At the 2024 World Juniors, Tom Willander, Elias Pettersson, and Jonathan Lekkerimäki won silver after Sweden lost 6-2 to the United States. After the tournament, Lekkerimäki tied for the lead in goals scored with seven and led the competition with five goals scored on the power play. As a result, he was named MVP. This is an analysis of the performances of the three prospects in the Gold Medal Game.
Lekkerimäki was one of Sweden’s best players, as he has been throughout the entire tournament. Just before the second intermission, he made a huge impact with a power play and ended the game with four shots in 19:42 of ice time. He gave it his all and showed the hockey world how dangerous he can be with the puck, even though Sweden didn’t win gold puck on his stick.
Pettersson made it difficult for any American player attempting to get in front of the net by jumping to the blue line. He was the only Swedish player to end the game with a plus rating, and he was physical all over the ice. In his 19:13 game against the US, he showed off his ability to break up rushes and transition the puck with an outlet pass, in addition to his ability to slow down the opposition once they are in the zone.
Last but not least, Willander impressed for a variety of reasons. Along the boards, he displayed his physical playmaking ability and showed no fear of joining the rush to create an opportunity in the offensive zone. With 17:37 remaining in the game, he should have a significant impact on Team Sweden’s performance in the tournament the following year.
The three Vancouver Canucks prospects had encouraging performances overall in this tournament. All three contributed to helping Sweden win Silver for the first time since 2018. Whether it was Lekkerimäki ripping shots from above the faceoff dot or Pettersson and Willander breaking up plays in the defensive zone. Canucks supporters should be thrilled about their players’ performance in recent weeks, as all three have demonstrated that they have what it takes to one day be NHL game-changers.