EDMONTON – What a month.
After having to restart fresh in August due to COVID-19’s rein of terror on the usual Christmas time affair, the 2022 World Junior Championship managed to go off without a hitch in Edmonton this month. Canada beat Finland 3-2 for gold in an unforgettable final, highlighted by Mason McTavish’s huge stick save before Kent Johnson scored at the other end.
Here’s a look at 20 standout performers over the past two weeks — not necessarily in order — that helped make the tournament so interesting:
Mason McTavish, C (CAN, Anaheim)
McTavish was named tournament MVP, which isn’t exactly surprising given his resume up until this point. He led the world juniors with 17 points — one of the highest outputs ever — and seemed to find chemistry with just about anyone. A big, strong, smart forward, McTavish is ready for the NHL — perhaps as a goaltender after that wicked save in OT on Saturday.
Logan Stankoven, C (CAN, Dallas)
The tournament’s best faceoff man, Stankoven was incredibly impactful throughout the event and was a big reason why Canada advanced to the gold medal game in the first place with a big effort against Czechia. With 10 points, Stankoven was a big-time secondary scorer and was awarded one of Canada’s top three play honors.
Joakim Kemell, LW (FIN, Nashville)
Everything Kemell touched seemed to turn to gold. The freshly drafted Nashville Predators prospect had 11 points in seven games, fighting near the top of the scoring race all tournament long. Kemell is known as a goal-scorer, but he really put his playmaking abilities on display. A huge steal for the Preds at 17th overall.
Kent Johnson, LW (CAN, Columbus)
Johnson had just three goals in Edmonton — one of them happened to be the best one, and another won Canada gold. Johnson actually led the tournament in shots, and while he was snakebitten, his impact can’t be ignored. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect is ready to challenge for full-time NHL duty.
Carter Mazur, LW (USA, Detroit)
Mazur has quickly developed into an incredible find for the Detroit Red Wings after getting selected 70th overall in 2021. Mazur had five goals and seven points in five outings for the Americans, becoming an integral piece of the team’s scoring core.
Emil Andrae, D (SWE, Philadelphia)
One of the best defenders throughout the tournament, Andrae also led Sweden in shots and tied for the team’s goal-scoring lead. With Sweden struggling to get many goals on the board, Andrae was giving it everything he had, and his defensive play was stunning, too. He definitely deserved all the praise he earned throughout.
Olen Zellweger, D (CAN, Anaheim)
Named to the IIHF media all-star team, Zellweger was Canada’s top point producer from the blueline and helped create many of the team’s power-play scoring options. He especially had a knack for finding McTavish, a future Anaheim Ducks teammate and gave Canada a fourth forward most of the time.
Jan Mysak, C (CZE, Montreal)
It’s hard to argue Mysak’s status as one of the top forwards in the tournament. He seemed to always be moving and grooving for the Czechs and was lethal near the net. Mysak’s shot was on full display, with the captain leading the team with four goals.
Kasper Puutio, D (FIN, Florida)
Whether it be his relentless work ethic to always rush back or manage to create offense at an impressive rate, Puutio did just about everything for the Finns. The Panthers prospect had four goals and seven points, highighted by goals in the first three games of the tournament. He ate heavy minutes all tournament long and was a big reason why the Finns played for gold.
Thomas Bordeleau, C (USA, San Jose)
The small, speedy forward had an impressive seven assists in five games for the Americans while not being afraid to match up against anyone. One of USA’s top play drivers, Bordeleau was especially interesting to watch during faceoffs thanks to his ability to switch between hands on draws. USA didn’t go far, but one thing is certain: he’s ready for San Jose’s training camp.
Roby Jarventie, LW (FIN, Ottawa)
Ottawa fans, rejoice. You’ve got a good one here. The 6-foot-3 power forward was dynamite on special teams, with his shot-blocking in the medal round being especially important. He finished the tournament with four goals and nine points to finish sixth in scoring. If he makes the NHL, he won’t be a big-time producer, but you can count on a good effort every single night.
Jesper Wallstedt, G (SWE, Minnesota)
The top goaltender in Edmonton, everyone expected great things from Wallstedt, and he delivered. He was hard on himself after losses, but his coach, Tomas Monten, said the only thing he wasn’t doing for them was score. Wallstedt isn’t that far from knocking on Minnesota’s door, and this was a good way for him to finish his junior international career.
Tomas Suchanek, G (CZE, 2023)
Suchanek started as the backup to Detroit Red Wings prospect Jan Bednar, but quickly stole the spotlight after a 52-game save and the continued poor play by Bednar. Suchanek was instrumental in Czechia’s quarterfinal victory against USA and gave it all he had against Canada in the semis.
Aatu Raty, C (FIN, NY Islanders)
Raty finished with an impressive 10 points in seven games, especially showing his value as a passer. Raty rarely had an off shift and had good chemistry with Kemell and Roni Hirvonen. Raty is ready for AHL duty with Bridgeport, and after going 52nd in the 2021 draft — 51 spots higher than most expected before the season began — the revenge tour is in full effect.
Connor Bedard, RW (CAN, 2023)
When Bedard was with McTavish, the pair was unstoppable. An injury to Ridly Greig meant a shakeup in the lineup, and Bedard didn’t end up truly exploding offensively, but he was almost always one of the best players on the ice. One of the biggest revelations was just how aggressive he played out there — he’s 5-foot-9, but teams feared him like someone much bigger.
Jiri Kulich, C (CZE, Buffalo)
Kulich became one of the most fascinating prospects to watch during the second half of his 2022 NHL draft season, and that momentum carried over to a team-leading eight points in Edmonton. He’s been electric in major international events over the past calendar year and Sabres fans should be excited for when he eventually brings his goal-scoring exploits to the NHL.
Kasper Simontaival, RW (FIN, Los Angeles)
Simontaival was everywhere for the Kings, especially on the power play. Even when he wasn’t scoring, he was tough to chase down and was generally smart when distributing the puck. Another good young prospect in a crowded Kings system, which is a major positive.
Topi Niemela, D (FIN, Toronto)
It wasn’t the same quality performance that earned him top defender honors in 2021, but Niemela was a steady, minute-eating presence for the Finns night in and night out. The team could always rely on him to face off against anyone, which is all you can ask for.
Luke Hughes, D (USA, New Jersey)
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see Hughes at his best against Czechia because he ended a great tournament for him playing at about 40 percent effectiveness was. Hughes brought his trademark puck-moving style to the blueline and did a good job as the No. 1 man on a team that missed Jake Sanderson. There are bright things ahead for Hughes.
Ridly Greig, RW (CAN, Ottawa)
Losing Greig against Switzerland was a huge loss because he had been such an important piece of Canada’s attack. He’s a menace to play against, but most importantly was driving plays and making everyone around him better. Canada won without him, but Greig was earning significant attention before getting knocked out of the lineup.