove he's ready to earn a significant role for his country for 2020. 

 

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"I think I have to do my best every day to try and make that team and prove I'm a very good player and can play in all the games," Thomson said. "I think we have a good group. Everybody is really having fun."

After a successful season for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League last season, Thomson (6 foot, 190 pounds) said he will return to Finland and play for Ilves in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland, this season to gain more experience against older competition. He's hoping to begin his NHL career in 2020-21. 

"I think playing for Ilves is best for my development," he said. "I'm getting closer to my dream of playing in the NHL. I want to improve my play and become a better player." 

Thomson, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Senators on July 15, had 18 points (10 goals, nine assists) in 29 games for Kelowna after being cut before the Worlds in December 2018. He led Kelowna defensemen with 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 63 games his first season in North America.

 

Wahlstrom getting lighter, faster

Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders) scored a power-play goal for USA White in its 3-2 loss to Finland when he passed the puck to Zachary Jones (New York Rangers) and drove to the net to bang in a rebound.

Tweet from @usahockey: #TeamUSA White got on the board early in the second thanks to this @WahlstromOliver goal, but trail 3-2 against Finland going into the third. #WJSSCatch the final period on @MyHockeyTV ��� https://t.co/JLXNrzQe9J pic.twitter.com/nvOaymQ32h

Wahlstrom, selected by the Islanders in the first round (No. 11) of the 2018 NHL Draft, felt he was able to get to the spot more quickly than he could have last season because of his offseason focus on getting faster. Part of that training was spending May and June working with players from Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League.

"The training is extreme there," the 19-year-old said. "We run 3-4 miles every other day. They do a lot of conditioning, lot of running. I really feel like my body is changed, my quickness is better."

Part of that training involved running up Olympic ski jump hills. Wahlstrom (6-1, 205) has gotten the desired result.

"I went to Sweden (weighing) 213 (pounds), came back 200," he said. "I was shocked at development camp my body fat was 6.4 (percent). Was about 9, 10 (percent).

"I'm feeling better. I feel more dialed in, more sharp. I'm learning how to be a pro, which is good. I'm just bringing it here." 

Video: Oliver Wahlstrom's journey from viral star to NHL

 

Raymond, Holtz pack offensive punch

Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz, each given an A rating on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list for the 2020 NHL Draft, will have every opportunity to prove they can deliver in clutch situations and earn a role for Sweden despite being the two youngest players on the camp roster (each is 17).

"We have a good core here but feel we need to have some players who can make a difference and that's why we're looking at Lucas and Alex at the summer showcase ... to see if they can provide that for us," Sweden coach Tomas Monten said.

Raymond (5-11, 170) played right wing and Holtz (5-11, 193) left wing on a line with Karl Henriksson (Rangers) in a 4-2 loss to USA Blue. They drove a lot of the offense at 5-on-5 and on the power play.

"I think they were as good as we would have hoped and especially on the power play," Monten said. "They didn't score but created a lot and had good chemistry, and that line was really good. They created (at) 5-on-5, and Alex had a breakaway that could have been a penalty shot. They moved the puck well and had options."

Raymond and Holtz made big contributions as linemates at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. Raymond had eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven games, including a hat trick to help defeat Russia 4-3 in the championship game. Holtz had seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games, including two assists in the final game.

"We created a lot of opportunities and I think the last thing is just to get the puck in and score," Raymond said. "I felt good for the first game of the season."

 

Blazing Beecher

John Beecher, the eighth and final player from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team selected in the first round (No. 30) of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored on a breakaway to help USA Blue to a 4-2 win against Sweden.

Tweet from @USAHockeyNTDP: We've seen this a few times!@JohnWbeecher put USA Blue up by two with this slick breakaway tally against Sweden at the #WJSS 🚨 pic.twitter.com/B69TJrVnP2

Beecher (6-3, 212), taken by the Boston Bruins, may have been overlooked in the draft because of the talent ahead of him with the NTDP last season. The 18-year-old is hoping to showcase the speed and scoring touch that led to him being chosen higher than most experts expected. 

"He can skate ... holy man," U.S. coach Scott Sandelin said.

Beecher had 43 points (15 goals, 28 assists) in 63 games for the NTDP despite not seeing first-unit power-play time last season. He'll continue to develop at the University of Michigan, where he is expected to play in a top-six role this season.

"I think at the end of the day I know my abilities and am confident what I can do out there," Beecher said. "I'm battling for a spot along with everybody else but it's been a really fun camp so far. Being able to get back (to USA Hockey Arena) and see some of the guys and just get out and play more hockey and compete is amazing."

NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report

 

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