Each week, World Hockey Hub highlights a few of the most exciting upcoming games in youth hockey. From the hottest rivalries to the biggest tournaments, we focus on matchups that will impact the landscape among top teams in the sport.
‘06 Stars Elite Look to Dull Jr. Sabres’ Blades
The world-ranked No. 21 Dallas Stars Elite (19-6-1) will aim for a big victory when they face off against No. 20 Buffalo Jr. Sabres (21-13-1) on Friday.
|Friday, December 16 @ 11:15 AM MST|
Ice Den Scottsdale
After dropping two games to the No. 22 Bishop Kearney Selects their last time out, the Jr. Sabres know that this matchup will be a crucial one to gain confidence back in themselves. Not only that, with the Stars breathing down their necks among the top teams in the U.S., their current spot in the rankings may not be safe.
The toughest task will be trying to contain Cullen Potter, who has been a revelation for Dallas. The 5-foot-8 native of Melville, New York, more than makes up for a lack of size in his sheer ability to put up the points. Notching 19 goals and 21 assists on the season, Potter’s two-way ability to play both forward and defense has been one of the main reasons for his team’s success.
And we mention Potter’s size because, on paper, both of these clubs are not that different in that regard. The Jr. Sabres averages measure up to 5-foot-10, 162 lbs. Compare that to the 5-foot-10, 150 lbs. averages of the Stars. It leads one to believe that speed more than physicality will be a showcase in this tilt.
Pete’s Pick: These two have yet to play each other this season, and while Buffalo has a slightly better record, I think they are quite even. What it is going to come down to is how well the Jr. Sabres can slow down Potter and the rest of a potent Stars attack. It’s going to be close, but Dallas edges out a 4-3 win.
Craig’s Pick: I actually think the Jr. Sabres are the better team, but I’m going with my heart and not my head with this pick. I’ve seen Potter in action off and on since he was playing 12U spring hockey. He’s the real deal and one of the top forwards in the country amongst ‘06s. A win here for Potter, Jackson Crowder, Landon Hafele and company could have significant implications in the world rankings ahead. Stars Elite win a close one, 3-2.
‘07 Rebels look to finally best Marlboros
Back on Nov 26, the No. 25 Mississauga Rebels (16-5-6) fell to the No. 1 Toronto Marlboros (28-9-0), 4-2. A sign that Mississauga has the talent to hang with the top dogs of their 2007-birth year. In the first meeting of the two programs this season on Oct. 24, the Rebels played their opponent close despite in an eventual 2-1 victory.
The two teams will drop the puck again on Saturday.
|Saturday, December 17 @ 3:25 PM ET|
Despite holding onto the top spot in the World Rankings, the Marlboros have had a few bumps in their road recently. They uncharacteristically dropped two straight games to the No. 21 Mississauga Senators and Vaughan Kings on Dec. 1 and 2. Not dwelling on those, they have rebounded with wins over the Toronto Titans and North York Rangers.
The Rebels are feeling good about their game recently, unbeaten in four meetings since the 4-2 loss to Toronto. Despite the Marlboros’ incredible ability for scoring, Mississauga has shown they are not daunted by the task of trying to shut down a formidable offense.
Pete’s Pick: I think the consecutive losses were a blip on the radar for the Marlboros. Mississauga will play them tough and give them all they can handle, but Toronto will slip by with a 4-2 win.
Craig’s Pick: Ugh, this would be so much easier if the Marlboros were playing their best hockey. The slump scares me, and even their last two wins weren’t exactly dominating against unranked opponents. Rebels have beaten them before, and may just capitalize on the struggling Marlies. Mississauga wins 3-1.
‘08 Södertälje, AIK look to continue good starts
With the next stage of group play getting underway for 2008-born Swedish clubs, No. 14 Södertälje SK (11-4-3) and AIK Hockey (12-7-0) both look for better on-ice results.
Tuesday’s contest between the two will be a crucial point in getting things back on track. Södertälje currently sits with a 2-2-0 record compared to that of AIK’s 1-1-0 mark.
|Tuesday, December 13 @ 7:50 PM CET|
While AIK had the weekend off, Södertälje was busy besting Järna SK, 3-2. The very same Järna squad that defeated AIK 4-3 back on Dec. 7.
Christian Furuvik has been an early bright spot for SSK. He leads the team in points thus far with two goals and one assist. For AIK, their offensive leader has been Filip Nyberg’s one goal and two assists. While it is still very early, it will be worth keeping an eye on these players both in terms of leading their respective squads but also in relation to all players in the group as well.
Pete’s Pick: This will come down to whomever’s secondary scoring shows up best. With both sides led by dynamic offensive players, the supporting casts will come under even more scrutiny. With that being said, Södertälje has had a slightly more difficult schedule and has a win against one of the best teams of their birth year vs. No. 8 Nacka HK. It will be them taking the win here in a tight game.
Craig’s Pick: We got caught sleeping on Södertälje earlier this season. They were unranked and off the radar before shocking the world by winning a championship at the Folke Filbyter. I won’t bet against them again. SSK wins handedly, 4-1.
‘09 Atlant look for second victory over CSKA
No. 2-ranked CSKA Moscow (25-7-2) will meet No. 7 Atlant Mytishchi (15-6-0) for the third time this season. The two teams have split the previous two meetings. CSKA was victorious, 2-0, in the first meeting back in September. Atlant won the most recent meeting on Nov. 15, shocking its fellow 2009-born youth hockey teams with a sound 6-2 win
|Sunday, December 18|
The loss to Atlant was in the middle of an unusual stretch of four consecutive losses for CSKA. Given their track record of success this season, any loss stands out. But string a few together, and eyebrows begin to raise.
It seems CSKA had squashed any doubt of their reputation as one of the country’s best, with a shutout victory over No. 4 Spartak Moscow. However, they lost the following matchup vs. Dynamo Moscow, 6-5. Atlant knows their opponent is still dangerous,despite possibly having put a seed of doubt in CSKA’s minds. But sometimes that’s all it takes.
Reliance on players like Nazar Privalov and his 17 goals and 34 points will be paramount for CSKA’s success. Closely behind him will be the dynamic duo of Artem Katsuro (14G, 18A) and Artem Mishin (13G, 19A). Atlant will be focused on more heroics from leading scorer Artemy Laskavy, who has tallied 25 goals and 52 points on the year, including two goals in their 6-2 win.
Pete’s Pick: I firmly believe that CSKA’s rough patch is past them, and they are back on track in being able to handle the teams they should beat. CSKA will use what they learned about themselves during that losing streak to fix what was going wrong for them. They win 5-4.
Craig’s Pick: Neither Privalov, Katsuro or Mishin played for CSKA in its previous 6-2 loss to Atlant. I’m not really sure why, but missing your top three leading scorers could certainly explain the unusual outcome. Assuming CSKA is at full strength with all of its top guys on Sunday, I think they will dominate. Give me the Red Army to win big, 6-2.