United States Hockey League (USHL)

Frank Nazar, Jacob Fowler Highlight Day 2 At World Junior Summer Showcase

Frank Nazar, Jacob Fowler Highlight Day 2 At World Junior Summer Showcase

Montreal Canadiens prospect Jacob Fowler and Chicago Blackhawks pick Frank Nazar had particularly impressive games at the World Junior Summer Showcase.

Aug 1, 2023 by Chris Peters

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The World Junior Summer Showcase rolled on with two explosive games for the U.S. split squads. USA Blue shook off getting blown out two days ago by Sweden by earning a 4-1 win over Finland, while USA White steamrolled Sweden, 10-1, in the night cap.

After a tough first day of games, the Americans found their footing and many of their top candidates made a significant impact for their respective teams. Throughout the World Junior Summer Showcase, I’ll be sharing thoughts on all the players who have been trying to make cases for themselves to play for their respective countries at the World Junior Championship.

ALSO READ: Day 1 Standouts

Here’s a little more info on each game as well as notes on players that stood out or that I had a few thoughts to share about.

World Junior Summer Showcase: Day 2, Game 1 

Final Score

USA Blue 4 – Finland 1

Goal scorers: Paul Fischer (STL), Gavin Brindley (CBJ), Gabe Perreault (NYR), Danny Nelson (NYI), Lenni Hämeenäho (NJD)

Player Notes

Jacob Fowler, G (Montreal Canadiens): Though he didn’t see many tough chances in the game, there were a few instances where Finland got pressure and Fowler found a way to get in front of the shots. His ability to see pucks through traffic and hold his ground is something that will be critical at higher levels. He reads plays well, makes a lot of the easy saves, but he has the instincts to recover when he has to. It looked like a pretty typical Jacob Fowler performance with 17 saves on 18 shots.

Will Smith, C (San Jose Sharks): The dynamic skills Smith brings to the table makes him a threat every shift. He had two assists in the game and was making defenders miss routinely. His ability to escape pressure and buy himself or his linemates more time is such an impressive tool. I think he’s been using his outlets well and not trying to take on too much on his own.

Gabe Perreault, LW (New York Rangers): Reunited with Smith for portions of the game, Perreault seemed to really get his groove back after a relatively quiet opener. He made some incredible passes and ended up scoring a goal with a quick release. He was more engaged in the game. There were a few instances where Perreault made an extra pass when he didn’t need to and sometimes you’d like to see him shoot it more, but there was a lot to like there.

Danny Nelson, LW (New York Islanders): Nelson’s size and strength were more evident today and he was rewarded with a goal off of a net-front scramble. He was skating through checks and fighting through traffic, while also throwing his weight around a bit more. There was a lot to like about his overall performance and you can start to see the ways a player with his size and work ethic could claw his way into a roster spot.

James Hagens, C (2025): Hagens played in a couple of different spots in the lineup and really seemed to gel with anyone. He created Nelson’s goal with a high-end skill play to get to the interior and his initial chance created the rebound that Nelson scored on. Despite not having tremendous size, Hagens was able to battle through checks and when he had the puck on his stick, he made things happen.

Seamus Casey, D (New Jersey Devils): Casey continued his strong camp with some good plays with the puck on his stick and also delivered a massive check that took Jesse Kiiskinen out for the remainder of the game. The hit looked clean in real time, but it was certainly violent. Casey has definitely gotten stronger and while the body checking like that probably won’t be a staple of his game, it was a heck of a pop.

Paul Fischer, D (St. Louis Blues): With a goal, he got his name on the scoresheet. Defensively, I thought Fischer looked very strong. He held his ground well, withstood some hard forechecks and was getting pucks up ice effectively. He’s not much of a goal scorer, but he looked like it on a nice one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle. USA’s D competition is wide open and he’ll be among the players that get some long consideration.

Gavin Hayes, RW (Chicago Blackhawks): Hayes has looked strong through two games, using his size and strength to his advantage. He’s made a few good plays including an assist against Finland, but I do want to see him finish a few more of the chances that are in front of him. He probably should have hit the scoresheet a few more times, but he’s putting himself in good spots.

