Day: August 8, 2022

2022 World Junior Championship Group A preview

Mason McTavish Canadian Captain.

By Adam Kimelman NHL.com

Mason McTavish was chosen as captain for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship for a very simple reason.

“He’s the guy that sets the bar that everybody else is going to aspire to get to,” coach Dave Cameron said. “We think we have a lot of guys that were captain material but picking ‘Mac’ actually was pretty easy.”

McTavish will try to lead Canada to a WJC title after it lost to the United States in the 2021 championship game.

The 2022 WJC will be held Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but was postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Canada will play in Group A, along with Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Latvia. The United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria will play in Group B.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

McTavish, selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, began last season with three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games, and after a short stint with San Diego of the American Hockey League, the 19-year-old was returned to the Ontario Hockey League. He played five games with Peterborough before being traded to Hamilton on Jan. 9. McTavish helped Hamilton win the OHL championship with 16 goals in 19 playoff games, and his eight points (six goals, two assists) in five games tied for the lead at the Memorial Cup.

“In simple terms, he’s a hockey player,” Cameron said. “Everything about him shows that. Very attentive in meetings, asks the right questions, works as hard as anybody off ice, has no ego, and his on-ice performance speaks for itself. He’s played in the NHL, and he’s got a long NHL career ahead of him.”

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20. All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and on TSN in Canada.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC, which will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Here’s a look at each Group A team, in predicted order of finish:

Canada 

Coach: Dave Cameron

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 10, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Czechia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Canada’s strength is its depth, especially at center. McTavish, Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars), Ridly Greig (Ottawa Senators) and Elliot Desnoyers (Philadelphia Flyers) likely will start the tournament in the middle, but another option could be Connor Bedard. The likely No. 1 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft displayed his dazzling skills in two games as a 16-year-old when the tournament initially was held in December, including a four-goal game against Austria. Now he’s older and more experienced after finishing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 100 points (51 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games with Regina, and could be ready for an even bigger breakout. Seven of the eight defensemen are left shots, but Olen Zellweger (Anaheim Ducks), the top defenseman in the WHL last season, is part of a versatile group of strong skaters who should be fine on their off side. With goalies Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) and Dylan Garand (New York Rangers) likely sharing time, Canada again will be a favorite to reach the championship game.

Finland

Coach: Antti Pennanen

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Ruben Rafkin, D, TPS, FIN

Schedule: Aug. 9, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Finland (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Finland will have five defensemen back from its third-place finish at the 2021 WJC, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted the best defensemen at the tournament after he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. They’ll have to be good with three inexperienced goalies behind them in Leevi Merilainen (Ottawa Senators) and Juha Jatkola (2023 draft eligible), each of whom played one game in December, and Jani Lampinen (2023 draft eligible). Forward Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets), who had five points (one goal, four assists) in two games before the tournament was canceled in December, will be counted on to play at a similar level now. Also expected to chip in on offense will be Aatu Raty (New York Islanders), who had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Jukurit in Liiga last season, as well as Kasper Simontaival (Los Angeles Kings), who scored four goals in seven games at the 2021 WJC. If the goaltending holds up and the offense delivers, Finland could push Canada for the top spot in the group.

Czechia

Coach: Radim Rulik

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Daniel Hercik, F, Pardubice, CZE; Adam Mechura, F, Tri-City, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Slovakia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Finland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Latvia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadiens), Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) likely will key the offense. Mysak had 64 points (34 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games for Hamilton of the OHL last season, and is one of five returning players from the 2021 WJC, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in five games. Sapovaliv was fourth among OHL rookies with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 68 games for Saginaw. Kulich was named most valuable player of the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship after he led all players with nine goals in six games. Two defensemen are among the returnees from the 2021 WJC, Columbus Blue Jackets prospects David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil. Jiricek’s status for the start of the tournament is in question after testing positive for COVID-19, but the hope is he’ll arrive in time for the opener. Czechia will need him if it hopes to finish ahead of Slovakia and push Finland for second place in the group.

Slovakia

Coach: Ivan Fenes

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK Jr., SWE-JR; Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Czechia (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Latvia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Finland (2 p.m. ET) 

Outlook: Dvorsky is a potential top-five pick in the 2023 draft after he had 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games with AIK’s team in Sweden’s junior league. In addition to Dvorsky, forward Servac Petrovsky (Minnesota Wild), who was third among OHL rookies last season with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games with Owen Sound, also should have a big role in the offense. Goalie Simon Latkoczy returns after he had a .922 save percentage in three games at the 2021 WJC despite facing 34.0 shots on goal per game, and he’s played the past three seasons in the United States Hockey League, which means he’s experienced on the smaller North American ice. Slovakia won’t have forward Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and defenseman Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), the first two picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, but still has a talented group. If Latkoczy can steal them a game, they could challenge Czechia for third place in Group A.

Latvia

Coach: Artis Abols

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Niks Fenenko, D, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL

Schedule: Aug. 9, Finland (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Canada (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Slovakia (6 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Czechia (6 p.m. ET)

Outlook: It’s the first time Latvia has played in the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, and being placed in a group with the second-place (Canada) and third-place (Finland) finishers from 2021 won’t help their cause. Three players on the roster have been drafted by NHL teams, including forward Klavs Veinbergs (Tampa Bay Lightning). He had seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine playoff games to help Zemgale win the championship in Latvia’s top professional league. It will take a lot for Latvia to win a game, but with no relegation round to worry about, the experience the players gain could help them for the 2023 WJC.

