Three players from each team to watch at the World Juniors
The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship is upon us, and this year’s group is as diverse as it comes — when it comes to a wide-ranging plethora of talent to watch.
From members of the 2020 NHL Draft class, to those eligible this year, to a few set to be called in 2023, there’s something for every hockey fan to keep an eye on this holiday season.
Here’s who you should be watching at the 2022 World Juniors:
Mason McTavish – McTavish, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, put on a show in Canada’s lone pre-tournament game against Russia. He’s a big, skilled forward who excels with the puck in the prime scoring areas, and if the exhibition game was any indication, he’s going to be one of the driving forces behind Canada’s offensive attack. The 18-year-old has seen time with the Anaheim Ducks and the Peterborough Petes this season, and will look to build off an impressive 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Championship tournament last spring.
Owen Power – Rarely do we see a No. 1 pick play in the World Juniors during their D+1 season, but with Power staying at Michigan he’s finally gotten the opportunity to suit up for Canada at this year’s event. Power has been one of the best players in college hockey with 23 points (three goals, 20 assists) in 18 games. He will play a big role and in all situations for Canada as they look to win the gold, and if successful Power will join a small club of Canadians who won the Men’s World Championship before securing World Juniors lore.
Shane Wright – Wright is the presumed No. 1 pick in 2022, and this tournament will be important for him to help squash some of the discourse there has been about him. Wright has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 22 OHL games but hasn’t produced the way people expected him to. With 11 points in his last four games, this tournament could be a way to jumpstart the second half of his OHL season with a strong performance.
Aleksi Heimosalmi – Heimosalmi, the No. 44 pick in 2021, is an exciting offensive defenseman who skates like the wind. He’s arguably the most exciting player on Finland’s blue line and should play a major role for them at both 5-on-5 and on the power play. He only has one point, an assist, in 22 Liiga games for Assat, but playing against U20 competition should allow him to show off his elite skillset and get some confidence before heading back to pro hockey in Finland.
Brad Lambert – Lambert needs this tournament to help get his season back on track. At one point he was considered the favorite for the No. 2 pick in 2022, but has really struggled this season. Now, getting to play against U20 competition, he will have a prime opportunity to show that he is still one of the best players available in the draft class. A poor tournament performance might only continue his downward spiral, so this is a big event for Lambert.
Joakim Kemell – If anyone would have told you that, by the 2022 World Juniors, someone would unseat Lambert as the top Finnish player in the 2022 class, few would have believed you. Kemell has been amazing for JYP to start the season. The 17-year-old has 18 points (12 goals, six assists) in 21 games, his lethal shot and high intensity should make him a huge factor for Finland at this tournament.
David Jiricek – The 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect is wearing an “A” for Czechia at this tournament and has been really strong for HC Plzen in the Czechia pro league. The 18-year-old has a career-high 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 29 games and is a returning player for the Czechia squad. He will be relied on to play in all situations and due to his draft eligibility fans and scouts alike will be monitoring his performance at this event.
Stanislav Svozil – Svozil, Columbus’ third round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is another returning player and will be crucial for Czechia if they want to have any success in this tournament. The offensive defenseman has been solid for the Regina Pats in the WHL this year with 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in 26 games.
Jan Mysak – Mysak, the Czechia captain, is their most exciting offensive player, and is returning for his second straight year as the leader of the Czechia squad. Mysak, a 2020 second round pick of the Canadiens, will be playing in his third tournament overall and will be relied on in all situations. He’s been great for the Bulldogs in the OHL with 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in 25 games for a surprising Hamilton team this season.
Florian Elias – Despite missing John-Jason Peterka and Lukas Reichel, the German captain will look to build off an impressive 2021 tournament in which he had nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games. Elias may struggle to produce at the same level without his two linemates from last year, but expect him to be one of their biggest play drivers. He’s struggled in the DEL this season with only four points (two goals, two assists) in 21 games, but the 19-year-old might have better luck playing against U20 competition.
Maximilian Glotzl – Glotzl, another returnee from 2021, will be a player to watch on the German blue line. He’s an above average skater, and a solid puck mover who will be able to help the German power play. If Germany wants to have success this year, they’re going to have to rely on players like Glotzl to step up and help fill the void that is left by their missing players.
Florian Bugl – The presumptive starting goalie for the German team played in three games last year and was very impressive. Now getting the chance to be the guy from Day One, Bugl has the chance to be a star for the Germans and help them steal a few wins that people might not expect from them.
Marco Kasper – Kasper has been really strong for Rogle in the SHL this year, the 17-year-old has six points (four goals, two assists) in 24 games. He should be Austria’s No. 1 center and play a ton of minutes for them during the tournament. Austria could be better than people expect, and Kasper will be a big part of any success they have this year.
