The World Junior Championships commenced on Tuesday with the Americans taking home the gold over Canada in a 2-0 shutout. Ryan Suzuki was the only Canes’ prospect to bring home hardware being a part of the silver medal Canadian squad.
In total, four prospects took part in the tournament representing three countries. 2019 first-round pick Ryan Suzuki for Team Canada, 2020 second-round pick Vasiliy Ponomarev for Team Russia, and 2020 second-round and fourth-round picks, Noel Gunler and Zion Nybeck, for Team Sweden.
The tournament had a few big story lines throughout seeing Sweden’s 54-game WJC preliminary winning streak fall at the hands of Russia and having Team Canada nearly pitch a perfect tournament by not conceding a single 5v5 goal until the Finals.
For the Canes though, one of the most impressive outings was that of Gunler. Although his team didn’t get past the first round of the elimination bracket, his four goals in Sweden’s five games were impressive. Gunler has always been touted for his shot, and the World Juniors gave him a bit of time to display that skill.
Noel Gunler put up a pair of goals in Sweden's 4-0 win over Austria.— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) December 29, 2020
His first of the game resembled his first of the tournament, a laser quick shot top shelf, in and out in an instant. pic.twitter.com/kSlh1vi3tp
Noel Gunler's team-leading 4th goal of the #WorldJuniors was a big one.— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) December 31, 2020
It wasn't a snipe like the first three, but they count all the same – and this forced overtime against , though then saw its 54-game preliminary round winning streak(!!) come to an end. pic.twitter.com/ruXeZ86p3J
Unfortunately, Team Sweden would lose in the first elimination round to Team Finland, so Gunler wouldn’t get much more time to showcase his shot.
Another standout for the tournament was Ponomarev. Not only did he pick up three goals during the tournament, but he also did it while playing on Russia’s fourth line. Even then, he was always noticeable on the ice, hounding the puck and making plays with his limited time.
Vasiliy Ponomarev also has a quick release, here the beneficiary of a USA turnover. pic.twitter.com/kXghELuAaw— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) December 29, 2020
Vasiliy Ponomarev tallied a shorthanded goal to help defeat 2-1 in Saturday's #WorldJuniors quarterfinals.— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) January 3, 2021
As Russia wins a board battle, nice awareness by Ponomarev to slide behind the German defense. A great one-touch outlet pass and a skilled finish. pic.twitter.com/XQsGHm4GuB
After a big loss to Canada in the semi-finals and then the loss in the bronze medal match to Finland, Russia will look to regroup for next year and one of Team Russia’s relied upon staples should be Pnomarev who should get an elevated role and time.
Another player who should see an elevated role next year is Zion Nybeck. Nybeck had only a lone assist in Sweden’s five games, but he was only getting fourth line minutes. Nybeck is also a player on the smaller end, so it will be interesting to see how he looks next year.
The final prospect at the WJC was the only one to come away with any hardware. Suzuki was one of the 20 first-round picks representing Team Canada and he put up a fair stat line of two goals and four points in seven games.
While it was unfortunate, Kirby Dach’s injury did make room for Suzuki to have a more stable role with the team. He was projected to be the 13th forward on the roster, but Dach’s absence allowed Suzuki to get steady time on the fourth line and second power play unit.
Ryan Suzuki with the primary assist here. Nice cross-ice pass https://t.co/UDmFaKfXeB— Andrew Schnittker (@aschnitt53) January 5, 2021
While none of the Hurricanes’ prospects were tournament standouts, the higher rated ones all made substantial impacts with their teams. Gunler showed off his elite shooting skills that will hopefully transition well to the NHL, Suzuki played dependable hockey downt he stretch and Ponomarev showcased his relentless engine, positioning and stick work.
While Nybeck wasn’t too exciting at the tournament, their is the chance for next year’s tournament to be a more promising event for him. Along with him, Canes fans should also expect to see Ponomarev to return as well as Seth Jarvis to make Team Canada and potentially Alexsander Pashin for Team Russia.