With four Dallas Stars prospects playing in the 2012 World Juniors Championship this year, it's tough to figure out exactly who to root for. While we certainly want to see John Klingberg, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak do well in the tournament, there's no doubt that most of us here at Defending Big D are still fully supporting Jack Campbell and Team USA.
Nemeth and Klingberg helped the Swedish team to get off to a good start with a 9-4 win over Latvia on Monday, although neither of the two defensemen factored much into the win. Klingberg is showing the skill and potential that surprised many at development camp, yet he's struggled this season with decision making and that issue presented itself as well against Latvia. Nemeth, on the other hand, impresses with his physicality and size and it's apparent that his offensive potential has improved since being drafted in 2010.
Both Nemeth and Klingberg will play today in a big game for Sweden against Team Switzerland, at 4:30 this afternoon.
Jamie Oleksiak saw limited minutes in Canada's 8-1 domination over Finland on Monday and didn't factor much in the game. The big defenseman has received extremely high praise so far this season in the OHL as he's surprised scouts with his skating and puck handling ability for such a big player. Hopefully, Oleksiak gets more exposure as the tournament progresses and is able to have more of an impact for his team on an ultra-competitive Canadian roster.
Team USA will take on Finland today at 2:30 (live on NHL Network) with Jack Campbell and company looking to not get off to another slow start. The Americans are hoping to compete for the Gold Medal once again and after allowing two goals in the first period to Denmark on Monday, there's going to be a big push for Team USA to not let their guard down again. While Team USA eventually broke the game wide open to a final score of 11-3, there is a high standard for Campbell and his team and there was some disappointment for how the team started the game on Monday.
[Update: Jack Campbell will not play against Finland, it was announced about an hour before the game. So...there's that.]
Team USA should easily handle Finland today and pay close attention to how Campbell performs. Campbell's reputation has been built on his stellar international career, while he's struggled at times in the OHL since turning pro. The big test, of course, will come on New Year's Eve as Team USA faces Team Canada in the big showdown of the preliminary rounds.