Well, that certainly was a roller coaster. The World Juniors had just gotten underway when the whole thing crumbled apart due to what looks to be negligence on the IIHF’s behalf or, at the very least, some very poor planning. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler and Daily Faceoff’s Chris Peters have done a fantastic job of reporting from this tournament as well as documenting the fiasco with the hotel situation in Red Deer. It’s a mess overall and I sincerely hope that they find a way to bring back not just the World Juniors, but the women’s U18 tournament and all other events that were cancelled.
The World Junior Championship is the biggest stage for junior level prospects and might be the highest stage that some of these players reach in their careers. Representing your country is a tremendous honor and one that these players don’t take lightly. Not convinced? Look at how the German team celebrated after beating the Czechs in the preliminary round. Hell, the Austrians were happy to score twice against Canada. It’s a tremendous feat to make it to the highest level in junior hockey.
Every prospect worked their tail off to get to this point in their careers. For seven of the 10 Canes prospects at the World Juniors, this is their last opportunity to represent their respective countries at the World Juniors. Only Ville Koivunen, Aleksi Heimosalmi and Nikita Quapp will be eligible to participate in next year’s tournament.
Over the first few games, I was able to compile notes on nine out of 10 prospects. Scott Morrow didn’t get a chance to play for the United States in their only game of the tournament, and since I didn’t watch the preliminary game on December 23, I can’t speak on it. From what I’ve heard, he had a rough game and had a turnover that led to a goal for the Finns. Below, you can find notes on the nine other prospects at this tournament. With so few games, it was hard to get a lot of notes, but I hope this gives you all a better understanding of our prospects if you were unable to watch some of the games.
- His speed is a weapon and he utilizes it to surprise attacking players and create space.
- Seeley can quarterback a power play given his skating ability and skill with the puck. His vision in the offensive zone has improved leaps and bounds over the past year.
- He is starting to develop more of an edge to his game. Doesn’t hesitate to play physically and get involved in board battles
- Needs work on his decision making still. Getting better with each passing game but he can make some ill-timed pinches that can spring the opposition on an odd man rush.
- I love the way that Seeley creates offense through his shot. He utilizes it almost as a pass, setting up a rebound and an easy tap-in goal for his teammates.
- Insanely smart. Knows exactly where he needs to be and it’s as if he can pinpoint the exact moment that a spot will be open for him to create offense. He can break down a play in his head before it happens and attack.
- Koivunen has to be one of the hardest workers and I’d argue that aside from maybe Kemell, he has the best shot on Finland’s roster.
- Foot speed is still a weak point, although he has gotten a little quicker. Koivunen was lagging behind a bit in transition but found a way to make it work in his favor due to how smart he is.
- Would love to see Koivunen in North America next year if possible. Star potential.
- Quick, skilled and another Finn with high levels of hockey sense. Heimosalmi was in his element through the first two games for the Finns, making plays happen and carrying the puck in transition.
- Would like to see him take smarter shots or look to pass. Took a lot of shots that were off target or easily caught, which then killed offensive momentum for Finland.
- Great positioning in the defensive zone. Was able to break up a number of plays and seal off forwards along the boards.
- Not much stands out about how he plays other than his foot speed and defensive positioning, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s a reliable defenseman that rarely makes a mistake.
- I didn’t like Nybeck in either game. I thought he was outmatched and struggled to get the puck out of his own end on occasion. Sweden’s fourth line was their weakest link and it showed, with Nybeck failing to take on a larger role.
- Skating has improved and he’s a bulldozer on the ice. Plays a heavy game that can create space for his teammates to work with.
- Ponomaryov’s strength has improved this year and in spite of a lack of points in this tournament, he was able to make his teammates look better. I thought that his play in the offensive and neutral zone was impressive.
- Speed is one of his best assets
- A better two way forward that most undersized forwards
- Not overly selfish and plays off of his teammates rather than relying on individual skill
- Incredibly quick and skilled, but needed Ponomaryov to create space before he was able to start creating some dangerous scoring chances.
- Can make a lot of things happen on his own and has some dazzling puck skills
- Very little panic in his game
- Always in position to make the first stop. Tracks the puck at an above average to elite level and can react to it quickly
- Rebound control needs work. He’ll stop the first chance, but might give up a juicy rebound.
Hopefully we get to see these players again when the IIHF re-opens the World Juniors. If not, hopefully we get an in-person development camp for the first time since 2019.