Mathias Bohm – Bohm flashed a lot of potential at times last year during Austria’s struggles at the 2021 World Juniors. Now, with another year under his belt, he’ll be expected to take a step and become a potential impact player for the Austrian squad. While he’s struggled in the IceHL with Vienna, he should have better luck playing against players his own age.
Vinzenz Rohrer – Rohrer has 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 28 games for the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL and is joining Austria for his first appearance at the World Juniors. A 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect, Rohrer could be one of Austria’s better offensive players this year.
Jake Sanderson – Sanderson will be the USA’s most relied on blueliner at this event. He’s been a beast this year for North Dakota with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 15 games and will captain the USA squad. Sanderson will be the No. 1 defender for his team and will use his size and mobility to impact the game in all situations.
Luke Hughes – Hughes isn’t the same type of player as Sanderson, but he is probably the most exciting defender on their blue line and likely the most exciting player the USA has on their roster. His offensive instincts and skating ability will be a nightmare to defend and he should get a chance at running one of USA’s power play units.
Logan Cooley – Cooley makes this list because he’s the only draft eligible the USA has on their roster. He’s quickly risen the draft ranks and has become of the top prospects available in the 2022 class. I think he has a real shot at becoming an impact player for the United States at this tournament and many are interested to see how he fares.
Matvei Michkov – Michkov might be the most anticipated player at this entire tournament. The 2023 draft eligible player has been dominant at every international event he’s played at, and has been an impact player at every level of hockey. The 17-year-old has 28 points (17 goals, 11 assists) in 11 total MHL games this year and five points (two goals, three assists) in 13 KHL games. He could be one of Russia’s best players despite being two years away from his draft year.
Marat Khusnutdinov – The Russian Captain, returning for his second tournament, will look to build off a five-point performance last year. He will be Russia’s top center and play on their number one power play unit, giving him ample opportunity to be an impact player for this year’s team. The Wild draft pick has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 29 games for SKA St. Petersburg.
Shakir Mukhamadullin – Mukhamadullin is a polarizing prospect, his defensive game needs a lot of work but with his skating ability and offensive instincts make him one of Russia’s top rearguards. He’s must watch, both offensively because of his upside and defensively because he can make some plays that make you question what he was doing.
William Eklund – One of the best prospects from the 2021 draft, Eklund was able to play a bit for the San Jose Sharks before heading back to Djurgardens of the SHL. He missed last year’s tournament, but immediately slots in as Sweden’s No. 1 forward this year and will be instrumental in any success Sweden has.
Oskar Olausson – Olausson is one of the players on Sweden’s top line, who will all be featured in this segment. He’s an elite shooter with great offensive instincts who will be able to capitalize off playing with a center like Eklund. He’s been one of the better imports in the OHL for the Barrie Colts with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 22 games.
Alexander Holtz – The biggest get for Sweden was getting Holtz from the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets. He immediately slots in as their most dangerous scorer and top-line right winger. He will compete to be one of the top performers at the entire tournament. With 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 11 AHL games, Holtz should have no struggles producing against U20 competition.
Simon Nemec – The 17-year-old defenseman returns for Slovakia after recording four assists in five games last year as a 16-year-old. Nemec, a top prospect for 2022, will be a workhorse for the Slovakian team and play big minutes. With a ton of international experience, expect Nemec to be one of the best blueliners in the tournament.
Martin Chromiak – Chromiak will be the top player for Slovakia this year, and he will expect to top his mark of only one goal in five games last year. The highly skilled winger has 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 23 games for Kingston this year and playing on a fun and talented Slovakian roster should set him and the team up for success at this year’s event.
Juraj Slafkovsky – Slovakia has a lot of players to watch at this year’s tournament but given Slafkovsky’s size and elite skill, he’ll be at the forefront. He’s an offensively gifted winger who can skate, pass, and score at a high level. He had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 11 games in Finland’s junior circuit, and has four points (one goal, three assists) in 20 games in Liiga with TPS.
Lian Bichsel – The 2022 draft eligible defenseman playing for Leksands IF in the SHL has the potential to be a crucial member of the Swiss blue line. He’s big, skates well and can start the transitional attack with his passing ability. Bichsel could be a late first-round pick in July when the draft rolls around.
Louis Robin – Robin plays for Rimouski in the QMJHL, and has played in four games for the Swiss U20 team recording two goals. The Swiss seem like the weakest team in Group B, but I think that Robin has a chance to be one of their breakout players at this year’s tournament.
Simon Knak – The Nashville Predators draft pick captained the Swiss team in 2021 and returns after notching one goal in four games last year. Knak has eight points (three goals, five assists) in 25 games for HC Davos in Switzerland matching his career high in the Swiss professional league.