It’s the ultimate hockey prospect showcase.
The 2022 World Junior Championship is finally here, and there’s no shortage of top prospects ready to showcase their talents. This year, every NHL team except for Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders, are represented. In Tampa’s case, nobody feels bad because they’ve won the past two Stanley Cups. The Islanders would have had Aatu Räty, but COVID had other plans.
With that said, Rachel Doerrie and Tony Ferrari are back to give you one last look at some players to watch, this time focusing on one player for each NHL club in a lightning-round edition of our collaborative series:
Anaheim Ducks – C Mason McTavish
After being sent back to junior from Anaheim, the big center is going to be one of Canada’s most important players. If the pre-tournament game is any indication, expect McTavish to get a lot of time at the net-front where he will use his strength and puck skill to score from in tight – the perfect compliment to Kent Johnson. His ability to read the game and find space will make him a difficult player to deal with.
Arizona Coyotes – W Dylan Guenther
The Coyotes will be keeping a close eye on what they hope is their premier goalscorer of the future. Guenther’s calling card is his powerfully accurate shot that he’s able to use because of his knack for being available in the open space. His ability to arrive at the right time and get his shot off quickly is a trait that should cause headaches for the defensive coverage at even strength and on the powerplay.
Boston Bruins – W Fabian Lysell
The young Swede plays with some of the highest pace of any player in the tournament and he should be able to put that on display for the Swedish team who will be in need of some key secondary scoring. Lysell may be the man to provide it with his uptempo game and willingness to attack space in the offensive zone while driving play.
Buffalo Sabres – D Owen Power
After his first overall selection this past summer, Power has done nothing but show that going back to the University of Michigan was the right choice. Having a dominant season in college, Power should thrive in a big role for Canada at the World Juniors. His blend of skating and size along with improved puck skills and decision making should make him a threat to be the tournament’s best blueliner.
Calgary Flames – W Matthew Coronato
One of Calgary’s top prospects gets his first chance with USA Hockey and is going to play a primary offensive role. An excellent passer of the puck, Coronato has the ability to find teammates with direct, indirect and lob passes and his high work rate allows him to quickly steal pucks and transition to offense. He anticipates the play well and will find pockets of space to create high danger scoring opportunities.
Carolina Hurricanes – W Ville Koivunen
With more options than any other team with TEN players representing them at the World Juniors, Ville Koivunen gets the nod here. The Carolina Hurricanes were thrilled to have Koivunen fall into their laps at the draft and his blend of offensive instincts and cerebral playmaking should give him the chance to make an impact for the perennially feisty Finns. He is a threat to score off the rush or make a play when set up in the zone. Look for Koivunen to be a catalyst for the Finns offensive attack.
Chicago Blackhawks – G Drew Commesso
With no Lucas Reichel, we turn our attention to Drew Commesso. The Blackhawks hope their future goaltender can continue his strong play as he’s expected to be the starter for the defending champions. He’s very athletic in his movements and is able to find pucks through traffic. At a tournament where goaltending can be a deciding factor, Commesso’s athleticism may allow him to make one more save than his counterpart.
Colorado Avalanche – W Oskar Olausson
The third member of Sweden’s top line is off to a great start with 25 points in 22 games in the OHL. A returning player, there are few who have the same pure abilities as Olausson. He’s not special with any one thing, but he’s above average in skating, handling, and passing. He uses physicality well to create space on offense and separate players from pucks on defense. He is excellent in transition with how unpredictable he is and will use that to set up Holtz and Eklund for dangerous scoring chances.
Columbus Blue Jackets – D Samuel Kňažko
As Slovakia’s captain, Kňažko will be leaned on heavily on the backend. He has experience playing against men at the Liiga level as well as Olympic qualifying for Slovakia so he should be well adjusted to playing against strong competition. He is excellent on the breakout and should be the beneficiary of Slovakia’s boom of skill at forward as he can move the puck to them and let them dance.
Dallas Stars – W Logan Stankoven
Stankoven has been on a tear this season with 32 points in 22 games. An 18-year old at this tournament, Stankoven may be a high-impact, low-minute guy for Canada. He brings speed, tenacity on the puck and is a threat to score. More importantly, Stankoven brings a defensive toolkit to Canada that will be key to disrupt other top-end players from scoring throughout the tournament. He’s a dark horse candidate to make a high-impact play at a key time for Canada.
