The 2021 World Junior Championship is getting ready to begin, and each team played a pre-tournament game. Team USA played theirs against Finland and pulled out a 3-2 win. That should make fans and media members more amenable to writing a lot of positives about the win, but what stood out were the possibly “experimental” lines.
The top line was Trevor Zegras on left wing, Alex Turcotte at center, and Arthur Kaliyev. Understanding that on these all-star teams you will have to play some players out of position, but Zegras should be the first-line center, Turcotte should be the second-line center, and rookie Matty Beniers played at second-line center instead of third-line center. Instead, they went with John Farinacci as the third line center and Matt Boldy, a winger 99.9% of his career, as the fourth-line center.
Cole Caufield, on the 4th line that night, had two goals but Zegras had two assists and he was the best player on the team and that wasn’t because he was on the wing. He can have an even great effect if he’s in the middle especially when they play the super teams like Canada and Russia. The last time I saw Farinacci playing for Harvard, he was playing top-line right wing. I get he was just throwing the lines in a blender, but this was weird.
Head coach, Nate Leaman liked his creation and talked up the third line which also had Landon Slaggart at left wing and Patrick Moynihan on the right side. Again, this would seem like a better 4th line with a different center and using Farinacci a different way. Sometimes Team USA overthinks how to best utilize their talent, and in the end, they could be searching for goal scoring while loving the hard-working greasier lines.
I don’t expect all of these lines to stick, but if that top-line stays the same, it could be a situation of putting a lot of your eggs in one basket, and if that line gets shut down it makes it much easier to neutralize the offense unless the push comes from the blueline.
Ryan Johnson and Brock Faber are teammates at the University of Minnesota, and that’s smart to keep that kind of continuity together. When the going gets tough, knowing your d-partners tendencies can be the difference in making that one good play to win a game or a bad play to lose a game.
Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf played in net. Both looked good and Wolf is going to get at least one start in this tournament, but it’s Knight’s crease to lose, and nobody expects him to lose that.
Team USA will play Russia on the 25th at 9:30 PM et. This is an important game for both. One of these teams could go undefeated if all breaks right. I think Russia has the slight edge at this point, but it’s close, very close, and it could come down to Yaroslav Askarov giving up one goal again as he did against Canada in a pre-tournament loss. Let’s see what happens, but this is the premier game of the day.