LA Kings: Three important takeaways in Team USA’s loss to Russia in WJC

(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

Alex Turcotte and Team USA had a difficult night against Russia on Friday. Here are three takeaways from the LA Kings prospects in WJC action.

Heading into the opening game of the 2021 World Junior Championships tournament, Team USA had a frustrating 60 minutes of play against Team Russia. The Americans entered the night having won their last five over Russia, but it was evident from the get-go that Friday’s contest would be difficult. The LA Kings had both Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev on Team USA’s top line, with Brock Faber on the third pairing.

In the second period, Russia jumped out to a 4-1 lead. The US scored two late goals in the third period, but a demoralizing empty-netter destroyed any hope of a comeback.

Here are three takeaways from the contest that should be monitored heading into Saturday’s matchup against Austria.

1. Brock Faber played well beyond his years.

Prior to joining Team USA at the World Junior Championships selection camp, Brock Faber had just six collegiate starts to his name. He’s no stranger playing for the US, developed under new Ontario Reign head coach John Wroblewski at the USNTDP in Plymouth, Michigan. The LA Kings moved up in the 2020 NHL Draft, selecting Faber with the 45th overall pick in the second round.

He played well in the warm-up against Finland, notably breaking up a two-on-one rush. The defense had its problems against Russia, with sloppy play in their own zone, but Brock Faber continued to show why he was a second-round pick. The 18-year-old led all skaters — on both teams, for that matter — with five controlled exits and five defensive zone breakups. He continues to be a calm, steady presence along the blue line.

2. Alex Turcotte was great in transition, but…

After being a non-factor at the WJC last year, we pegged Turcotte as a breakout candidate in this year’s tournament. The LA Kings’ fifth overall pick in 2019 played well in transition, leading all skaters with nine offensive zone entries while also chipping in one defensive zone breakup and two defensive zone exits. He played much better beginning in the second half of the second period. By that point, it was a 4-1 deficit, and Nate Leaman’s group finally opened things up a bit.

The Russian defense was suffocating for all US skaters, but Turcotte struggled to get anything going offensively. He had difficulties winning faceoffs early on in the game — at one point, he was 2-for-10. But Turcotte finished with a 40 percent faceoff win rate. His -3 rating is misleading, given the sloppy play in Team USA’s zone, and he was on the ice for Russia’s empty-netter.

3. Arthur Kaliyev looks like a player who hasn’t played a meaningful game in ten months.

After scoring two goals against Russia in last year’s tournament, Arthur Kaliyev had a disappointing showing this time around. He played well in the warm-up against Finland, lighting the lamp in front of the net, but against an aggressive Russian defense, Kaliyev looked like a player who hadn’t seen live-game action in nearly ten months. During the second period, he was dropped to the second line in place of Cole Caufield.

He later returned to the top line in the third period, but Kaliyev struggled to do much of anything. The 19-year-old logged just one defensive zone exit and one offensive zone entry. At times, he looked slow. Look for Turcotte and Kaliyev to have a bounceback performance against Team Austria on Saturday, who aren’t as strong at the back end as Russia. Austria, of course, is led by ninth overall pick Marco Rossi on the offensive side.

Team Canada

Quinton Byfield and Jordan Spence will officially kick off 2021 WJC play on Saturday, facing a shorthanded German team that fell to Finland by a 5-3 score. Fans will get a preview of Byfield versus number three overall pick Tim Stutzle, but Germany could still be severely limited due to positive COVID cases on their roster.


Saturday, Dec. 26

Czech Republic vs. Sweden, 2 p.m. ET

Canada vs. Germany, 6 p.m. ET

Austria vs. United States, 9:30 p.m. ET