The 2019 World Junior has come to an end for Matej Pekar, Oskari Laaksonen, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and Mattias Samulesson with the two Finns taking home the gold against Samuelsson and the Americans.
As far as preliminaries go, the group of Sabres involved have had a positive tournament despite a low point total. Only two points have been registered between the group of 4 and both came on the same play. Oskari Laaksonen scored the fifth and final goal for Finland in their 5-1 victory over Slovakia and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen wound up with an assist on the play.
Laaksonen has maintained a strong presence on the blue line for the Finns. He also registered an assist in the gold medal game. He has been able to participate in special teams play and really showed some aggressiveness against the Americans on the powerplay. The Ilves defenseman has also shown some creativity when under duress in his own zone.
The best Sabres prospect at the World Juniors this year has been Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Desperation saves have been a specialty for him and they came early and often. He did hit a rough patch against the Americans. One would think he would like to have back some of those goals from the 4-1 loss.
Mattias Samuelsson had his high and low points in this tournament. He has been very physical and has been able to create some turnovers in the defensive zone. His first passes out have been pleasant with a few misfires here or there. There have been palm-to-face gaffes his had made as well, like when he got walked over by Erik Brannstrom against Sweden.
Samuelsson is returning to Western Michigan for the second half of the NCAA season.
Matej Pekar was very limited in ice time throughout the tournament, but managed to see some rushes with Martin Necas and Martin Kaut. Pekar, however, got right back into things after returning to the Barrie Colts and OHL action.
And the league makes the proper correction and Matej Pekar is credited with the game-winning goal. Quite the effort by the Buffalo Sabres prospect who finishes with 2G & 1A.— Gene Pereira (@GenePereira1) January 7, 2019
Hard-nosed forechecking was a theme throughout the World Juniors for Pekar. In the time that he did play he was able cause disruptions in the offensive zone which has been doing consistently in the OHL this year.
After coming back from injury, Linus Weissbach still has the speed and awareness on the ice that he showing during the beginning of the year. He has three assists in his last four games. Weissbach became somewhat of a crucial piece to the Badgers powerplay before getting injured. His speed in his feet and hands are a real asset to the man advantage.
#NTDP Alumni Update. In today's game size is not a prerequisite and Sean Dhooghe exemplifies that.— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) December 9, 2018
Watch @sean_dhooghe here on a rush with Sabres prospect Linus Weissbach. He reads the play so well, basically glides in to the zone, creates spacing and then finishes. #Sabres pic.twitter.com/tTuPII3D8H
A great play made above by Weissbach. He finds the open spaces on the ice and waits for the defense to shift to him before making the pass to Sean Dhooghe.
Although he is pointless in his last seven games, Jacob Bryson has been able to show flashes of promise on the ice. Most notably in his own end when transitioning out. In his most recent performances he has been able to create simplified breakouts and cause disruption on the penalty kill.
Bryson and Providence take on Boston College on January 11th and will be streamed on ESPN 3.
Speaking of Boston College, Casey Fitzgerald and Christopher Brown along with the rest of the Eagles continue to struggle especially against out-of-conference opponents. After being shutout by Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve, BC was swept by Arizona State including another shutout.
Brown and Fitzgerald have amassed a total of 11 points combined this season. The offensive output certainly has not been there, but there have been positive aspects to look at. Casey Fitzgerald has had some strong chances from the slot including one that rang off the post against the Fighting Irish.
Ivan Chukarov and the second ranked UMass Minutemen have seen some great team successes this year, but Chukarov has had some moments to forget. The senior has seen some big time gaffes in the defensive zone, but did score a big goal for them against Quinnipiac.
Since moving on from Penn State Brett Murray has been racking up points with the Youngstown Phantoms. The future Miami Redhawk has been playing hard and heavy in the USHL this year. His big goals and physical play has led him to the top of USHL scoring. He sits tied for first in scoring with Matej Blumel.
Brett Murray has an 11 game point streak registering 10g & 22a, with 3 points in each of his last 3 games. He's now tied for the league lead in points with Waterloo's Matej Blümel. That is all.— HockeyPhan.com (@YTHockeyPhan) January 7, 2019
Moving overseas, Marcus Davidsson is still creating the offense that he can with Djurgarden. Davidsson, who has three goals and twelve assists in 29 games, is still looking like the type of player that can provide a two-way game and some offensive production for the Rochester Americans next year possibly.
Linus Cronholm continues his offensive development in the Allsvenskan league. He scored his second goal of the year with IK Pantern on a long point shot with some traffic in front. Cronholm is becoming more aggressive as the year carries on. He is pinching into offensive play and is managing his angles on the back end well. If his defensive zone tactics remain consistent and he can improve his offensive instincts, he just may develop into a quality transitional two-way defenseman at the SHL level next season.
Miska Kukkonen, 2018 fifth rounder, has found a new home in Liiga. The for former Tappara defender now belongs to Lukko. It is likely he will remain on a junior club before returning to Liiga play. Kukkonen started the year in Liiga before moving around Mestis and the U20 leagues in Finland. He was on the Tappara roster before moving to Lukko, but did not appear in a game.
Finishing off with the Amerks, Alexander Nylander is certainly capable of creating highlight reel magic in the offensive zone, as seen in his shootout winning goal against Laval, however there is a need for consistency in his point production.
While #GOALofsson has cooled off considerably since the beginning of the year, Victor Olofsson still sits 2nd on the team in points. His shot still comes off the stick quickly and with power but still needs to string his shots accurately. I had seen someone on Twitter hoping that Olofsson could develop into what Kotalik was at his peak which is fitting condsidering his shootout winner against Bridgeport.
Lastly, Sabres Twitter darling Vasily Glotov was named to the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic for the Cincinnati Cyclones. He has seven goals and 16 assists in 32 games.
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