If you’re like me, you listened to the TSN crew on NHL Network yesterday during and between games tell us that this might be one of the best, most talented Canadian teams in World Juniors history. Seven first round picks plus the presumed top two overall picks in the coming draft on one roster. But, just before their first game began last night, the Godfather — Bob McKenzie — reminded us that they still have to play the games… and when the final horn sounded on their first contest, Canada was on the wrong end of a 5-2 score.
- Here are a few thoughts on how the Blackhawks’ four prospects performed for Canada:
- Ethan Del Mastro — he skated 19:24 and was on the ice for two Czechia goals. One of the goals he laid out to block the shot, which was elevated and the goaltender whiffed on it. With that being said, I thought he played a strong, physical game, which is what I expect from Del Mastro after watching him this summer for the Blackhawks and Canada.
- Kevin Korchinski — his 11:58 on ice ranked sixth out of the seven defensemen who dressed for Canada yesterday. He picked off a puck that started the rush that ended in Connor Bedard’s goal and showed great speed. Korchinski was on the ice for one Czechia goal and Bedard’s tally, so he ended up with a break-even plus-minus on the night.
- Nolan Allan — his 17:59 on ice was third on Canada’s blue line behind Owen Zellweger and Del Mastro. A big part of that (and Korchinski’s ice time being low) was the amount of time Canada spent on penalty kill duty. A major penalty really changed the trajectory of the game in the second period; Canada had pulled within 3-2 and then had to kill five minutes. They allowed two goals during the extended power play. But I thought Allan did a very nice job playing a physical game. He was credited with three shots on net as well, which was a surprise. Of the Blackhawks’ three defensemen in the tournament, I think he made the strongest first impression.
- Colton Dach — the only skaters on Canada’s roster with less than Dach’s 8:06 on ice were Reid Schaefer, the 13th forward, and Zach Dean, who got the match penalty on after less than 60 seconds of ice time in the second period. Dach had one glorious scoring chance in the first period but was denied; that was his only shot on goal in 15 shifts. He had a few strong hits, but his ice time was limited to what you would expect from a fourth-line forward.
- Sweden handled their business in a big way yesterday, with their captain and Blackhawks prospect Victor Stjernborg picking up an assist in the 11-0 win. One player who I was watching on Sweden’s roster is Leo Carlsson, who has emerged as the fourth “elite” prospect in what is being billed as a tremendous 2023 draft class. Carlsson is in the conversation for the third or fourth pick in the coming draft, but we haven’t been able to see much of him because he plays in Sweden. He had two assists and was credited with seven shots on net yesterday.
- Here’s what Ben Pope wrote about Carlsson on Tuesday morning:
He notched two points in a tournament-opening rout Monday of Austria, and his 6-3, 200-pound frame, relentlessness and intelligence make projecting his NHL upside straightforward.
- With the uncertainty surrounding Matvei Michkov because of his contract and the political environment between Russia and the rest of the world — Russia is banned from the WJC because of their invasion of Ukraine — there’s a chance Carlsson is in play for the team that picks third overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. Michkov is considered a superstar prospect (some say he might be as good as Connor Bedard), but the external factors might make picking him a huge wild card for an NHL front office.
- The Blackhawks are back in action in Carolina tonight. As a reminder because it’s been a few days since they last played, the Hawks are looking to win their second game in a row tonight. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, Carolina comes into the game one of two teams in the NHL with 50 points and they don’t have a regulation loss in their last ten games (9-0-1).
- However, now that Christmas is in the rearview mirror it’s time for our attention to turn to the playoff picture — and how the Blackhawks’ roster can help the chances of other teams in making a deep run. Yesterday I looked at a few players who have helped raise their stock thus far this season. I’m interested to see when the significant trade winds start blowing.
- The Blackhawks play in Columbus on New Year’s Eve, and the Blue Jackets will have a little extra rest under their belts. They were supposed to host the Buffalo Sabres tonight, but that game has been postponed because the Sabres couldn’t get out of Buffalo.
- If you’ve followed Mark Lazerus on Twitter over the past decade of him covering the Blackhawks, you undoubtedly noticed him keeping track of the number of Pearl Jam songs that were played by the house DJ at the United Center. Well, on Tuesday morning he shared a fun story looking at why Pearl Jam got so much run during the glory days of the team.
- Laz opens with an anecdote remembering Patrick Sharp’s welcome back video tribute, which was set to a Pearl Jam song. And the note that Sharp received a text from Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder after the game telling him it was awesome. If you’ve been to any Blackhawks games over the past decade, you likely share Lazerus’ fascination with how much Pearl Jam got into the mix.
Was that the culmination of [AJ] Dolan’s feverish, myopic, borderline comical and — let’s face it — slightly absurd quest to cram as much Pearl Jam as possible into the Blackhawks fan experience as the team’s former senior manager of game operations and entertainment? Or was it the time he played 10 — ten! — Pearl Jam songs in one game, on Dec. 20 of that same year, the day the band was voted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Or how about the time he got to the rink early and blasted 19 consecutive full-length Pearl Jam songs — a full concert, basically — over the United Center sound system, just because he could?
- I’ve said this on Twitter and will say it again here: Vedder is the quintessential Chicago celebrity sports fan. It isn’t John Cusack, who will take a suite to any game for any team and buy a hat for the occasion just to remind people he’s from Chicago. And it sure as hell isn’t Jim Belushi. Vedder has been seen crushing lung darts in bars with Chris Chelios and Kerry Wood and has become a quiet face in the crowd at so many Chicago moments. Oh, and Pearl Jam is great live. So I loved this story.
- Finally, if you aren’t following the drama with Carlos Correa and his medical in baseball free agency… it’s time to brush up on your knowledge of leg problems. And enjoy the ride because the Cubs got a healthy star shortstop.