The 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase came to a close with two close but high-scoring games on Saturday.
The early matchup saw Timothy Liljegren and Team Sweden take on Eemeli Rasanen and Team Finland in a high-scoring thriller. Rasanen played on the bottom pairing partnered alongside another big-bodied defenceman in Oilers 2016 third round draft pick Markus Niemelainen. Rasanen’s pair did not see as much ice time as Finland’s other two defence units, but he managed to put together a solid game, taking few risks and keeping things simple. Rasanen did not tally a point in this game and put just the one shot on goal, but he put his size to good use defensively and showed he isn’t shy about physical contact. While this is a deep Finland defence among the young talent available for selection this year, Rasanen didn’t hurt his chances in this showcase as he heads into his second OHL season with Kingston.
The eyes of all Leafs fans were primarily on Timothy Liljegren, who played on the second pairing with 2018 draft-eligible Jesper Sellgren. Liljegren continued to show off his silky-smooth skating and his ability to break the offensive zone with control. He also continued to pepper the net with three shots on goal, giving him 17 shots over the tournament — the most on Team Sweden and tied for third in the showcase.
There was one sequence where Liljegren fired a shot on net and got caught deep in the offensive zone; the puck took a bounce out to the blue line and the Finns managed to score the other way without Liljegren back in time. Overall, though, he put on a solid performance defensively — Team Sweden’s coaching staff told Liljegren they wanted 70% of his focus on his D game in this tournament — and played a lower risk game than some of his earlier performances. He got his first point of the game on the OT winner when he hit Linus Lindstrom with a cross-ice pass before entering the zone; Lindstrom then found Tim Soderlund for the game-winning goal, giving Liljegren his fourth point in five games.
Between development camp and the showcase, Leafs brass should be satisfied with the (very) early returns on their 17th overall pick this past June. Liljegren will now prepare for main Leafs camp — which he’ll miss the start of the SHL season in order to attend — as he looks to give team brass lots to think about when it comes to his whereabouts for this upcoming season.
In the later game, Team USA took on Canada for their final game of the Summer Showcase, with Leafs prospect Joseph Woll handed the start in the USA net. There is no sense in putting much weight on Summer Showcase performances with any player but it’s especially true of goaltenders, as these mid-summer tilts tend to be no oil painting in terms of defensive play and structure. Canada generated some impressive passing movements, which is how they managed to score the majority of their five goals. Woll showed good overall mobility in the crease, but he couldn’t react quick enough to react to Canada’s rapid puck movement on a few of the goals, while Givani Smith’s shot bounced off American defenceman Mikey Anderson and floated over his raised blocker hand for the second Canadian tally. Overall, Woll made 16 saves on 21 shots as the Americans pulled off a 7-5 win over Canada. Highlights below:
Heading back to Boston College after an impressive freshman year (34 starts, 17-13-3, .913 SV%), the 2017-18 season is shaping up to be a big year for Woll’s development. With one year’s experience under his belt, the 19-year-old has described his goal for his sophomore year to “solidify being one of the best goalies in college hockey.” The Hockey East Conference has been a goalie factory in recent years, producing NHL talents such as Jonathan Quick (UMass-Amherst), Cory Schneider (Boston College), Ben Bishop (Maine), and Connor Hellebuyck (UMass-Lowell). If Woll improves on his numbers in his sophomore season, he’ll be a candidate to potentially leave college early to turn pro as those above-mentioned goalies did.
The opportunity to potentially start for the US World Junior team come Christmastime would be another big boost for his development as a talented US team looks to defend their gold on home soil. While 2017 first round pick (Dallas, 27th overall) Jake Oettinger is also in the mix coming off of a fantastic freshman season at Boston University, Woll is the only goalie with game experience at the World Junior tournament, posting a .935 save percentage over two starts last year. Woll’s size, athleticism and ability to stay calm while battling hard in the crease was most noticeable in his performance against Canada on New Year’s Eve; Canada generated plenty of chances in tight, but Woll managed to come up with some big saves as Team USA won 3-1.
Woll already has Toronto fans excited, but an impressive showing this upcoming season would place him firmly on the radar as one of the top prospects in the Leafs system.
2017 Summer Showcase: Leafs Prospect Statistics
|Timothy Liljegren (SWE)||5||2||2||4||17||2|
|Eemeli Rasanen (FIN)||5||0||0||0||3||-4|
|JD Greenway (USA)||2||0||0||0||0||-2|
|Joseph Woll (USA)||3||1-1-0||3.23 GAA||0.873 SV%|