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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
Although the World Juniors don't officially begin until next week, all three Montreal prospects were in action on Thursday in the first of two exhibition games. Although they did little damage on the scoresheet, they all made their presence felt. Here is a quick look at each of the games and how each future Hab played.
Finland 3, Canada 2
This game lacked much in the way of flow and both teams looked sluggish which isn't all that surprising when you think about it. Special teams were a huge part in this one as there weren't too many penalty-free stretches. The difference came down to Finland being able to capitalize on their 5-on-3 advantages (scoring twice) while Canada couldn't get much going with their opportunities. Markus Granlund, Ville Jarvelainen, and Miro Aaltonen scored for the Finns while Griffin Reinhart and Mark Scheifele replied for the Canadians.
#10 - Charles Hudon: Hudon's game was one I think we'll see a lot of from him in the tournament - solid but not too flashy. He had an assist on Reinhart's goal and would have had a highlight reel marker on the penalty kill had it not been for a Finnish defender sliding into the goal knocking the net off its moorings. (For what it's worth, a delay of game penalty was called on the play.) He spent most of the game playing on the third line with Boone Jenner and J.C. Lipon and often was on the first wave of the penalty kill (either with Jenner or Philip Danault). Late in the game, he swapped places with Ty Rattie, earning himself a couple of shifts on Canada's top line with Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. One small concern was his puck preservation - he had no qualms about going to the boards (either with the puck or to secure it) but he didn't have possession coming away all that often. That's the only minor blemish on a quality effort.
Game Grade: A-
Stats: 1 assist, 1 shot, even rating, 15:17 TOI
USA 3, Sweden 2 (OT)
The second scrimmage got off to a much more entertaining start before slowing to a pace reminiscent of the Canada-Finland affair, largely due to frequent trips to the penalty box. The two teams are distinctively different, the Americans are a more physical squad while the Swedes have no shortage of skill up front. Shayne Gostisbehere had the OT winner for Team USA while Connor Murphy and Ryan Hartman also scored. Emil Molin and Rickard Rakell tallied for Team Sweden.
#15 - Sebastian Collberg (Sweden): Like Hudon, Collberg spent a lot of time on what could be called the third line with Max Froberg and Molin. With a good chunk of the game being spent on the powerplay, he picked up quite a few extra shifts and had several quality scoring chances. He was very adept at handling the puck, however, he did turn it over a few times as well. I was also concerned with his defensive effort - he often was the last Swede to enter their zone and was almost always the first one out. All in all, he had a great start but tailed off as the game went on.
Game Grade: B-
Stats: 0 points, 5 shots, even rating, 17:31 TOI
#15 - Alex Galchenyuk (USA): The Americans sat what is likely to be their top line for this one meaning Galchenyuk was their top forward dressed. However, he wasn't given the best of linemates in Sean Kuraly and Mario Lucia, players who some believe are battling to avoid being the final cut. It didn't take long to notice that he was in a class of his own on his line; he certainly noticed that too as he was at times too predisposed towards shooting instead of looking for his linemates. Regardless, he really stood out in this game regardless of the fact that he didn't collect any points and generated a lot of chances. Even when he didn't have the puck, you could tell he was out there. One thing that caught my eye was his size - he looked considerably bigger than a lot of his teammates which is something I didn't expect to see.
Game Grade: B+
Stats: 0 points, 7 shots, even rating, 2 PIMS, 16:44 TOI
The exhibition scrimmages end on Saturday as Finland takes on Team USA (6 AM EST) while Sweden is against Canada (9 AM EST).
- Habs at the upcoming World Juniors posted by B. La Rose