When the point shot from Detroit Red Wings prospect Axel Sandin Pellikka dented the twine of the Swiss net, it assured that Sweden would live to fight another day in the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Moments later, Sandin Pellikka was wondering whether he’d live to take another breath.
“I felt pure joy. I just want to scream and hug the boys,” Sandin Pellikka told Swedish website Expressen.se.
Be careful what you wish for. Within seconds of scoring the overtime winner for Sweden in Tuesday’s 3-2 WJC quarterfinal victory against Switzerland, Sandin Pellikka found himself at the bottom of a pile of yellow and blue clad Three Crowns teammates.
“It went from joy to pure panic,” Sandin Pellikka said. “I couldn’t breathe, so I yelled at the guys to get off. But I survived, so don’t worry.”
— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) January 2, 2024
Sweden will be meeting Czechia in the semifinals on Thursday in Gothenburg. The Swedes are seeking their first world junior title since 2012. The USA, including Red Wings goalie prospect Trey Augustine (41st overall, 2023 NHL entry draft), and Finland clash in the other semifinal game.
Though his 1-2-3 numbers through six WJC games don’t overwhelm, Sandin Pellikka is drawing rave reviews for overall play at the tournament from hockey people attending the event. It’s a continuation of what’s proving to be a breakout campaign for the defenseman chosen 17th overall by Detroit in the 2023 NHL entry draft.
Playing for Skelleftea, Sandin Pellikka, 18, is leading the league in goals by a defenseman with nine. He’s tallied at least three more goals than any other defender in the league.
Red Wings Pick Johansson A Stopper
While Sandin Pellikka is known for his offensive touch, the other Red Wings prospect patrolling the rearguard for the Swedes is delivering a physical presence for the Swedes. Anton Johansson (105th, 2022) has dished out some punishing hits in the tournament. One of his stiff bodychecks in Sweden’s 2-0 win over Canada led to a verbal exchange between Johansson and the Canadian bench.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 28, 2023
Perhaps the most interesting part of Johansson’s path to this event comes from the knowledge that he’s only been playing defense for four years. Johansson was first a goaltender in youth hockey, stopping pucks through the age of 13. At 14, he gave forward a go for a season. It wasn’t until he turned 15 that Johansson took up with the blueline brigade.
He believes having experienced all positions on the ice has only served to make him a more well-rounded player.
“I think you feel good about trying different things,” Johansson told Expressen.se.