Oiler fans had their first opportunity to watch one of their prospects at the 2021 World Junior Championships on Saturday morning. Swedish captain Philip Broberg was in action against the Czech Republic in their opening game of the tournament. The 2019 first-round pick found himself on Sweden’s top pairing alongside Tobias Bjornfot as Sweden tried to extend their preliminary-round winning streak to 53 games.
The Czechs weren’t going to make things easy for the Tre Kroner, as they came out firing against the more established Sweden. The play was fast and loose for the majority of the first period, with each team trading chances at both ends of the ice. Broberg showed well early on, making a nice play to keep the puck in the Czech zone early on and cutting the angle on an attacking forward to stop a good chance.
The Czech Republic would wind up on the board first after Jan Mysak deposited a nifty tic-tac-toe goal on the powerplay to give them a 1-0 lead. The lead would be short-lived as, Arizona draft pick, Victor Soderstrom sent a seeing-eye pass to Arvid Costmar who tipped in the equalizer a mere 30 seconds after the Czech marker. We had a 1-1 game at the midway point of the first period.
Broberg would show off his skating and size later on in the period, taking the puck off the faceoff and circling the net a few times before nearly getting a wrap-around chance past the Czech goaltender. Alas, no goal. Sweden would get into some penalty trouble late in the period but the tie would stand going into the second.
The power-play fortunes would shift toward Sweden in the middle frame. After killing off a number of their own penalties, the Swedes would get their first chance on the PP early on. Albin Sundsvik would pounce on a puck bouncing off the backboards sending it between the skate of the Czech goalie and the post. Broberg would pick up a secondary assist on the goal to give him his first point of the tourney.
Lady luck would continue to help Sweden as a misplay at the Swedish blueline would send Emil Heineman on a break where he zipped a shot through Nick Malik’s five-hole. Broberg picks up his second assist on the play as the Swedes opened up a 3-1 lead. They weren’t quite done there as, late in the period, Broberg would make a smooth give and go play and send a shot over the Czech net that would bounce back in front. Theodor Niederbach would be there to tap it into an empty cage. Sweden takes a demanding 4-1 lead into the final frame while Philip Broberg picked up three(!) assists.
The third period saw Sweden continue their dominance. They were all over the Czechs and carried the majority of the play. They added to their lead early into the period as Elmer Soderblom potted a cheeky between the legs shot in an early goal of the tournament candidate. Then again later in the period as Bjornfot fed Oscar Bjerselius to give Sweden an insurmountable 6-1 lead late in the game. Noel Gunler would then add a powerplay marker before the game ended, giving Sweden a convincing 7-1 win in their tournament opener.
Broberg took home player of the game honours for Team Sweden after picking up three assists.
Final Thoughts on Broberg:
If he wasn’t the best player in the game he was most certainly the best defenceman. He showed off what he is capable of in both ends of the ice with some stellar defensive play and some great plays in the offensive zone. His three assists kickstarted Sweden in the second period and helped propel them to their 7-1 romp.
If I were to be nitpicky it would that he sometimes rushed the puck without any real plan and that led to a few preventable turnovers. The positives of his play far outweighed the negatives and he deserves high praise for his play in this one. As team captain, he led Sweden in ice time AND points.
He will be back in action on Monday as Sweden takes on Austria.