When it comes to draft eligibles, this was billed as Adam Larsson vs Sean Couturier, even though it was an exhibition game. But let's not forget Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers and Rickard Rackell of the Plymouth Whalers were also in this game.
The two teams had over a dozen combined power plays through the game and only Canada was able to convert on one, a 5 on 3 advantage. If either of the two teams want to compete with the favored Americans, they will have to improve their power plays.
As for the players, Couturier had a quiet game and maybe he was slowed by playing on consecutive nights. Defensively he was his usual self but the Swedes kept him in check offensively. He worked himself to the front of the net in the offensive zone and was his usual force in front of the net, hard to move, hard do contain.
Larsson was hard to notice in the first period, if not for a couple of giveaways with a very noticeable one at the end of the period where he had to take a penalty to recover. They continued through the second and the third as well. Obviously, a lot of the Swedes were suffering jet lag, but Larsson himself has had nagging injuries all season that have prevented him from having the same offensive out put as last season. You have to wonder how much that is affecting his game.
The Air Canada Center in Toronto was full of scouts and general managers and between periods Bob McKenzie talked about Adam Larsson and Gabriel Landeskog as "two players going in opposite directions" referring to Landeskog climbing the rankings and Larsson dropping.
Landeskog himself didn't have any travelling to do. He didn't play the night before, so he was rested. What you see from him in the OHL is what you saw in this game. Grit, a strong back check and fore check, great skating and puck handling and creating offensive chances.
Of the three potential top four picks Landeskog stood out the most on this night. But it is what it is, an exhibition game. And if he can carry it through the tournament and his team mate continues his struggles he could seriously contend to be a top 2 or even top pick.
Rackell too had a quiet game. A potential second round pick could vault himself into the late first round with a strong tournament. A point per game player for the Whalers in the OHL, he'll be counted on to provide some offense for Sweden. But it didn't happen on this night.
It's a short tournament and there is no room for error. Not for the countries involved or for the players looking to solidify their positions to play in the NHL.
We are still over 6 months away from the NHL draft, but this could be the tournament where we can see some separation, or at least a consensus on where the players belong in the rankings.
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