December 23, 2021

Scout Survey: What to expect at the 2022 World Juniors

For many, the World Juniors is the most wonderful time of the year.

Understandably so.

The IIHF 2022 World Junior Championship will be the largest prospect showcase of the season, and it’ll have the hockey world buzzing for two weeks.

And there’s lots to chat about. From top prospect performances to rising NHL Draft stock to proud prospect pools, the World Juniors is the time to shine.

But how does one break it all down?

We enlisted the help of five FCHockey scouts — Shaun Richardson (head Eastern scout, Derek Neumeier (head Western scout), Mat Sheridan (Ontario-based scout), Brandon Holmes (crossover scout), and Douglas Larson (US-based scout) — to tell us just that.

Welcome to our World Juniors scout survey.

Which prospect within your own region are you most excited to see on the World Juniors stage?

Derek Neumeier: Kaiden Guhle is a prospect I’ve always really liked watching. You don’t see many players who have the tenacity and fiery competitiveness that he does, and he has really developed well and rounded out his game over the past few years. He will have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders as Canada’s captain, and I expect him to rise to the occasion.

Shaun Richardson: The prospect from my region that I’m excited to see on the World Junior stage is Lukas Cormier of the Charlottetown Islanders. He’s a highly skilled offensive defenseman who has top-end mobility as either a puck carrier or distributor. I think he has the ability to be a very important fixture on the power play for Canada.

Mat Sheridan: In my own region, I’m most excited to see Shane Wright on the World Juniors stage. There has been a lot of criticism of his game the past few months, with many expecting him to dominate the OHL. While he hasn’t lived up to many people’s expectations, he is still well over a point-per-game. Wright has still been effective on a nightly basis and has made his impact felt in other ways not seen on the scoresheet. He dominated the World Under-18 Championship last spring, and I think with a strong tournament he will further solidify himself as the No. 1 prospect for the 2022 draft.

Douglas Larson: I’m really excited to see total domination from Jake Sanderson. While I haven’t seen many full games of Sanderson this season, all I ever see are great plays he seems to make every game. He’s currently having a Hobey Baker-type season at North Dakota and looks like he doesn’t plan on putting the brakes on any time soon. In last year’s tournament he didn’t play in the role he’ll have this year, and I’m very excited for him to take it and run with it. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll play a huge role if Team USA wants to go back-to-back gold.

Brandon Holmes: Danila Yurov, his season has been largely mired in empty-calorie games with little ice time and he hasn’t gotten the opportunity to show himself at the KHL level, but has shown he’s a dominant junior level play in the MHL this year with 12 points in six games. Yurov was one of Russia’s key members at the Under-18s last spring and finished third on that team in scoring, and figures to be a big part of this Russian team at the 2022 World Juniors.

Which prospect outside your own region are you most exited to see on the World Juniors stage?

Derek Neumeier: Matvei Michkov is ridiculously dynamic and talented, and he seems to get better when the spotlight on him gets brighter. Despite being very young for this tournament I know he’s going to do some amazing things and generate a lot of footage for the highlight reels.

Shaun Richardson: The prospect from outside my area that I’m most excited to see is Austria’s Marco Kasper. Austria isn’t pegged to be a top contender in the tournament and I think that could mean that Kasper will be playing with house-money, none of the pressure and all of the freedom. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do on the big stage.

Mat Sheridan: I’m most excited to see Joakim Kemell on the World Juniors stage. Before he went down with an injury, he was scoring goals at will and was one of the more impressive 2022 draft prospects to watch. Since coming back from injury, he hasn’t had the same effect but he still sits third on his team in points. On a strong Finland team, I think he has a chance to be one of the leading scorers and will be heavily used by his country’s coaching staff.

Douglas Larson: There’s so many interesting prospects to choose from but it’s hard not to go with the 2023 draft eligible Michkov on this one. The potential generational talent looks to be playing a big role on Russias top line this year. I’ve seen all the crazy skilled highlights of him on the internet but it’ll be nice to see a full game of his and see how great of a hockey player he really is.

Brandon Holmes: Owen Power for me. It’s become increasingly rare to see the previous year’s No. 1 pick play in the World Juniors and Power has the opportunity to be one of the tournament’s most dominant players. Power has met every expectation at Michigan in his sophomore season and if you’re a fan of watching good players play hockey, you will want to tune in to see Power play for Canada.

Which draft eligible prospect do you think has the most to gain from a strong performance at the World Juniors?

Derek Neumeier: David Jiricek. He has all the tools that you want a defenseman to have, this will be his second time at the World Juniors, and he’s been thriving in the Czech pro league this season. When you take all those things into consideration he could be a guy who shoots up everyone’s draft boards if he has a big tournament.

