Coming off the holiday break, most players were back in action this week. Although Belleville continued to struggle with back-to-back six goal losses over the weekend, the hope of things to come from Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton provided a ton of excitement.
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Last week, Colin provided an update on the annual World Juniors tournament after the preliminary round. Finland’s Markus Nurmi led all Sens prospects with three points in four games, followed by the Canadian duo of Batherson/Formenton with two, and Logan Brown with one.
First, on Brown — he clearly worked hard to try and return for Team USA, and played limited minutes in their semi-final matchup against Sweden, but was unable to play in their bronze medal contest against the Czech Republic. It’s a minor knee injury for Brown; he’s likely to return in 1-2 weeks.
Next, Markus Nurmi’s tournament ended in the quarterfinals as Finland was upset by the Czech Republic. Nurmi was held pointless, but his three points in five games are more than most observers projected going in, seeing as he was playing a primarily defensive, bottom-six role with PK duty.
Onto the standouts: the gold medal winning duo of Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton. Batherson is the cream of the crop — he ended up scoring 5 goals in his remaining three games (all elimination contests) and was named one of Canada’s top-three players on the team (as selected by his coaching staff) over other, highly touted prospects. His stick from those three elimination contests is now off to the Hockey Hall of Fame, as Jordan Kyrou actually borrowed it for one of his goals in Canada’s quarterfinal against Switzerland.
He was responsible for two big moments. One: his hat-trick against the Czech Republic in the semi-finals.
Two: with the Gold medal game tied in the final two minutes, Batherson goes in hard on the forecheck, collects the puck, and sweeps it over to Conor Timmins. Timmins’ pass finds Tyler Steenbergen for the golden goal.
Batherson’s seven goals was the third-most in the tournament after Kieffer Bellows (NYI) and Filip Zadina (2018), and he finished second on Team Canada in shots. He ended up as an offensive leader when he was pegged to be a depth player.
Formenton also wanted a piece of the “big game” pie, and sealed the gold medal for Canada with an empty-net marker. Out to shut down the game after Batherson’s heroics, Formenton used his speed and defensive awareness to win a battle, collect the puck, and deposit it into the empty net.
He finished the tournament with four points in seven games, and was a trusted defensive anchor for Canada.
- A number of the Sens CHL prospects were traded upon returning from the World Juniors. Batherson moved from his hometown Cape Breton team to the QMJHL leading Blainsville-Boisbrand Armada, and will likely play on a line with Q leading scorer, Alex Barré-Boulet. When he recovers from his injury, Logan Brown will be joining the Kitchener Rangers for their OHL playoff run.
- Although London is likely to make the playoffs, they don’t see themselves as an elite team and have traded away Cliff Pu, Max Jones, and Robert Thomas. This means that Alex Formenton will likely slide into top-line duty for the Knights. It’ll be a good test of his own offensive ability to see if he can create offence without a strong supporting cast.
- In the WHL, Parker Kelly’s Prince Albert Raiders are in last place, but since Kelly can return next season, I’m unsure whether they’ll decide to trade him.
- Thomas Chabot and Colin White reunited for their first NHL game together. White played just over 7 minutes of ice-time against the Lightning, while Boucher called Chabot’s performance his best game of the season.
- Over in Belleville, Marcus Hogberg was fantastic in his second AHL game — making 37 saves for the shootout win. However, Belleville’s two weekend games were putrid. Hogberg and Driedger were both the unfortunate recipients of bad defence as they let in six goals each. Christian Jaros’ first goal in a while was the only highlight.
- While Filip Chlapik was in Ottawa, Gabriel Gagné was named to the AHL All-Star Game. It’s been a massive turnaround for Gagné this season — a small bright spot in a dismal year.
- In NCAA action: Christian Wolanin and Kelly Summers continue to put up points for North Dakota and Clarkson. I’m hoping that both teams get extended conference playoff runs before joining Belleville on end-of-season ATOs.
- Goaltender Joey Daccord also went 2-0 as Arizona State played in, and won, the first ever “Las Vegas Invitational”/