August 22, 2022

Seven things we learned from the 2022 World Juniors

The World Juniors is in the books.

Capped by a thrilling 3-2 overtime win for Canada over Finland in the gold medal game, the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship came to a close with plenty of circumstance, and more than enough information from the tournament’s participants to draw some conclusions.

There was no shortage of top performance and plenty of reason for optimism after positive play from more than a few candidates.

So, despite the summer setting, the World Juniors was full of great action and a ton of storylines to follow heading into the 2022-23 season.

1. Bedard is (still) the real deal

The 2023 NHL Draft is and will likely be headlined by Connor Bedard, and his performance at the World Juniors did nothing to change that. Bedard has been highly touted for the last few years and will have all eyes on him throughout the season. He has drawn comparisons to some of the best players in the game and after dropping eight points in seven games as a 17-year-old, the comparisons are not going to stop.

Bedard had a solid group of players around him, but he was able to show what he can do on a nightly basis and was one of Canada’s standout forwards. There’s a long road between now and the 2023 NHL Draft, but Bedard looks like the real deal and he will be the most followed prospect in all of hockey throughout the season.

“While there are things he needs to work on, he is being marked on a curve beyond most of his peers,” FCHockey scout Donesh Mazloum said. “He is the clubhouse leader to go No. 1 in the 2023 draft for good reason.”

2. McTavish is ready for the NHL

Mason McTavish had an eventful season, playing in the NHL, AHL, OHL, Olympics, the Memorial Cup, and both World Junior tournaments. If you include the cancelled tournament in December, McTavish had 11 goals and 11 assists in nine games for Canada. Not surprisingly, the Anaheim Ducks prospect was the MVP, stepping up for Canada in every crucial moment, he was quite simply phenomenal every night.

The 19-year-old showed that he is ready to compete for a full-time roster spot on the Ducks this year. He has the ability, physical maturity and the compete to be an NHLer and make a solid impact on a young Anaheim team that already has a talented young core in place. Ducks fans are going to love McTavish and he is going to thrive in the spotlight of the NHL.

3. Jarventie cements himself as nice find for the Senators

The Ottawa Senators took Roby Jarventie in the second round (No. 33) of the 2020 NHL Draft and bet on his physical traits. Now, Jarventie has developed well since his draft year and was a solid contributor for the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate last season. With his age, size and pro experience, it’s not a surprise that he was named one of Finland’s best players, but given the star power they had up front he might not have been the first name you’d think of when you think of impact players.

He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games and helped Finland take home silver.

“Jarventie impressed with both his playmaking and his work ethic,” FC Scout Rasmus Tornqvist said. “He also shows the ability to use his big frame to his advantage and create space for himself on the ice.”

4. It’s getting harder to justify Wallstedt falling to Minnesota in 2021

It’s impossible to have the definitive answer this early, but it’s looking more and more likely that the Minnesota Wild a massive steal when Jesper Wallstedt fell to them at No. 20 in the 2021 NHL Draft. He has been highly-decorated his entire career and was the biggest reason why Sweden finished on the podium at the World Juniors. Every game the Swedes started slowly and allowed themselves to consistently get behind the eight-ball game after game. Wallstedt started five games, finishing with a 3-2-0 record, a sparkling .940 save percentage, and an amazing 1.62 goals-against average.

Wallstedt was the only reason Sweden stood a chance against tough competition and without him its not inconceivable that Sweden could have struggled to make it out of the round robin. The Wild have to be thrilled with what they saw from Wallstedt in the SHL last season and with how well he performed at this tournament. He was considered a potential top-10 pick at one point, and if this development continues it will be tough to justify letting him fall as far as he did.

5. Mysak and Kulich deserve more hype

Czechia eventually played for bronze in the tournament after upsetting Team USA in the quarterfinals, and the main reason that they made it as far as they did was the play of captain Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens) and Buffalo Sabres first-round pick Jiri Kulich. Mysak was a two-way force and the driving player behind Czechia’s offensive attack scoring four goals and four assists, and Kulich continued his impressive momentum from the World Under-18 Championship, scoring twice and added six assists — tying Mysak for the team lead with eight points in the process. 

These two deserve a ton of credit for how they performed in this showcase, without them Czechia wouldn’t have made it past the quarters.

6. Faber looks like a big-time defenseman

When the Los Angeles Kings sent Brock Faber to the Wild in the Kevin Fiala deal, Wild fans might not have realized how good of a prospect they were getting. Faber is a talented two-way defenseman who, while he doesn’t produce a lot of points, can drive play at both ends of the ice for his team.

Faber played big minutes all tournament long and could be a vital piece of the Minnesota’s future defensive core going forward.

“Faber’s skating allows him to keep tight gaps and uses his low center of gravity to lean on opponents and force turnovers despite not being a hugely physical player,” FCHockey scout Joseph Aleong said. “His lateral movements and agility are top-notch, accelerating quickly and showing an ability to beat forecheckers with quick dekes and lateral moves to start breakout plays from deep in his own end.”

7. Zellweger is going to be a problem

The Ducks had two impressive prospects on Canada’s roster, and both were arguably the most vital pieces in helping win the gold. Joining McTavish, Olen Zellweger was a force of nature all tournament long. The defenseman played big minutes and finished third in total scoring with 11 points (two goals, nine assists). Zellweger finished only behind McTavish and Joakim Kemell (Nashville Predators) of Finland.

The Ducks have a great group of prospects to build upon in the future, and the World Juniors is only going to make the hype around their young players grow.

“Zellweger is an elite skater, accelerating quickly with lightning-fast foot-speed and showing the agility to stop and turn on a dime, shaking checks and beating forecheckers with his feet consistently,” Aleong said. “Zellweger has good patience with the puck and is adept at beating his check and then drawing pressure to himself before making a play to an open teammate.”

It will be a much quicker turnaround for the next World Juniors, with the tournament getting back onto its regular schedule this December. There will be some returning players and many more storylines to follow as the hockey season progresses.

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