There are six Calgary Flames prospects ready to kick off the World Juniors today. Three of them will have important leadership roles.
Boxing day? No, this is World Juniors day. There are six Calgary Flames prospects ready for the World Juniors which kicks off today. Five of these prospects are in action today. The other day, Dillon Dube was announced captain of Team Canada and he’ll kick off today at 2 PM MT vs. Eetu Tuulola and Juuso Valimaki, who will be captain of Team Finland.
The lone player not playing today will be Adam Ruzicka for Team Slovakia.
Linus Lindstrom wasn’t drafted until the fourth round last year at the 2016 NHL Draft. He was drafted at 96 overall by the Calgary Flames, but he was ranked at a higher draft position from four out of five rankings. So the Flames got quite lucky when the centreman fell.
Lindstrom will be playing in his first ever WJC with Team Sweden. And they’re considered to be some tough competitors this year. He has just two goals and three points in the SHL this season, but his main contributions aren’t just offence.
Via Calgary Flames:
“I stay in pretty much constant touch with (European scout) Bobby Hagelin, and he sees Linus quite a bit, ” says Flames’ director of amateur scouting Tod Button. “What we’re looking for from him at this tournament is just to play a solid two-way game.
“He’s not going to be counted on for too much offence. So he’s got to be solid away from the puck. You’d like to see him chip in offensively from time to time but his forte is penalty killing, defensive play, face-offs.
“Those are his fortes.”
He’ll be the first of the Flames prospects to play today facing off against Belarus.
Dillon Dube, who’s been playing with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL since 2014, will captain Team Canada. A huge honour for anybody on that international stage. He was the Calgary Flames’ second-round pick last year at the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s been improving every season with the Rockets and so far has 39 points in 27 games. He played in just one pre-tournament game for Team Canada, but he had two goals and one assist in the 8-1 win over Switzerland.
Last season, Canada had an unfortunate loss to Team USA in the Gold Medal game where USA came on top in the shootout. But Dube won’t let that affect him this year.
“He was himself – speed, skill,” coach Dominique Ducharme said. “We can see that even though it was his first game with (Jordan) Kyrou and (Sam) Steel, (in) the days in practice we could see the chemistry building. It’s really positive. It can only keep going.”
“He’s fast. He’s smart,” Kryou said. “He fits in well everywhere.”
“I just settled in a little bit there,” Dube said. “It’s nice playing with those guys. They’re giving me chances to feel comfortable out there. We really clicked well. It made me feel a lot better. It was great playing with them.”
Dube was one of the players competing for a spot on the Calgary Flames roster and made it very close but didn’t cut the final list.
Last year at the WJC, he had three assists in seven games. This year, after that upset from Team USA last year, he’s coming back for revenge.
Via Calgary Flames:
“To lose like that hurt at the time,” Dube admits. “I can’t lie. But looking back, the opportunity to be on that team was pretty incredible. Just to be able to play in a game like that, in front of that crowd … you can’t put it into words.
“But, yeah, the way it turned out definitely fuels the fire for this tournament and particularly with the (U.S.) being at home this time.”
“Last year, being at home, was crazy,” says Dube. “Just to be able to deal with all the pressure. Hard to handle all that but obviously having been through it, knowing you can handle it, is nice to know.
“Last year, I was just a lower-end guy the media wasn’t even considering. Nobody paid much attention. I couldn’t imagine being Stromer (Dylan Strome) or (Matthew) Barzal. They went through a lot.
“You turn on the TV and it’s all about them. That can be too much for some kids but those guys handled it great.
“Being on the outside, you observe how they went through it all and kinda take notes.”
Well, he’ll definitely be a star this year.
Juuso Valimaki, the Calgary Flames first round pick at this year’s NHL Draft was named the captain of Team Finland back in August during the World Junior Summer Showcase. And this isn’t the first time he’s been in that kind of role.
He was captain of the U16 team and captain of the U18 team. Last year at the WJC, Valimaki had two goals in six games for Team Finland. They were upset by Team Russia in the Bronze Medal game and Valimaki’s hoping for a different ending for his team this year.
Via Calgary Flames:
“Playing here in North America again, there’ll be a lot of fans, great atmosphere, media attention,” says Valimaki, limited to 19 starts for the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans by a lower-body injury.
“We have a lot to prove.
“All the guys who were there last year haven’t forgotten. We got taught a lesson. It wasn’t fun. We don’t want to dwell on what happened but it’s important we learn from what happened.”
“Being captain,” says Valimaki. “is really cool. I’ve always wanted to be a leader, on and off the ice. Back home growing up I always played with and against older guys, so I’d watch them, see how they did things every day.
“It’s important for every player to be a leader in their own way but to wear that letter, that C, it’s special, for sure.”
Valimaki has been playing with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL since 2015. Last season, he had 61 points in 60 games which was seventh in points among all defensemen. Now, he’ll be taking his battles to the international stage vs. Dillon Dube and Team Canada. He won’t be the only Flames prospect for Team Finland though.
