With Canada having the most dominating goaltenders recently at the World Junior Championships, I wouldn't be surprised if that comes to an end this year. Jacob Markstrom is having a stellar year with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League. In 25 games, he has a 2.17 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He's a second round pick by the Florida Panthers this past June. Why did he go so low? His stats last year during the regular season were decent. What I think what did it was his proformance at the Under 18's where he had a 3.04 goals against average and a .863 save percentage.
He has been so good this season that his coach (no translation) doesn't want him to go to the Worl Junior Championships because Brynas is up against regelation in the Swedish Elite League. I believe he will be missing six games with Brynas.
I can see where his coach coming from where the state of his team is in and how much it means to stay in the SEL. At the same time, I always thought in Europe representing your country meant something and teams respected the decision. Maybe I am off base but I thought the Europe's hockey season was based around the International schedule?
I say Markstrom could be the goaltender of the tournament because he could a big part of Sweden's success. It will help that he will have a strong defense in front of him but still think he will have to carry the load. There offense is good but not great like Canada's, the United States, or Russia's.
I also think Canada's goalies won't be as strong as in year's past. They do have three goalies with big tournament experience. What makes Markstrom standout is he's playing against men on a weak team. Tyson Sexsmith and Dustin Tokarski are on pretty strong teams. I don't think Canada won't put up the goddy numbers as in years past with not too many 19 year olds on the team this year.
It doesn't mean I don't think Canada isn't going to win gold because until they are knocked off they are the team to beat. I feel Markstom could be JS Giguere of the 2002-2003 playoffs where Giguere won the Conn Smythe even though the Mighty Ducks lost in the Finals.
Who knows I could be completely wrong because Dustin Tokarski is very good in a short tournament as we saw at the Memorial Cup. Jake Allen did come out of no where at the World Under 18's last year.
I am just throwing an idea out there because fans always forget what European nations are bringing for goaltenders.
That's My Take
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)