Up until Wednesday, Canada iced a split squad at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Canucks prospects Kole Lind and Jonah Gadjovich skated together on Canada Red, while Michael DiPietro tended goal for Canada White.
For Wednesday’s game against Finland, they combined the rosters, which mostly meant keeping Canada Red intact and adding a spattering of players from Canada White. Lind and Gadjovich survived the merge, starting on the second line together, while DiPietro was left out of the lineup in favour of Stuart Skinner and Dylan Wells.
That shouldn’t be considered a knock against DiPietro’s chances of making the World Junior roster — Hockey Canada wants to get a good look at all their goaltenders — and Skinner struggled in his half a game, giving up four goals on 11 shots.
As for Lind and Gadjovich, the latter made a strong case for playing for Canada in December. With his size and willingness to use it, it seems clear he would add a unique element to Team Canada. Most importantly, he still boasts a lot of skill and smarts to go with his size. He led Canada with 4 shots on goal against Finland and made a couple nice passes down low in the offensive zone.
That said, it was his physical game that stood out the most. He crushed Flames first rounder Juuso Valimaki along the boards with the game’s biggest hit.
Valimaki, incidentally, is 6’2” and 200+ lbs, about the same size as Gadjovich.
In addition, Gadjovich was a nuisance in front of the net. He was involved on Samuel Girard’s first period goal, as was Lind, simply by going to the front of the net and tying up his man. Girard’s centring pass to Gadjovich deflected off two Finnish skates and in. Gadjovich also provided the screen on Dante Fabbro’s late tying goal in the third, out-battling Valimaki in front of the net to take away the goaltender’s eyes.
With a minute left, Gadjovich was out to defend Canada’s one-goal lead and won a key puck battle along the boards that led to a clearance. Finland still managed to tie the game, but Gadjovich was not at fault on the play.
Combine that physicality with his flashes of skill, like this sublime saucer pass to Cliff Pu on Tuesday, and it’s easy to see a path to the World Juniors for Gadjovich.
Lind, on the other hand, has a tougher road ahead of him. He was a late addition to Canada’s roster at the World Junior Summer Showcase and hasn’t done much to set himself apart. Against Finland, he played on a couple different lines and received limited ice time after the first period.
Lind finished the game with no shots on goal and was hit or miss with his zone exits, sometimes failing to get the puck safely out of the zone. It just wasn’t his best performance.
That said, a strong start to his WHL season will make his case for him better than his performance at this showcase.