Wings prospect Jesper Eliasson looks to take another big stride toward Detroit
Plymouth — Red Wings draft choice Jesper Eliasson knows he's a long ways from competing for a job in Detroit, but the 19-year-old goalie from Sweden is confident he's on the right track at the World Junior Summer Showcase this week.
Eliasson is one of three goalies who are competing for the No. 1 position with the Swedish national junior team during the four-team tournament, which features many of the best under-20 players from Sweden, United States, Canada and Finland and continues through Aug. 3 at USA Hockey Arena.
A third-round pick by the Wings in the 2018 NHL Draft, Eliasson wants to help the national team improve on last year's disappointing performance at the world championship in Vancouver.
The team failed to medal and lost in the quarterfinals, 2-0, to Switzerland. This year's tournament is in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
"I've always dreamed of playing in the world junior championship," said Eliasson, who posted a 2.43 goals against average and .919 save percentage with the Vaxjo Lakers in Sweden's SuperElit League last year.
Sweden's U20 national coach Tomas Monten said Eliasson has made big strides from last year and will keep an eye on his development.
"He had a really good year last year and he was in the mix to make our team," Monten said. "He's a big kid and should do well playing at the second-pro level this year."
In Eliasson's debut against Team USA's Blue team on Saturday afternoon, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound netminder from Eksjo, Sweden allowed three first-period goals by Alex Turcotte, Blake McLaughlin and John Beecher in a 4-2 loss. Cole Caufield added an empty-net goal in the third period.
"The first goal was on me," Eliasson said. "I wasn't really ready. The second goal was a breakaway and the third goal was a redirection in front of the net. It was my first game of the season and my timing and reaction was off. I can play better."
Monten said the entire team got off to a slow start after "a long trip" from Sweden before the opening game.
"It's just the 27th of July," Monten said. "I think Jesper battled through. He played a lot better in the second and third periods and gave us a chance to tie the game at the end. The U.S. was just too fast and we had to chase them for the first 40 minutes."
Monten said Eliasson will benefit this year from being loaned to a different team in the Allsvenskan League.
"He played with a little bit smaller club last year," Monten said. "Getting to a bigger club and a contender will help him become more professional. He'll be able to practice in the mornings before school and at nights after school. He just needs to work on his development."
Eliasson was in Detroit last month for the Red Wings' development camp at Little Caesars Arena and he said it "was fun to see how you measure up against the other goaltenders in the organization."
"Getting drafted by the Red Wings was a dream come true," he said. "They have a lot of history, a lot of success and I'm proud to be part of the Red Wings."
In Sweden's second game on Sunday, goalie Erik Portillo (third-round pick by the Sabres in 2019) got the start in a 2-1 overtime win against the U.S. White team. The backup goalie was Olof Lindbom, a second-round pick from the Rangers in 2018.
Finland's Otto Kivenmaki, a seventh-round draft choice by the Red Wings in 2018, had an assist in Saturday's 3-2 win over USA White.
The 5-8, 140-pound Kivenmaki was held scoreless in Sunday's 7-1 loss to USA Blue. Joel Farabee and John Beecher had two goals apiece for the U.S.
"He's (Kivenmaki) not physically ready now but in a couple of years, he'll be ready," Finland U20 coach Raimo Helminen said. "He has a bright future and as he gets more and more ice time, he'll get better and better.
"He reminds me of (Red Wings center) Valtteri Filppula, who was one of our best players in Finland. He (Filppula) can battle, can make a play, can score, can play defense. He's a great player."
World Junior Summer Showcase
All games at USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Saturday: Finland 3, USA White 2
Saturday: USA Blue 4, Sweden 2
Sunday: USA Blue 7, Finland 1
Sunday: Sweden 2, USA White 1 (OT)
Tuesday: Canada vs. USA (4 p.m.)
x-Wednesday: Canada vs. Finland (1 p.m.)
x-Wednesday: USA vs. Sweden (4 p.m.)
x-Friday: Canada vs. Sweden (1 p.m.)
x-Friday: USA vs. Finland (4 p.m.)
x-Saturday, Aug. 3: Sweden vs. Finland (1 p.m.)
x-Saturday, Aug. 3: Canada vs. USA (4 p.m.)
x-Game on NHL Network