Detroit Red Wings – D Simon Edvinsson
While Canadian netminder Sebastian Cossa easily fits the bill for this exercise, it will be the Red Wings’ top pick last summer that fans should be watching. He has been absolutely delightful at the SHL level this season and his game has begun to round out the way everyone in the prospect world had hoped. Whether it’s defensively or offensively, Edvinsson will very likely be the Swede’s best blueliner.
Edmonton Oilers – W Xavier Bourgault
It is no secret that Edmonton could use some scoring on the wings and they’ll be keeping a close eye on Bourgault who is averaging nearly 2 points per game in the QMJHL this season. Bourgault is another dual-threat player, with an accurate shot and the ability to create passing lanes. The key area to watch will be to watch how he plays on the wall, as that is a weakness and may lead to a scenario where he is moved down the lineup if Canada is defending a lead.
Florida Panthers – W Mackie Samoskevich
On a team that will have to score by committee, Samoskevich very likely could emerge as one of the American’s more proficient scorers. With the high-level puck skills and silky passing ability, the Michigan Wolverine’s forward will be looked at to put the puck on his teammates’ stick in prime scoring positions.
Los Angeles Kings – D Helge Grans
LA’s second-best defensive prospect is going to play a key role on Sweden’s blue line at the tournament. Playing the AHL, Grans is averaging half a point per game and his heavy shot from the point will be a threat every game. Outside of his offensive gifts, Grans is an excellent puck-mover and transition defender on the right side.
Minnesota Wild – D Jack Peart
We’ve already covered Khusnutdinov and Wallstedt in our drafted piece, so let’s look at Peart. On a USA blue line that boasts some excellent puck movers, Peart shows that he belongs. His ability to read coverage, break the forecheck and break out is excellent. His ability to move laterally allows him to walk the blue line, jump into lanes and defend the rush very well. With 10 points as a freshman at St. Cloud State, don’t be surprised if he puts up a few points, too.
Montreal Canadiens – D Kaiden Guhle
Captain Canada, Kaiden Guhle! The two-way defender is one of the most vocal players on the ice at all times and that goes for talking to his own team and the opponents. He is willing to throw the body, jump into the offensive rush and fill any role that coach Dave Cameron asks of him. Watch for him to play in all situations and be a factor for the Canadians every game.
Nashville Predators – G Yaroslav Askarov
This wasn’t a difficult choice. Askarov is one of the best goaltending prospects in two decades and gets his third crack at the WJC, rarified air for a Russian player. He’s posted a respectable .904 in the KHL this season and against his peers in Russia, has been extremely difficult to beat with his flexibility and reaction time. Russia’s blue line leaves a lot to be desired and if they are to challenge at this tournament, Askarov will have to show why he’s been touted as the next great Russian goaltender.
New Jersey Devils – D Luke Hughes
Is this the coming-out party for the youngest Hughes brother? The incredibly skilled offensive blueliner will have a chance to create offensively. With limited firepower upfront for the Americans this year, Hughes may be given the run to be that fourth forward we saw so much at the NTDP the last couple of years. His impact will go a long way to the U.S. success at this year’s World Juniors.
New York Islanders – Should have been Aatu Räty
Unfortunately, Räty is going to have to wait a bit to continue his redemption tour. The young Finnish center has been a force since his transfer in Liiga this season, with 13 points in 11 games for Jukurit. When he has an opportunity in the top-six, he will produce and he’s done it this year. Unfortunately, COVID has prevented him from traveling with Finland which means he will be left out of the tournament for the second year in a row.
New York Rangers – G Dylan Garand
The lone returning goaltender for Canada may end up their starter. He was excellent in the pre-tournament game against Russia, and will provide a steady presence in the crease. He’s been excellent in the WHL this season, looking unbeatable for long stretches. His lateral movement is calculated and precise, rarely oversliding or losing the net. Canada has had goaltending issues at this tournament and Garand may be the key to solving those concerns this year.
