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Preds Prospects Make Good First Impression at World Juniors

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Preds prospects faired well during the first weekend of play at the 2010 World Junior Championships, combining to post four goals, 10 points, and an aggregate +12 plus/minus rating in six man-games.

Gabriel Bourque, Nashville’s fifth round pick this past summer, stole the spotlight with a hat trick as part of a seven point effort in Team Canada’s debut vs. Latvia on Saturday. The seven points tied a Team Canada record for most points in a World Junior Championship game. Canadian teammate Ryan Ellis, projected by many to end up on the All-Tournament team when the championship comes to an end, assisted on Bourque’s first goal and finished the game with a +4 plus/minus rating. Bourque and Ellis will be back on the ice Monday against a more-defensive oriented Switzerland squad.

Speaking of the Swiss, Roman Josi, Nashville’s second round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, helped Switzerland limit Team USA to three goals on Sunday (one fewer than the US scored in the second period of its Game 1 win over Slovakia), a 3-0 USA win with two of the three US goals coming in the final 7:25 of regulation. Josi will be counted on to log big minutes throughout the tournament. After Monday’s match-up with Canada, the Swiss play key games against Latvia (Wednesday) and Slovakia (Thursday) to determine the third team from Pool A (most likely after Canada and the US) to advance into the Medal Round.

Mattias Ekholm, a fourth round pick this past summer, has been steady on the blueline for Team Sweden, helping the Swedes to a 2-0-0 start. Ekholm scored a key goal in Sunday’s win, to give the Swedes a 5-3 lead early in the third period. Sweden and Canada met in last year’s Gold Medal game and are both heavy favorites to return to the Finals again this year. But Ekholm and Sweden will be tested more in their remaining two round-robin games: Tuesday vs. Russia and Thursday vs. Finland.

The fifth Preds prospect in this year’s tournament is forward Jani Lajunen, a seventh round pick in 2008. Lajunen, a fourth-liner on Finland’s entry in last year’s tournament, will be looked upon to play a more prominent role this year. One game in he’s already showed an acknowledgement of that, assisting on the game-tying goal with 5:14 remaining in regulation of Finland’s 4-3 come-from-behind win over Czech Republic on Sunday. With Sweden and Russia expected to place No. 1 and No. 2 in Pool B, Sunday’s win gave Finland a big advantage over Austria and Czech Republic in the battle for the Pool’s final spot in the Medal Round.

In other action around the World Juniors, Team USA opened with a 2-0-0 weekend after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to knock off Slovakia 7-3 in the opener on Saturday and outlasting Switzerland 3-0 on Sunday. After a day off on Monday, the Americans can wrap up a spot in the Medal Round with a win over Latvia (0-2 this weekend after an 8-3 loss to Slovakia on Sunday) on Tuesday.

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