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Avalanche Prospects at the 2020 World Juniors Day 1: Justus Annunen stole the show

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No one else recorded a point.

MATT ZAMBONIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

All four Colorado Avalanche prospects at the 2020 World Juniors were in action on Thursday. However, only one had a statement game, while the other three faded more into the background.

It was an exciting day of games nonetheless. Russia was upset by the Czech Republic, Canada and USA had another classic rivalry showdown, and Sweden needed overtime to dispatch Finland and extend their preliminary round undefeated streak to 49 straight games (dating back to Boxing Day of 2007).

If you’re interested in a more general recap of what happened in every game, I’m doing daily recaps for the tournament at Raw Charge. Feel free to check them out!

Without dragging this on for too much longer, here’s how the Junior Avs fared yesterday — none of them will be playing today.

Bowen Byram

LD — Canada

Canada may have outlasted USA 6-4, but it was a special teams battle from the start. Byram, who plays on Canada’s second powerplay unit, didn’t record any points, despite the Canadians going 3-for-5 on the man-advantage.

Byram played on the third pair with Pittsburgh’s Calen Addison. He finished with zero points, zero shots on goal, and only played 14:52, though it was one full minute more than Addison. He did have some nice flashes, including a nice puck-carrying rush up the ice, but he was pretty quiet in a wild game.

I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as comparing Byram’s role to Makar’s just yet — Makar was the 7th defenseman in 2018, but Byram is definitely a top-6 defender for the 2020 team. I’d be interested to see if his role morphs more into a 7D position — Dale Hunter really seems to like playing Jamie Drysdale (who is the current 7D on Team Canada and played less than nine minutes in this game).

Check out this thread from MHH writer Luke, who followed Byram’s play a lot more closely than I probably did:

Canada’s next opponent will be Russia on Saturday.

Justus Annunen

G — Finland

Finland did not play well in their tournament opening game. Sweden was all over them from the get go, and had it not been for the heroics and brilliance of Annunen, the score would have been wildly tilted in Sweden’s favour.

Sweden ended up winning the game 3-2 in overtime. Annunen made 45 saves on 48 shots, and one of the goals he allowed was the ridiculous ‘Michigan’ lacrosse goal that Andrei Svechnikov has made popular in the NHL.

Here are some of Annunen’s incredible saves:

Rightfully so, Annunen was named Finland’s Player of the Game. He definitely deserved a better fate than to lose the game in overtime, but his teammates just didn’t have what it took to survive against the Swedish onslaught. Seriously, I lost count of how many breakaways Annunen actually ended up facing. The Avs have a really good goalie in their system. Annunen is the early favourite to be named goalie of the tournament.

Sampo Ranta

LW — Finland

Ranta got the Byram treatment, just as a forward. He played on Finland’s fourth line with Aatu Raty and Aku Raty (brothers), but didn’t record any points. Ranta had two shots on goal and played 15:12, which isn’t actually that bad for a fourth line player.

I was doubling up watching this game with the Canada-USA game simultaneously, but in the few instances I did see Ranta on the ice, he was working hard down low on the cycle in the offensive zone, or engaged in puck battles in the Finnish end. Finland didn’t play too much in the Swedish end, but I liked that Ranta was responsible and involved in the defensive zone.

Finland’s next game is Saturday against Slovakia.

Danila Zhuravlyov

LD — Russia

As far as the skaters go, Zhuravlyov plays the largest role for his team. He’s playing with Montreal prospect Alexander Romanov on Russia’s first defense pair, and the two look really good together.

Here are Luke’s thoughts (in a long thread) on Zhuravlyov’s play in Game 1:

I thought Zhuravlyov was quietly good. Romanov has a bit more flash to his game, but Zhuravlyov complements that style well. He’s more defensively-inclined, but still has the ability to rush the puck up the ice. Zhuravlyov reads developing offensive plays well and reacts well to them — he broke up a developing scoring chance with a poke-check at the Russian blueline, which sent the play the other way.

Obviously, Russia’s loss to the Czechs was shocking. They’ll have to go undefeated in their remaining preliminary round games if they want to fight for a better group finish than third. And in the Group of Death, that may be easier said than done. Their next match is against Canada on Saturday, and Zhuravlyov will definitely be challenged more defensively in that game.

Round Robin Schedule

(All times MT, teams with Avalanche prospects are bolded)

December 27

7:00am — Slovakia vs. Kazahkstan
11:00am — Germany vs. USA

December 28

7:00am — Finland vs. Slovakia
11:00am — Switzerland vs. Sweden
11:00am — Russia vs. Canada

December 29

7:00am — Kazahkstan vs. Finland
11:00am — USA vs. Russia

December 30

7:00am — Kazahkstan vs. Sweden
7:00am — Germany vs. Canada
11:00am — Slovakia vs. Switzerland
11:00am — USA vs. Czech Republic

December 31

7:00am — Sweden vs. Slovakia
7:00am — Russia vs. Germany
11:00am — Finland vs. Switzerland
11:00am — Canada vs. Czech Republic