2022 World Junior Championship Group B preview

Devils defenseman prospect Luke Hughes leads United States attempt at back-to-back titles.

By Mike G. Morreale – NHL.com

Luke Hughes, selected No. 4 by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft, is looking forward to having the opportunity to make history as a member of the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The United States will try to win back-to-back titles for the first time after defeating Canada 2-0 in the 2021 championship game. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09.

The 2022 WJC is Aug. 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament originally was scheduled for Dec. 26-Jan. 5 but postponed Dec. 29 because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The United States is scheduled to play preliminary-round games in Group B with Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Czechia, Slovakia and Latvia.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international play because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Hughes, the youngest brother of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes and Devils center Jack Hughes, had 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games as a freshman at the University of Michigan last season. The 18-year-old defenseman was a top-10 candidate for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award presented annually to recognize the top NCAA men’s hockey player.

“It’s an honor to wear the jersey whenever you can,” Hughes said. “To go back there and try to defend that is super important for USA Hockey and our country. I think it’s really exciting, and we’re going to do our best. We’re going to go game by game, and we’re really excited as a team.”

The top four teams in each group will play the quarterfinals Aug. 17. The semifinals are Aug. 19, and the championship and third-place games are Aug. 20.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the 2023 WJC in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

All games will be shown on NHL Network in the United States and TSN in Canada.

Here’s a look at each Group B team, in predicted order of finish:

United States

Coach: Nate Leaman

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Charlie Stramel, F, USA U-18 (NTDP)

Schedule: Aug. 9, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, Sweden (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Leaman will incorporate a fast and supportive game up front and on the back end with the help of returning forwards Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes), Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Minnesota Wild), Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) and Hughes. Goalies Andrew Oke (2023 draft eligible) and Kaidan Mbereko (2023 draft eligible) each impressed during development camp and are the frontrunners to compete for playing time. Cooley, a freshman center at the University of Minnesota, was second on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) in 51 games last season. He was second for the second-place United States at the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six games. Stramel (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), a right-shot center who will be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, had 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in 26 games for the United States under-18 team last season. Faber is team captain. He was traded to the Wild with the No. 19 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft by the Los Angeles Kings for forward Kevin Fiala on June 29.

Sweden

Coach: Tomas Monten 

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Mans Forsfjall, D, Skelleftea (SWE)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Austria (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 14, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Germany (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Sweden won’t have forwards Alexander Holtz (Devils) or William Eklund (San Jose Sharks) to lead the offense but remain solid in goal with Jesper Wallstedt (Wild), Calle Clang (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Carl Lindbom (Vegas Golden Knights), and at defenseman with Simon Edvinsson (Detroit Red Wings), Helge Grans (Kings) and William Wallinder (Red Wings). Offensively, Monten will look to Daniel Ljungman (Dallas Stars), Theodor Niederbach (Red Wings), Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche) and Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Vancouver Canucks). Wallstedt will play for Iowa in the American Hockey League this season after going 12-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .918 save percentage for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The 19-year-old was 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA and .962 save percentage at the 2022 WJC in December before the tournament was postponed.

Germany

Coach: Tobias Abstreiter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 9, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 10, Austria (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Switzerland (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Sweden (10 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Germany will have a tough time matching its sixth-place finish at the 2021 WJC without its best eligible players, forwards Tim Stutzle (Senators), JJ Peterka (Buffalo Sabres), and Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks). Defenseman Luca Munzenberger, who averaged 21:41 of ice time in five games at the 2021 WJC, will be counted on heavily. The 19-year-old, selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round (No. 90) of the 2021 draft, will be a sophomore at the University of Vermont this season. Goalie Florian Bugl (2023 draft eligible eligible), who helped Germany to wins against Slovakia and Switzerland at the 2021 WJC and finished with a 2.95 GAA and .896 save percentage in three games, is returning but will be pushed for the starting job by Nikita Quapp (Carolina Hurricanes). 

Switzerland

Coach: Marco Bayer

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Rodwin Dionicio, D, Niagara (OHL)

Schedule: Aug. 10, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 11, United States (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Austria (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Switzerland will rely on goalies Noah Patenaude (7-2-2, 2.96 GAA, .914 save percentage) of Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Kevin Pasche (20-19-4, 2.87 GAA, .903 save percentage) of Omaha in the United States Hockey League to remain competitive. Forward Simon Knak (Nashville Predators) returns for his third World Juniors after he was captain for ninth-place Switzerland in 2021. Defenseman Brian Zanetti (Philadelphia Flyers) had 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 56 games for Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League last season and should play a big role. Dionicio (6-2, 207) had 31 points (six goals, 25 assists) in 57 games for Niagara in his North America debut last season and is on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2023 draft.

Austria

Coach: Philipp Pinter

2023 NHL Draft Watch: None

Schedule: Aug. 10, Germany (10 p.m. ET); Aug. 12, Sweden (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 13, United States (2 p.m. ET); Aug. 15, Switzerland (2 p.m. ET)

Outlook: Austria finished 10th in 2021 and returns looking for its first win in its fifth tournament appearance (0-17), but it will not be easy against its preliminary-round competition. It will be without Marco Kasper (Red Wings), the No. 8 pick in the 2022 draft. Forward Senna Peeters, who scored Austria’s only goal and will play his third WJC, will be counted on to provide some offense. The 20-year-old had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 34 games for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. Kasper, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Detroit on July 13, decided to take a break from hockey in August because of a heavy workload on an international level and with Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League last season.

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