While Minnesota's Finns and Americans have started out the WCH struggling, Team Europe's Nino Niederreiter managed to put Switzerland on the score sheet with an assist in a 3-0 victory over Team USA Saturday afternoon. Niederreiter combined with Edmonton/Germany center Leon Draisaitl for a 2-on-0 scoring opportunity Los Angeles/American goalie Jonathon Quick had no chance of stopping.
The USA's Ryan Suter did manage an assist from the blue line on a good goal that would incorrectly be called off by the officials. Oh, those zebras...
This Week's (Wild-related) Schedule
Monday, September 19th - Team Europe (Niederreiter) vs Team Czech Republic 2:00 PM CT (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Tuesday, September 20th - Team Finland (Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula) vs Team Sweden 2:00 PM CT (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Tuesday, September 20th - Team Canada vs Team USA (Suter, Zach Parise) 7:00 PM CT (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Wednesday, September 21st - Team Europe (Niederreiter) vs Team Canada 7:00 PM CT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Thursday, September 22nd - Team Finland (Koivu, Granlund, Haula) vs Team Russia 2:00 PM CT (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Thursday, September 22nd - Team USA (Suter, Parise) vs Team Czech Republic 7:00 PM CT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Semifinal matchups TBD
Game of the Week
USA versus Canada always makes for an intense, exciting affair, and Tuesday's game should be nothing less. The American bench boss, John Tortorella, has made it clear that it will be his team's championship game, made even more so by the disappointing opening night loss to Europe. Even so, the best hockey for your buck may involve any game with the North American youngsters. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Dylan Larkin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Seth Jones, Aaron Ekblad, Colton Parayko and Matt Murray among others - the world is thankful such a devastating roster isn't eligible for the Olympics.
Key Player(s) of the Week
It's a big week for Minnesota's big boys, no doubt. However, it's even bigger for youngsters competing for roster spots while the stars are away.
Prized forward prospects Alex Tuch, Joel Eriksson Ek, Tyler Graovac and Sam Anas are all youngsters with a real shot at making the team out of camp. Whether or not they do depends on if they can make the most of this rare opportunity. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has indicated a lack of interest in committing a roster spot to aging fringe players this off-season, refusing to jump on Matt Cullen, and only signing Ryan Carter to a PTO as of this writing. There are spots available, and it's clearly time for the next wave of Minnesota youth to come forward.
Even if Tuch, EE and Anas don't make the leap right away, they'll bolster organizational forward depth, and give Iowa some much-needed offensive snarl. Don't be surprised if they finish the season in St. Paul, either. They may be joined by top Wild collegiate prospects Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin, too.
Adding Bruce Boudreau, Eric Staal and Chris Stewart shows a commitment to winning now, but future success for the franchise rests squarely on the shoulders of its top young prospects. It's a big year for all of them, and it all starts this week.