The U20 Four Nations Tournament began today in Russia, with Finland taking on Sweden in the opening game. The tournament serves as a sort of supplement to the World Junior Summer Showcase, as the rosters typically consist of lower-level prospects who did not make the cut for the main camp. The Rangers have three prospects participating in the tournament; Leevi Altonen with Finland, and Adam Edstrom plus Simon Kjellberg for Sweden.
Leevi Altonen, a fifth-round selection this past June, is the most notable of the three, and he was one of Finland’s better players in their 6-5 overtime win. Aaltonen displayed the riveting skating he is known for, pushing the pace on multiple occasions.
Here he (#10 Blue) is closing down on the puck carrier and helping to force a turnover. Then, he uses great crossover work to pull the puck from the boards and create a play from the middle of the ice, setting up a great shooting opportunity (which his teammates promptly threw away).
Aaltonen would get his assist later in the game. Recognizing an offensive-zone turnover and a prone Swedish unit, Aaltonen headed to the net and put the puck across the crease, where his teammate slotted it into the gaping net.
Adam Edstrom, taken in the sixth round in 2019, made what I believe is his major international debut for Sweden. To start the game, he was mostly used as a spare forward and rarely saw the ice. However, as the game went on his did start to earn a more regular shift. As one might expect for a 6’6 forward with long range, he featured on Sweden’s penalty kill.
This was my first viewing of Edstrom, and that small sample confirmed a few of the things Alex and Tobias had mentioned in their scouting reports. For his size, Edstrom is an adequate-at-worst skater. He is pretty mobile and has no issues getting up and down the ice. I did see him get knocked over a few times in situations where he should have had the upper hand. Tobias had previously mentioned to me that core strength was something Edstrom needed to improve.
Finally, Kjellberg played depth minutes on Sweden’s blue line. He was a sixth-round pick in 2018 and did not make the cut for make my Summer 2019 Top-35 NYR Prospect Rankings. One thing I’ll credit him with improvements to his skating. His straight-line speed and agility are better than they were at this time last year. That’s not to say it has progressed beyond concern.
His issues with the puck were highlighted today, as an offensive-zone turnover not only killed his team’s possession, but forced him to take a penalty as Finland went on the transition (#7 in yellow).
The tournament continues through Sunday, so anticipate one more update on these prospects following the weekend.