Eetu Tuulola wasn’t drafted until the sixth round at last year’s NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames. He was ranked to go between the second and fourth round by every prospect ranking. Last year, he played in the WHL for the first time, but this season, he’s back to playing for HPK of the Liiga League. He has 12 points in 28 games so far.
This is his first time playing at the World Juniors for the U20 team. He played with the U18 team two years ago where Finland won Gold.
Via Calgary Flames:
“He’s playing with the men now and all the reports we’ve gotten have been positive,” says Flames’ director of amateur scouting Tod Button.
“The tournament that really put him over the top for us was the Under-18 in North Dakota.”
“You’d like to see him be that prototypical power-forward type, someone who creates space for the smaller guys, goes hard to the net.
“In a tournament like this, we’re hoping he’s the one to get the greasy goals, the one counted on to, as I said, create room, especially against the bigger teams.
“We’d like to see him start doing that on a more consistent basic.
“This is a big tournament for him in terms of development.”
He and Valimaki will look for that initial win vs. Canada.
Adam Fox will be playing in his second World Juniors this year. Last year was his first chance at the U20s, but this year, he’ll be wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey for Team USA. With a gold medal last year, they’re looking to do it again.
Via Calgary Flames:
“We’re excited about our veteran leadership group here in Buffalo,” head coach Bob Motzko told USA Hockey’s website. “Joey, Kieffer, Ryan and Adam have the respect of everybody in the room and we have complete confidence that they can lead this group of players to a gold medal here on home ice.”
Fox was drafted in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames in the third round at the 66 overall pick. But he was projected to go about 15-30 spots higher, so again, the Flames got somewhat of a steal with him. Playing for Harvard University, he’s been one of the best defencemen in the NCAA.
Last season, they were ECAC Champions. He had 40 points in 35 games which led all NCAA defensemen in just his rookie year. He was also named as the best defenseman in New England. Fox also participated for Team USA at the U18 tournament where he had the most points by a defenseman at the tournament and was named one of the top three players on Team USA.
Last year’s WJC, he had four points in seven games. But he impressed at the World Junior Summer Showcase this past summer. So much so that NHL.com put him in the top ten players who impressed during the WJSS. He had nine points and a +3 rating in five games at the showcase. He was on that first pairing for team blue on Team USA and was tied in the lead for points among all skaters at the WJSS with those nine points.
Head coach of Team USA, Bob Motzko, was impressed with him as well.
He’s taking it to another level. Last year he was a designated hitter on our team, coming off the bench from an offensive standpoint and making plays for us. He’s at a whole other level for us right now. … He’s comfortable now playing the game in any situation for 60 minutes. That’s a pretty special player. We all see it from the offensive side but he can handle tough minutes too.
Fox is excited to have a leadership role this year and is looking for another gold medal.
Via Calgary Flames:
“It was a ton of fun, though. Everybody had a blast. It was more about being together, having fun, than actually getting a, you know, big present.”
“Definitely, coming back and being given more responsibility is huge for me. Our older guys last year did a really good job of settling everyone’s nerves, helping the group through the rough patches,
“That’s what I want to do right now. Be that type of player. Step up and be a leader on this team.”
“The tournament being on home soil and the U.S. never having won back-to-back are definitely big motivators,” says Fox.
“We’re obviously going to take a lot of pride playing in front of our home crowd, use that atmosphere, gain momentum from the support.
“We know teams are going to be looking to take us down, obviously.
“We just want to win again. You have that experience, get that taste, understand first-hand how good the feeling is. And it is an amazing feeling.
“So you just want to repeat it.
“We’re definitely coming into this hungry for another gold medal.”
Being Canadian is obviously hard to cheer for Team USA. But I’m rooting for him, the future definitely looks bright for Adam Fox.
Last, but certainly not least, Adam Ruzicka.
Ruzicka was drafted this past summer by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round. His biggest impressive quality was his excellent puck control and his abilities to move the puck. He’s been playing with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL since last season and he’ll be competing in his second WJC U20 this year.
Last year, Team Slovakia finished in eighth place. Ruzicka’s hoping for a different outcome for his country.
Via Calgary Flames:
“I think that’s the big thing, he’s been there before,” says Flames director of amateur scouting Tod Button. “Last year he was a little wide-eyed. He was still pretty good, though. I think his best stretch of play was with the national team.
“We’re looking for him to be a factor this year. You want to see him be more consistent.”
“In Sarnia, they’ve got a good team – a very offensive team – and that’s helped him,” says Button. “And, as I said before, he’s been very consistent there.
“There aren’t the big gaps where you don’t notice him for six, seven shifts a period.
“You notice him every shift now.”
Last year at the World Juniors, Ruzicka had one goal in five games at just 17 years old. This season with Sarnia, he has 39 points in 34 games. Slovakia was upset by Sweden last year in the Quarter Finals and they with Ruzicka will be looking to improve on that.
That was a lot of words for a bunch of kids. The Calgary Flames future definitely looks bright with these six, young prospects.