2012 WJC: The Good, Bad & Ugly On Day 1

All six Minnesota Wild prospects got in their first game of the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships today and there was plenty to see. Blowouts were the theme for Boxing Day with the United States thrashing Denmark 11-3, Finland being blown by Canada 8-1 and Sweden defeating Latvia 9-4. Each game, however, had its moments and all three were close after twenty minutes.

Unfortunately with six prospects, not everything went right for Minnesota fans in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. It's hard for that to happen but there were great moments which showed off the future of the Wild and gave the State of Hockey some excitement. So without further adieu, here are the good, the bad and the ugly for Day 1 (December 26) of the 2012 WJC.

The Good:
Charlie Coyle (photo from Zimbio)
Charlie Coyle netting a hat trick
It's been a long ten days for the former Boston University and future Saint John Sea Dog. Despite all the attention Coyle has received - both good and bad - he came to play. Playing on a line with fellow Minnesota prospect Jason Zucker and Blackhawks prospect Brandon Saad, Coyle scored a goal in each period and was the best American player on the ice in their 11-3 win over Denmark.

To put things in perspective, the 2010 first round pick by San Jose (acquired in the Brent Burns trade) matched his BU total in sixty minutes with three goals.

Plus it looks as if Sea Dogs blog Station Nation liked what they saw as well.

America winning 11-3
It was to be expected that the United States would have no problem with their first opponent because Denmark, to put it lightly, is the worst team in Group B. The way they won, however, is music to the ears of those who bleed red white and blue .

The game was not perfect (as seen below) with the Danes scoring twice in the first period but the speed and grit of the United States was something they could not match. A six-goal second period saw guys like Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, JT Miller, Coyle and Zucker spend most of the period in the Denmark zone and find chemistry with one another. It continued to the point where Rau out of nowhere sacrificed his body to take a guy out of the play when the game was out of reach and the Americans were up by six goals.

With an eight goal win and room to improve, things look good - at least for one night - for Team USA.

Jonas Brodin getting 2 primary assists
It's easy to sometimes forget about the Swedish defenseman and 10th overall pick in this year's draft. Defensemen are usually only noticed when they mess up or score a goal and with only five assists in 30 games for Farjestads of the Swedish Elite League, the 18 year-old hasn't done much of either. Throw in the fact that Brodin plays a continent away from St. Paul and the kid flies under the radar.

So it was nice to see Brodin be Sweden's best defenseman in their 9-4 win over Latvia and pick up two assists. Although he hasn't been an offensive weapon in the SEL, the under-20 team has the 6'0", 172 lb Brodin do a bit of everything. He shut down Latvia's top defenders, had great gap control and was their power play quarterback.

It was there where Brodin set up sixth-overall pick Mika Zibanejad for his second assist as he previously took a shot from the point which went wide and bounced back onto the stick of Sebastian Collberg. Both assists were great and Jonas Brodin proved why the Minnesota brass thought high enough of the Swede to pick him.

The Bad:
Finnish Forward Mikael Granlund (no gold this year FBJ)

Finland losing 8-1 despite Mikael Granlund standing out
Coming into the tournament, Finland was seen as a dark horse pick to win gold. Those chances to win got a lot tougher this afternoon after losing 8-1 to Canada.

It was a long way from beating Canada in exhibition play. Unfortunately for the Finns, it was a team effort which did them in. The defense was shredded by the Canadian forwards, the offense could not create chances and goaltender Christopher Gibson exacerbated the problem as he gave up some soft goals.

There was one bright spot as Mikael Granlund (aka Finnish Baby Jesus) showed the world why some consider him to be the player outside the NHL. While the rest of the team were overwhelmed by Canada, Mikael fit right in with some timely defense, great skating, puck handling and continued to set up his teammates. It would have been nice to see him shoot the puck a little more (sound familiar?) - there was an opportunity in the third period which the 9th overall pick in 2009 could have scored if he shot an one-timer - but Granlund made his mark as the high point of a bad day for the Finns.

The American Penalty Kill American PK (Zucker in the first and Coyle on the third)
One aspect of the United States' 11-3 victory over Denmark which failed to impress was the penalty kill. The Danes went 3 for 3 with the man advantage and moved the puck around with ease. Although some of the blame can go on USA goalie Jack Campbell, the penalty killers in front of him were not much better.

That includes both Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. On the ice for all three Denmark goals, Zucker was out of position in the first period while Coyle did not move on the third goal. A case can be made that the score did not lead itself for players to put themselves in harm's way, but no one should ever be happy with going 0-3 on the penalty kill.

The Ugly:
Johan Larsson getting injured and leaving Sweden's game
After two prospects, including Zucker, ended up injured at last year's WJC in Buffalo, the last thing any Wild fan wants to see is a top talent get hurt. It happened to Johan Larsson in Sweden's game against Latvia as the 56th overall pick in 2010 left because of an injury. Larsson had picked up an assist in the first period but got hit on the thigh later and was taken out as a precautionary move.

Fortunately the injury is not serious and Larsson should return in Sweden's next game against Switzerland. It still was a reminder of how quickly things can change; throw in a ten minute penalty to Jonas Brodin for checking from behind and Johan Gustafsson was the only Minnesota prospect of the three on the ice for part of the third period. Speaking of Gustafsson...

Johan Gustafsson's play between the pipes against Latvia
The Swedish goaltender gave up two goals on his first two shots and it didn't get much better from there. Gustafsson made 9 saves in the 9-4 win, facing 13 shots and had a .692 save percentage. That's a D+ in school and bad even for mite goalies.

Thankfully for Gustafsson, his team was able to score enough goals where it didn't make a difference. However for a Wild prospect who has a few goalies above him on the depth chart, that is not the first impression he wants to give Minnesota fans and brass alike.

That's all from Day 1 of the 2012 World Junior Championships. There are two games tomorrow but neither feature any Minnesota Wild prospects. Instead the next big match-up is Finland and the United States facing off Wednesday (December 28) at 2:30 Central.

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