‘08s Making an Early Statement

Apr 26, 2023 | World Hockey Hub

Photo by Carmo Photography
Photo by Carmo Photography

Alex McLean, Cooper Soller, Viljo Kahkonen among top performers from WSI Day 1 action

The best 2008-born youth hockey players in the world took to the ice at the 15U World Selects Invitational on Wednesday. Thirty-four teams from 12 countries squared off in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 14th annual WSI. Teams began pool play with two games each on the opening day of the tournament. 

In 12 hours, more than 30 games went down across three rinks in the Music City. A lot of action crammed into a short amount of time saw plenty of standout performers. Canada’s Alex McLean, American-born Cooper Soller and Finnish forward Viljo Kahkonen were among those to make an early statement on the international stage.

CCM Selects tops in the standings, leading scorers

Coming into the tournament, CCM Selects were one of the early favorites to perform well at the 15U WSI. Alex McLean being on the roster was one of the reasons for that, after scoring 112 points for the 14U Pittsburgh Penguins Elite this past season. He delivered in a big way in the first game of the tournament, with a six-point performance in a 12-3 win over Toronto Elite Hockey

That game was the largest margin of victory among all contests on opening day. While CCM Selects were certainly thought of as a top team in the field, the dominant win validated just that. 

Their second game of the day came against another North American-based program in Top Speed Hockey. And again, provided little resistance as CCM rolled to a 9-1 win. Defenseman Zach Nyman was a standout on the No. 1 ranked Vaughan Kings this season. He proved why with back-to-back three-point performances as a major factor in both wins for CCM Selects. 

With 21 goals in just the first two games of the tournament, CCM Selects players dominate the scoring leaderboard. McLean, Nyman, Maximus Crete, Avry Antsis and Rudolfs Berzkalns are all among the top producers at the WSI thus far.

Soller doing it all for Carolina Whalers at WSI

For as dominant of wins as CCM Selects has had in its first two games, there have been plenty of tight contests out of the gate.

A matchup between the Carolina Whalers and Kazakhstan Selects was just that, tied 3-3 with under 10 minutes to play in regulation. Then, Cooper Soller struck not once but twice in the waning moments to give the Whalers a 5-3 victory. Soller factored in on all five goals scored in the win, plus an assist in their 5-2 loss earlier in the day. The 5-foot-9 forward is no stranger to producing offense; he scored 31 goals and 76 points for the No. 1 ranked team in the U.S., Shattuck-St. Mary’s this season. 

Factoring in on six of his team’s seven goals, no other player in the tournament has accounted for more of his team’s offense so far than Soller.

Finland’s best are too much to handle on Day 1

Viljo Kähkönen split time this past season playing up an age group for HIFK’s U16 team. The other half, he spent playing up even further with the club’s U18 team. It didn’t matter where he played, he produced, with 10 goals and 29 points in 29 games between the two rosters. It should come as no surprise that now playing against the best of his 2008 birth year, Kähkönen continues to produce at an impressive clip. 

In Finland Selects’ first game of the tournament Kähkönen scored a pair of goals and assisted on two more. That led to a dominant 7-0 win over DraftDay Red. Him and fellow HIFK teammate Oliver Torkki could prove to be an impressive tandem at the WSI. Torkki was one of the leading scorers at the U16 age group in Finland this season. He picked up a pair of points alongside Kähkönen as well.

McLouth, Cruitt with strong showings in net

DraftDay Black got a 28-save performance out of Andrew McLouth in Game 1 of the WSI. They needed every one of those stops against ALPS Selects as Noah Barton scored the game-winning goal with 4:08 left in regulation. The 2-1 final was one of 14 games decided by two goals or less on the opening day of action. 

McLouth is a 5-foot-11 goaltender who played for HoneyBaked this season. His showing in net was one of the better performances on Day 1, fueling a DraftDay Black victory.

He wasn’t the only one to steal a victory for his team. Andover, Minnesota native, Cash Cruitt stopped 24-of-25 shots faced against Pro Hockey White. That helped his Minnesota Blades team get out to a 1-0-0 start to the tournament with a 4-1 win despite being out-shot 25-20 in the contest.

Other standouts in net include Kazkhstan Selects Arseniy Kuchkovskiy, who’s stopped 37-of-40 shots in two games. ALPS Selects goaltenders Lenny Oppikofer and Nicolas Arcilla strung together back-to-back games of 24 and 25 saves. Each have allowed just two goals against, however, ALPS was unable to win either of those games despite the strong showings in net.

16U WSI doubles down this week in Nashville

The 11-team 16U World Selects Invitational is running concurrent to the 15U tournament in the Music City this week. After six games on Day 1, NorthStar Elite Green sits comfortably in first place. A pair of goals from Cruz Martin helped NorthStar to a 6-1 win over Black Bear Selects. Black Bear was the lone team to play two games on opening day. They fell to Performance Hockey 5-1 as well.

Of the six games on Day 1, three were decided by two goals or fewer. TPH Selects and DevCo Hockey needed a shootout to settle their 2-2 tie. Michael Zajac’s goal, as well as Marcus Johnson’s three stops, were the difference in the shootout for TPH Selects. 

Tournament action continues Thursday with 10 pool-play games.

Want more coverage of the World Selects Invitational? Visit our WSI Hub or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for the latest news!


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