Shaun Richardson: Brad Lambert. I considered selecting Shane Wright because he’s had a slow start by his lofty standards but I think his draft stock is more solid than Lambert’s. For the past year Lambert has been in draft rankings freefall because his mistakes have been under a microscope and luck has not been on his side. I still see a really good player who’s generating chances, carrying the puck and skating well. If he can get off the perimeter and take pucks to the inside of the ice and cash in on some of his offensive opportunities, he may just reassure everyone that he’s still safe bet come draft day.

Mat Sheridan: I think Lambert has the most to gain from a strong performance at the World Juniors. Last year, Lambert was in the discussion with Savoie and Wright for the top 2022 draft eligible prospect, but that is no longer the case. His dynamic blend of skill and skating leaves many impressed, but he has struggled to find his game this season. Lambert will be put in a position to succeed at the tournament and it is up to him to show scouts that he still deserves to be near the top of the draft.

Douglas Larson: I think if we see strong play form Lian Bichsel he could cement his name as a first round pick. I don’t know much about Bichsel and what style of game of game he plays but one thing for certain is he doesn’t get enough love for the public. He’s 6-foot-5 so he’ll likely end up selected in the first round, but if he wants to m`ake sure of that he’ll have to show he’s worthy in this tournament. He’s going to be counted on from the Swiss to be a leader on and off the ice and I’m excited to see if he up for the challenge.

Brandon Holmes: Logan Cooley, the American center, may find himself in a similar role to how Matthew Beniers was used by Team USA a year ago and a strong tournament may solidify Cooley’s standing as one of the draft’s top centers — just as it did for Beniers a year ago. Cooley figures to skate in the middle-six for Team USA and could play his way into being the second line center by tournaments end if he brings his A game.

Which prospect will ’come out of ‘nowhere’ to have a standout World Juniors?

Derek Neumeier: I was very surprised when Russian defenseman Kirill Steklov wasn’t drafted in his first year of eligibility, though a little less surprised that he wasn’t picked last year. However, he still has a surprising amount of finesse for such a big defender, and there will be an opportunity for him to play a key role on his nation’s blue line. I could definitely see him playing well enough to earn some buzz from NHL clubs.

Shaun Richardson: Dalibor Dvorsky. Dvorsky is certainly not completely off the radar but in his draft class he’s overshadowed by Connor Bedard and Michkov and on his own national team Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec get all the attention. A Strong World Junior performance may be able to put a spotlight on Dvorsky.

Mat Sheridan: I think Vinzenz Rohrer will do just that to have a standout World Juniors. Playing for the Ottawa 67s, he has been one of their better players since coming over at the beginning of the season. His mixture of pace and vision has left me very impressed when I’ve watched him this season. On a weak Austrian team, I think he had the chance to be a standout player.

Douglas Larson: I’ll be going with Pavel Novak to have a sneaky good tournament. He’s been real good in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and I think is really not talked bout enough. He’s got real good hands and playmaking ability and Id expect him to generate most of the Czechs offense. I think his point totals will come depending on his team yes finishing ability as I think he’ll be facilitating the puck real well. This will be a good opportunity to show what he’s made of.

Brandon Holmes: Carter Mazur is one of the most underrated members of this year’s American team and is someone that I could see having a very strong tournament if given the proper opportunity. Mazur has had a strong freshman season at the University of Denver and could provide some much needed offensive punch up front if he is given opportunity in USA’s top nine and powerplay units.

Prediction time. Who will win MVP, top forward, top defenseman and top goalie honors at the World Juniors?

Derek Neumeier: I’ll go with Power for both MVP and top defenseman, Alexander Holtz for top forward and Jesper Wallstedt for top goaltender.

Shaun Richardson: My tournament MVP pick would be Mason McTavish, and I think Cole Perfetti will end up being named the top forward. Sanderson would be my early favorite for top defenseman, and Wallstedt should end up being named the top goalie of the World Juniors. 

Mat Sheridan: My vote is Perfetti for top forward and MVP, as well as Power for top defenseman and Wallstedt for top goaltender.

Douglas Larson: I’m going Holtz as MVP, Kent Johnson as top forward, Sanderson as best defenseman and Wallstedt as the tournament’s top goaltender.

Brandon Holmes: For MVP and top defenseman, I’ll go with the same player in Sanderson, who will captain Team USA and figures to be a massive part of that team in all situations. For top forward I will go with the 2023 youngster Michkov, and to round out my selections I will go with Finland’s Joel Blomqvist as the tournament’s top goaltender.

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