The World Junior Championship is always of great interest but even more so this season with Avalanche prospect defensemen Cale Makar and Conor Timmins selected to represent team Canada at this year’s event. Tyson Jost and Sam Girard could have also suited up for the team but their talents are needed in Colorado.
In pre-tournament action both Makar and Timmins skated in the top two defensive pairings. Timmins with Montreal Canadiens defenseman Victor Mete and Makar with LA Kings prospect Kale Clague. Both pairings were good matches and look to continue on into the tournament. It seems like Makar and Clague could be leaned on as the top pair. Unfortunately Timmins sat out the second game due to an injury suffered on a blocked shot in the 9-0 win over the Czech Republic but he is expected to be ready to go for the tournament opener on December 26th. Makar showed defensive responsibility but also his incredible speed and moves with the puck as he finished with four assists in two games of exhibition, which was the high mark for defensemen on the team. Below is the shift Makar had leading to one of his assists in the 8-1 victory over Switzerland.
Also worth keeping an eye on are several teams for draft eligible talent and it’s quite possible one or more of these players will don burgundy come June. The WJC is a great time to judge these high caliber talents against some of the highest level competition and in their case they are a year or two younger than the bulk of their competition. A few teams and draft eligible names to keep in mind (and note Canada does not have any draft eligibles on their squad):
Czech Republic: Filip Zadina is on everyone’s list to see if he can cement his top five or possibly higher draft status. Jakub Lauko is another skilled forward slated to go top two rounds who is an underrated talent. Jakub Skarek will be one of the first goaltender prospects off the board in Dallas and will look to have a big tournament.
Finland: The team will be heavily represented from the previous two drafts but Rasmus Kupari sneaks in as a draft eligible forward who might be available around the top 10.
Russia: Andrei Svechnikov is the obvious choice here as a possible top two draft candidate. He bucks the trend of Russia favoring 19 year olds but is also the only draft eligible on the team.
Slovakia: Milos Roman is a forward with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL with good production and could be a draft sleeper. David Hrenak fits the Avalanche profile of a draft overage European goalie with experience in international competition plus bonus he currently plays for St. Cloud State in the NCAA.
Sweden: Rasmus Dahlin will have all eyes on him but a Isac Lunderstrom is a forward who could see himself drafted in the first round. Isac Ludestrom is another draft eligible forward who could find himself in the first round.
Switzerland: A couple underrated names forward Philipp Kurashev who plays for Quebec in the QMJHL, defenseman Nico Gross from Oshawa in the OHL and forward Nando Eggenberger from the NLA. They could all be top three round candidates.
USA: Power forward Brady Tkachuk and defenseman Quinn Hughes are both possible NHL draft top 10 selections and should have healthy roles on an American squad looking to repeat as gold medal champions.
A little secret, skip the IIHF website and use the back door as the best place to track statistics, rosters, lineups, boxscore, schedule and anything else from the tournament is HERE.
Canada’s Schedule (all games on TSN and NHL Net):
TUE 12/26 4pm ET vs Finland
WED 12/27 7pm ET vs Slovakia
FRI 12/29 3pm ET vs USA (outdoor)
SAT 12/30 8pm ET vs Denmark
TUE 1/2 TBD Quarterfinals
THU 1/4 TBD Semifinals
SAT 1/6 TBD Gold/Bronze Games