Injury Concerns Overshadow Day One's Blowouts

Day one of the World Junior tournament had a lot of goals... mostly by one team in each game, of course. But it also had plenty of injury concerns.

Canada lost NHL forward Devante Smith-Pelly for the tournament after he fractured his foot blocking a shot in the team's 8-1 win over Finland. The margin of victory became much easier for Canada after top defensive prospect Olli Määttä left the game with a concussion after taking a massive hit from Canadian winger Boone Jenner. Jenner caught Määttä looking the wrong way immediately after making a play on the puck. His injury is the latest in what has been a disastrous year for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft eligibles. Before the game, Finnish goaltender Sami Aittokallio was hurt in the warmups, which is also a significant blow for the Finns, who can't afford a lot of injuries on their back end.

The injury parade continued in the later games on Monday, with Swedish captain Johan Larsson leaving his team's 9-4 victory over Latvia with an undisclosed injury. The news for Sweden is good on this front, though: Larsson is not expected to miss much action with the injury, and really, Sweden can probably afford to sit him until the New Year's Eve game against Russia if need be. Sweden has already lost forward Pontus Åberg (another 2012 Draft victim) in the final exhibition game, and were forced to leave defencemen Petter Granberg off their roster with injury concerns that seem to indicate he'll not suit up this tournament. Sweden replaced Åberg with Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall, and have left an open spot on their roster depending on Granberg's health.

In the Denmark-USA game, the Americans lost forward Connor Brickley to a skate cut in his leg. Brickley's status is uncertain, but initial thoughts are positive, that the cut wasn't serious enough to warrant concern, but he'll be re-evaluated today. USA went on to win that game 11-3.

These injuries are significant since the team's cannot call up any skaters (non-goalies) unless there was a roster spot left open when the teams submitted their rosters on December 25. Sweden did so, and the Czechs and Slovaks both have significant injury concerns and did so as well. Canada, USA, and Finland do not have roster spots to fill their holes, except for Finland in goal if Aittokallio's injury is serious, but that would be a huge loss for the team as a whole.

The final game of the night was the most hotly contested, with Switzerland throwing 40 shots on talented 17 year old Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who came out with a shutout in a 3-0 Russian win. It was the only truly significant goaltending performance of the day, with Johan Gustafsson of Sweden, Christopher Gibson of Finland, and Jack Campbell of the USA all looking shaky in their debuts. Mark Visentin of Canada did well in his win, although for large portions of that game he was barely tested. Losing goaltenders like Sebastian Feuk of Denmark kept their team's in it for a while with spectacular saves before eventually conceding the victory, while Tim Wolf of Switzerland and Kristers Gudlevskis of Latvia did about as well as could be asked.

The top offensive performers of the opening day were the Canadian combination of Jonathan Huberdeau (1+4), Ryan Strome (1+3), and Mark Stone (3+0); Swedish forwards Max Friberg (4 goals) and Sebastian Collberg (1+2); American duo Charlie Coyle (3+0) and Jason Zucker (1+2); and the lethal Danish power play combination of Nicklas Jensen (3 assists) and Mathias Bau Hansen (2 goals).

Today's action begins at 6:00 PM MST with the Czechs debuting against Denmark, and Slovakia debuting against Latvia at 8:00 PM MST. In the meantime, you can recap yesterday's highlights on the IIHF's YouTube Channel.

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