The USA, as expected, crushed Belarus 7-0 in their tournament opener. In typical US fashion, they received strong contributions up and down the lineup, with all four lines chipping in at least one goal.
Belarus received four consecutive powerplays in the first period, but were unable to capitalize as the US penalty kill collapsed around their keeper authoritatively and even generated some offensive opportunities.
The US threw 51 shots on goal, answered by just 17 from Belarus. The US spent shift after shift in the offensive zone, trapping Belarus on what looked like extended powerplays.
Despite this dominance, the US showed two issues that could cost them against top opponents: Turnovers and passive cap control. Scott Reedy and Joel Farabee were two noteworthy players who coughed the puck up on numerous occasions, but it was also a problem that plagued the whole team.
Secondly, the US relinquished their own blue line far too easily. Apart from a couple huge backchecks from Logan Cockerill, it seemed like the US forwards didn’t apply meaningful back pressure. This forced the defenders into one-on-one situations, and quite a few times it resulted in an easy entry for Belarus.
Fortunately, the US clamped down after the 9-minute mark of the third period, and closed off strong. Content with a 7-0 lead, they often cycled with the sole intent of killing the clock and collapsed well in the neutral zone.
RW | 6’1” 198 lbs | USA #25
2000-06-16 | 2018 NHL Draft Eligible
USNTDP Stats: 43GP 14G 11A 25P | U-18 Stats: 1GP 2G 0A 2P
Wahlstrom continued his late-season surge in his first game of the U-18 Tournament. On a line with Braeden Tkachuk and Josh Norris, Wahlstrom played the role of shooter. He drifted into open ice, found seams, and kept his feet moving, enabling him to rack up a game-high six shots on goal.
With two goals, Wahlstrom was undoubtedly the star of the game, but also made his impact felt in other ways, too. He made a few solid defensively plays, proactively picked up his assignment in the defensive zone, and extended offensive zone pressure with a few blue line keeps after smart positioning. Essentially, he played his high-end offensive game without sacrificing the other areas.
C | 6’3” 185 lbs | USA #3
1999-01-03 | 2017 NHL Draft Eligible
NCAA Stats: 35GP 7G 6A 13P | U-18 Stats: 1GP 0G 1A 1P
Poehling played on a line with Joel Farabee and Scott Reedy, where he had a solid start to the tournament. After a slightly quite first period, Poehling grew increasingly comfortable with his linemates, and was a controlled exit and entry machine throughout the entire game.
A surprisingly quick skater, Poehling generates a quality top-end gear. He cycled through a variety of gears, and used crossovers and lateral movement to deceive and confuse defenders. This lateral movement was also on display in the trenches, where he won multiple two-versus-one (he was the one) battles, with his quickness and body positioning. In both the rushes and along the boards, Poehling aggressively drove his legs into opposition’s sticks before they could touch the puck.
Apart from a nice dish for David Farrance’s 7-0 marker, Poehling struggled to convert numerous quality rushes and slick moves into meaningful scoring opportunities. Although, don’t expect that to last—he made some powerful net drives and smart passes that were either quickly thwarted or thrown away by his teammates.
C | 6’1” 192 lbs | USA #14
1999-05-05 | 2017 NHL Draft Eligible
USNTDP Stats: 54GP 24G 30A 54P | U-18 Stats: 1GP 0G 1A 1P
All-in-all, Norris has a solid game—which has become the usual with his performance this season. The all-around centre did it all for US, winning battles, throwing checks, making passes, and getting to the net.
When engaged along the boards, Norris seemed unbeatable. He was locked in, using quick pivots, body positioning, and spurts of brute strength to outlast the opposition in the trenches. When not battling, he constantly moved between shooting locations and purposeful net drives. He slipped away from his defender numerous times thanks to his movement.
On the lead up to Wahlstrom’s second goal, Norris threw a big hit in the corner, then worked his way into the slot where he fired a one-timer. It missed, but the rebound came right out to Wahlstrom, who slid an easy one into the back of the net.
LW | 6’3” 181 lbs | BLR #2
1999-01-08 | 2017 NHL Draft Eligible
Belarus Stats: 14GP 4G 1A 5P | U-18 Stats: 1GP 0G 0A 0P
Apart from the odd flash from Baltruk, it appeared Filyayev’s skill level was a notch or two higher than that of anyone on Belarus.
Filyayev isn’t the prettiest skater, but in effect it’s quite good: A quick first step gave him the edge in numerous footraces and his agility allowed to maneuver around even highly-talented skaters like Quinton Hughes. He coupled this with soft hands and a sniper’s mentality. He also made a two nice passes, but otherwise didn’t use his teammates effectively.
Unlike the rest of Team Belarus, he didn’t settle for outside shots—he drove the slot hard. He set up shop in the slot without the puck, but his linemates (Igor Martynov and Dmitri Kot) didn’t do a particularly good job winning battles.
Halfway through the third period, Filyayev had the best shift for Belarus, putting on 20-seconds of pressure single-handedly, before concluding with monstrous collision.
RW | 6’4” 196 lbs | BLR #9
1999-05-04 | 2017 NHL Draft Eligible
WHL Stats: 60GP 3G 2A 5P | U-18 Stats: 1GP 0G 0A 0P
The Edmonton Oil Kings grinder demonstrated a skill set in this game that he very rarely did all season. The powerful winger lacks a bit in acceleration, but when going, proves difficult to stop.
Baltruk used USA’s passive neutral gap to his advantage in the first and second periods, blowing past defenders multiple times. Playing on his off-wing, Baltruk regularly challenged defenders one-on-one. He demonstrated soft stickhandling ability, even in flight, but rarely to use this ability to get closer to the net/slot. Instead, he kept to the outside after making a move.
There wasn’t much on display in the way of defensive smarts of playmaking ability. He was flat-footed in his own zone (disastrous for a player with poor acceleration) on many instances.