Aron Kiviharju, D (2024): One of the top draft-eligible defensemen this year, Kiviharju looks like he’ll be a substantial piece of Finland’s World Junior entry. Even though Finland had a tough time generating and Kiviharju got overpowered a few times, you see all the tools he has. There’s a smoothness to his game and an easiness to the way he plays. He’s a special player who is mature beyond his years on the ice. It wasn’t his best game, but he was consistently noticeable.

Lenni Hämeenäho, RW (NJD): He scored the only goal of the game and it was a pretty one as he slipped behind the defense and made a spectacular move to beat Jacob Fowler on his backhand. He had a few other moments in the game where he was more of a threat, which is more than you can say for most of his teammates.

World Junior Summer Showcase Day 2, Game 2

Final Score

USA White 10 – Sweden 1

Goal Scorers: Frank Nazar (CHI) – 4 goals; Cutter Gauthier (PHI) – 2 goals; Lane Hutson (MTL), William Whitelaw (CBJ), Eric Pohlkamp (SJS), Anton Johansson (DET).

Player Notes 

Frank Nazar, C (Chicago Blackhawks): A five-point performance against a Swedish team that looked like a machine two days ago was just what the doctor ordered for Nazar who was injured for last year’s World Juniors. He put up four goals and added an assist, showing his speed, skill and tenacity. He looked like he did in his draft season when Chicago made him a first-round draft pick. Nazar’s ability to separate and get to the interior was on full display. After missing most of last year to injury, he looks like he’s back in a real way. 

Lane Hutson, D (Montreal Canadiens): Hutson had a goal and two assists, but the goal was something else. He froze two defensemen while he was behind Sweden’s net. Instead of passing, he took what was given to him, popped to the front and put the puck in. When the puck is on his stick, special things happen. He was good in transition, made some great passes that led to goals and showed why he is likely to be USA’s No. 1 defenseman at the World Juniors.

Isaac Howard, LW (Tampa Bay Lightning): It’s good to see Howard finding his game again. He had a pair of assists and was playing on Nazar’s wing with great results. The skill level is there, but he was also playing aggressively and trying to engage physically. Seeing positive results after last season where things just didn’t go his way was important for his candidacy to make this roster.

Ryan Leonard, RW (Washington Capitals): He scored USA’s opening goal, but I thought Leonard impacted the game in so many ways. He was physical, he was aggressive and he took pucks to the net. His ability to get off shots from tough spots and challenge goalies is one of the many goal scorer’s traits he clearly possesses. I never doubted he’d be on this team, but with each day at this camp, he looks more like a lock.

Eric Pohlkamp, D (San Jose Sharks): An abrasive offensive defenseman can be rare, but I think that’s what Pohlkamp is. He plays with some edge and he doesn’t back down from challenges from larger forwards. He stopped a few of Sweden’s bigger forwards in their tracks just by holding his ground. He also scored a goal off of a nice faceoff win by Nazar that Pohlkamp wasted no time with. He has an uphill battle to make this team, but he’s showing how useful he can be in the right kind of minutes.

Cutter Gauthier, C (Philadelphia Flyers): I thought Gauthier was looking frustrated early in the game and took a bad penalty as a result. However, he had a big-time third period, scoring two nice goals, one off the rush where he sold a pass before unleashing a quick shot and another where he found a loose puck, calmly corralled it in traffic and deposited it into the upper corner of the net. His size, speed, athleticism and skill all give him the inside track on being USA’s No. 1 center come December.

Trey Augustine, G (Detroit Red Wings): Augustine only played the first two periods and wasn’t tested much. He made 13 saves on 14 shots, with the only goal coming on a five-on-three power play for Sweden. He was dialed in throughout, making key saves including one where he flashed the leather and some where he made a few tough pad saves in traffic. He’s reliable and played a predictable game.

William Whitelaw, RW (Columbus Blue Jackets): The release on Whitelaw’s shot for the second goal of the game was incredibly quick. It was his most noticeable moment in the contest, but not the only time he stood out. Whitelaw doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff and was fighting through checks and making plays in the dirty areas. He has really good hands and he seems to be unlocking more of his potential. I don’t know if there will be a spot for him on the final roster, but he’s at least giving them something to think about.

Anton Johansson, D (Detroit Red Wings): Not a ton to write home about for Sweden, who was a bit listless in this affair. Johansson scored the lone goal on the power play and used his size well, making a few physical plays. I’ve heard concerns about his skating, but I think his footwork has looked fine here and he’s made some plays on top of that.