As the holiday season is fast approaching, focus turns to the final assembly of each nation’s World Junior Championship teams with the beginning of the CHL Canada Russia series kicking off tonight. Selection camps are typically held in December but the bulk of these teams have taken shape over the last 11 months. It is an exciting time of year to see each organization’s top prospects on the world stage against top competition and especially to see which from the Avalanche make the cut. Here is the current likelihood for several Avalanche prospects to spend their Christmas holiday playing for their country in Vancouver and Victoria, BC. Please note those born in 1998, such as Cale Makar, are no longer eligible for the tournament.
RW Martin Kaut – Czech Republic 🇨🇿
Assuming he remains healthy, there’s no reason Martin Kaut won’t be part of the Czech team. He was a big part of the team last season scoring seven points as the Czechs made the semi-finals. Kaut wore an alternate captain letter at one of the summer Under-20 tournament events and could be part of the leadership group for this team. The Avalanche allowed Mikko Rantanen to depart for team Finland when he was playing for the organization in the AHL so that shouldn’t be an issue either. Put this one in pen.
RW Nikolai Kovalenko – Russia 🇷🇺
The dark horse little tank has risen in profile all year as Nikolai Kovalenko has played with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL since the start of the season. Inclusion in the upcoming Four Nations event with other high profile U20 KHL players is another good sign and there’s room at right wing for him on the team. Team Russia prefers to build their entire team full of 19-year olds and as he just turned 19 that fact will work in Kovalenko’s favor, plus any influence his father can bring. The only factor giving pause is that he does not have much previous experience on the national team.
LW Sampo Ranta – Finland 🇫🇮
The heads of Team Finland seem to like Sampo Ranta as he was heavily involved in the summer camp events. Ranta was part of the gold medal winning U18 team in April and has scored for the national team at every level he’s been a member of. This will not be Ranta’s only chance as he is a 2000 born player but he can fall comfortably into a depth scoring role this year and gain experience. Starting the year in the NCAA with three points including two goals at Minnesota doesn’t hurt either.
C Shane Bowers – Canada 🇨🇦
Shane Bowers might be the toughest one to handicap as he’s truly the player on the bubble for team Canada. He was invited to the Summer Showcase and played well there showing the staff that he could be utilized in any type of role. Bowers also has enjoyed a good start to his season in the NCAA as the top center with two points in six games on a slow starting BU team. As always, it comes down to politics and the numbers game. With several high draft pedigree centers available for Team Canada such as Cody Glass and Barrett Hayton it is likely Bowers will have to slide onto the roster as a role player, which his versatility could provide.
D Danila Zhuravlyov – Russia 🇷🇺
The lone Avalanche prospect to play in the CHL Canada Russia series, Danila Zhuravlyov will get a long look among other WJC hopefuls. He’s participated in many national team events in the past including four in just the last year. Despite Team Russia greatly preferring to only include 19-year olds on their WJC team, defense isn’t a noted strength of the Russian squad and they could look to include a strong puck mover such as Zhuravlyov for the smaller ice surface in North America. Still, it’s likely he’s waiting for his turn next year.
G Justus Annunen – Finland 🇫🇮
Although he won gold for Finland at the U18 with a sparkling 2.00 Goals Against Average and .914 save percentage, Justus Annunen won’t unseat the U20 team’s incumbent starter in Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. However there’s a possibility Annunen could grab either the backup or third goalie slot similarly how Adam Werner was used by Team Sweden a couple years ago. Annunen was also named to the upcoming Four Nations event roster and should get one last chance to prove his case but likely will get a better chance at Finland’s net next year.
LW Tyler Weiss – USA 🇺🇸
He’s no stranger to international events as a graduate of the US National Development Program and has performed well in them, most recently with four points at the U18. However starting the year at Omaha in the NCAA on the shelf with an injury doesn’t help his cause plus, as is the case with each player in this long shot category, as a 2000 born player he will have his final shot at making the team next year.