Ottawa Senators – D Tyler Kleven
We’ve all heard about Jake Sanderson and the role he’s expected to play for the USA as captain but fellow defender Tyler Kleven may be the player to really keep your eye on. His role last year was fairly minor but the hard-hitting defensive blueliner will look to put his mark on this year’s event and help keep the U.S. afloat in some games where they don’t have the firepower up front to keep up.
Philadelphia Flyers – D Emil Andrae
The Swedes had plenty of high-end talent to look at when it came down to naming their leadership group and it was the undersized blueliner Emil Andrae that they chose to give the ‘C’ to. He moves the puck well up ice from the defensive zone and shows skilled passing all over the ice. The 5’9” defender plays with a tonne of confidence with and without the puck.
Pittsburgh Penguins – G Joel Blomqvist
Likely starting the tournament competing for playing time with Leevi Meriläinen, Blomqvist will have his work cut out for him. He has had success at lower levels of international play but the composed and technically sound netminder has had a hard time carving out a role at the U20 level. A strong tournament could go a long way towards boosting his status as a possible long-term answer in net for the Penguins.
San Jose Sharks – W William Eklund
Starting the year in the NHL before being sent back to Sweden, Eklund has had a solid season thus far. Getting the opportunity to head back to the World Juniors will be fun for the young Swede as COVID took him out of the running last season. He is one of the most pro-ready players in this tournament and his dynamic scoring presence will be a sight to behold for a Swedish team that will be relying on him and Alexander Holtz on the top line to produce in a big way.
Seattle Kraken – C Matty Beniers
One of the top prospects in the tournament, Beniers is a two-way pivot that will be relied upon at both ends of the ice. He’s a primary puck carrier that uses crossovers and deception to exit and enter zones. He’ll play both special teams and be counted on to contribute offensively while shutting down the best players on the other teams.
St Louis Blues – C Tanner Dickinson
Dickinson is a prime example of playing your way onto the team with an excellent start to the season. The fourth-round pick has 33 points in 24 games in the Soo this season and possesses standout speed. He consistently beats defencemen wide with the change of pace and will create scoring chances and draw penalties off the rush. Dickinson’s speed will be an asset on the forecheck and the penalty kill as well.
Tampa Bay Lightning – No Participant
Just enjoy your back-to-back cups and leave the prospects to teams who can’t beat you. Enjoy the festivities.
Toronto Maple Leafs – C Roni Hirvonen
One of Finland’s most important players with the absence of Aatu Räty due to COVID, Hirvonen will be asked to take on a lot. The two-way center will be leaned on at both ends of the ice and he’ll have the ‘C’ on his chest to boot. Smart, decisive, and solid in all aspects, Hirvonen is worth watching.
Vancouver Canucks – C Dmitry Zlodeyev
The lone Canucks prospect will play a bottom-six role for Russia, where he will effectively use his high motor and speed to forecheck, retrieve loose pucks and win battles. He reads the play well and is able to move off the puck to create passing lanes for his teammates. With the puck, he looks to pass to the middle of the ice and uses deception move defenders into bad areas.
Vegas Golden Knights – D Lukas Cormier
Cormier has the potential to be Canada’s powerplay specialist. He possesses an excellent shot and he is not afraid to use it. He finds lanes well and in a chaotic tournament, his shot should cause all kinds of rebounds at the net front. He’s a good one-on-one defender and is able to accelerate the breakout with simple decisions.
Washington Capitals – W Oskar Magnusson
The lone player representing the Washington Capitals, Magnusson is a player who plays at a high pace and loves to utilize his skill in one-on-one open ice situations. He attacks space and finds passing lanes quite well. He certainly isn’t a household name but a strong performance in a secondary scoring role for the Swedes could be huge for the 2020 seventh-round pick.
Winnipeg Jets – C/RW Chaz Lucius
A high-level sniper, Lucius will be looked at as one of the key scorers on a team that doesn’t have anyone to look to as ‘The Guy’. Lucius has a ridiculous shot and can shoot from a variety of angles and positions in the offensive zone. He has some mobility issues but at the junior level, he likely won’t have too much of an issue. His playmaking ability doesn’t get spoken about but he understands that his shot is such a viable weapon that opponents have to respect it and open up passing lanes for Lucius.