Liljegren, Woll battle in World Junior Semi’s

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 02: Joseph Woll
BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 02: Joseph Woll /

A matchup of two of the top powers in international hockey also offers a look at both of the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects in the World Juniors

The yearly spectacle that is the World Junior Hockey Championships is wrapping up on Friday night as all three medalists will be determined. Before we can get to that, however, we must first see how the tournament semi-finals pan out.

Canada will be matched up against the Czech Republic, who boast several big-name prospects in the upcoming draft.

The bigger semi-final will be the colossal matchup between the United States and Sweden, who are arguably the two most skilled teams in the tournament.

This game features a lot for hockey fans to look forward to. Big name prospects on both sides, both drafted and undrafted, that will fight for a chance at a gold medal.

Toronto Maple Leafs fans have a lot to be excited for in this game as both of the Buds prospects in the tourney — Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Woll — will go head-to-head.

Both have put their stamps on the tournament, and each of them will be key to their respective team’s success in this game.

Liljegren has been the man that has garnered most of the headlines in Leaf-land over the course of the tournament.

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Playing on a Swedish blue line that features fellow 2017 first-rounder Erik Brannstrom and projected 2018 first-overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, the 18-year-old has done his part in getting Sweden to this point.

Through five games, Liljegren has a goal and an assist. He’s brought much more to the table than his stats would indicate though.

His goal came in the final game of the group stage against Russia, where Liljegren jumped down from the blue line to clean up a rebound.

His passing ability and overall play within the offensive zone is what separates Liljegren from other defencemen.

Liljegren’s highlight of the tournament up to now came in Sweden’s second game against the Czech’s, where he threw a pass from behind his own net onto the stick of a teammate standing at centre ice. It led to a goal but Liljegren didn’t get a point from the great play.

Leafs fans know what Liljegren can bring to the table on the offensive end. The bigger question is his defensive ability. It goes without saying that a defender needs to be responsible in his own end. If anything else in this tournament, Liljegren has proven his willingness to lay the body.

He’s been on the end of some big hits laid on opponents during both the group stage and medal rounds.

Liljegren and Brannstrom have played together up to now. They will both be leaned on heavily to shut down the likes of Kieffer Bellows, Casey Mittelstadt, and Brady Tkachuk.

While Liljegren has the eyes of Leafs Nation on him at almost all times, Woll has not had to worry about the burning spotlight in Toronto yet.

For those who aren’t avid viewers of NCAA hockey, this tournament offers the only look at the 2016 third-rounder for the year.

So far in the tournament, Woll has had a below-average tournament. Coming in with a 2.90 Goals Against Average and a .898 save percentage in 15 games with Boston College this season, Woll has registered a 2.26 GAA and a .905 sv% over four appearances for the States.

Woll started the tournament strong with a 17 save shutout in the opening game against Demark. His second start came during the U.S. surprising defeat at the hands of Slovakia.

The only game Woll has not played in was the outdoor game against Canada. Backup Jake Oettinger got the net for that matchup.

When the Americans quarter-final matchup with Russia rolled around, it was once again Woll getting the call in net. He stopped 27 of 29 shots to help his team advance to the semi-finals. His best save came on a split legged effort to deny Vitali Abramov on the doorstep.

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The best case scenario for Leaf fans would be a 1-0 Sweden win, with Liljegren scoring the lone goal. But we know with this tournament, there’s no way a game with this much meaning will play out so simply.