In this endeavor to help newcomers to the World Junior Hockey Championship, let’s go through the teams in the new East Division to help new WJC fans figure out where to direct their focus based on their teams’ prospect pool.
Team Finland: Matias Mantykivi
Team Russia: Roman Bychkov
Bychkov and Mantykivi are both later round draft picks, taken in the fifth and sixth rounds respectively. There was another player with a lot more buzz around him, Johnny Beecher, who was also taken much earlier in the draft, but he was deemed ineligible to play.
The 2019 30th overall pick was not named to Team United States’ final roster due to testing positive for COVID-19. He would have been a must-watch player since he made camp for the WJC earlier in the fall, but due to
the health protocols, he won’t be participating.
Picking between the two remaining options with draft picks, Bychkov already won bronze in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, so he’s got some potential there with Team Russia.
Team Canada: Dylan Cozens, Jack Quinn
Team Germany: J-J Peterka
Team United States: Ryan Johnson
Sabres fans have some solid options to watch this year’s World Juniors, but the immediate recommendation here is Team Canada. A team with stacked depth, Canada features two Sabres draft picks. Cozens, taken 7th overall in 2019, had 85 points in 51 games in the WHL last season and 9 points in seven games during last year’s World Juniors. He, along with the Avalanche’s Bowen Byram, was named Alternate Captain for the team, showcasing his leadership qualities. Quinn, the 2020 8th overall selection, makes his debut this year coming off of 89 points in 62 games in the OHL. On such a star-studded team, Quinn has the chance to shine amongst his fellow draft pick.
Both Germany and United States are worth checking out as well. In last year’s tournament, Peterka posted six points in seven games for Germany. Johnson, cut from last year’s United States roster, is eager to prove his place on the second D pairing this year.
“(Getting cut) definitely offered me some fuel for trying to make it this year and also the rest of my season after that”Peterka told Sabres.com after being cut in 2020
Team Canada is my recommendation for Sabres fans, but when they play Germany and the U.S., keep an eye on their other prospects.
Team Canada: Dawson Mercer
Team Czech Republic: Jaromir Pytlik
Team Russia: Arseni Gritsyuk, Shakir Mukhamadullin
Team Sweden: Alexander Holtz
Team United States: Patrick Moynihan
With six prospects that made the cut this year, Devils fans might have to make tough decision if they limit themselves to one country.
Team Russia has the most prospects with Gritsyuk, taken in the fifth round, and Mukhamadullin, taken in the first. They’re both making their debut against Team United States on the 25th where they’ll meet fellow Devils prospect, Moynihan. Moynihan got 21 points in 34 games for Providence College in the 2019-2020 season. Pytlik for the Czech Republic will be eye-catching with his size at 6’3 and 201 pounds.
A lot of attention is on Mercer who is making his return to the WJC this year after helping Canada win gold last tournament. He didn’t score a point in the tournament last year, so he seems eager for the chance to prove himself as an 18th overall pick from the 2019 draft.
Team Sweden is looking interesting too. I’m personally a big fan of Holtz. The 7th overall pick this year has already tallied some points in the SHL for the past couple of years, and helped Sweden win the bronze medal last year. Plus, he got into a playful scrum in this TSN video, and players with personality are a lot of fun.
It doesn’t seem like Devils fans can go wrong with their options here. As stated, Canada is going to be tough to beat, and Sweden has the highest drafted pick for New Jersey. If you’re stuck on who to pick but for some reason don’t want to make that decision based on hockey skills, choose Mercer since he has a backup career as an artist.
Team Finland: Matias Rajaniemi
Team Sweden: Simon Holmstrom
Both Rajaniemi and Holmstrom are making their World Juniors debut this year. Between the two, I’d pick Holmstrom. He’s a 23rd overall pick with a clearer path to the NHL. Imagining him on a line with Barzal might be fun as you watch him play for Sweden.
Team Canada: Dylan Garand, Braden Schneider
Team United States: Brett Berard, Hunter Skinner
Even though the Rangers denied Alexis Lafrenière the chance to return to the World Juniors after his debut season last year, fans still have a chance to watch some great talent in the prospect pool.
Garand and Schneider are on Team Canada that’s favored to win, but performing in more depth-focused roles according to the recent practice lines ahead of the start. They’ll definitely be great to watch to see how they highlight and guide the team. For Team United States, Berard and Skinner are skill players, both taken later on in the draft, but they are both skaters on a team that wants to prove itself.
These prospects are young and seemed fired up. Pick Team Canada if you want to see more of a chance for wins and domination from defense and goal. Pick Team United States for more drive.
Team Sweden: Emil Andrae
Team United States: Bobby Brink, Cam York
Team US is definitely the way to go for Flyers fans looking to break into the tournament. Nothing against Andrae, he has skill and major leadership potential, but York looks like the one to watch. He was named Captain and he looks like a threat on either side of the ice as a defenseman.
Added to Brink and his hockey IQ, Team United States would be hard to miss to catch upcoming Flyers talent.
Team Finland: Joel Blomqvist
Team Sweden: Calle Clang
Penguins fans have some great goalie options to look forward to this WJC. Blomqvist and Clang both offer talent and high save percentages in the crease. You can’t go wrong.
I’m leaning towards Blomqvist based on the hardware he’s already acquired, including a Junior SM-Liiga Best Goalie Award and silver medal at the U-17 level for the World Championship. Plus, he’ll be Finland’s starter and looks like he’s ready for the challenge.
Team Canada: Connor McMichael
Team Czech Republic: Martin Hugo Has
The two Capitals’ prospects are returning for their second WJC, proving their longevity and skill for their countries in the tournament. McMichael recorded seven points in seven games last year for Canada, and in the 2019-2020 OHL season earned 102 points in 52 games. For the Czech Republic last tournament, Has earned three points in five games.
Both McMichael and Has are worth a watch, but I’d say Caps’ fans keep an eye on McMichael. Canada looks to win two in a row, and he’ll be a key part of their offense.
I’m really excited to see what Holtz does in the World Juniors, and I think the rest of the prospects for New Jersey have a lot to offer as well. But fans of any team in this division have something to be excited about. Who are you watching out for this WJC?