The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament will be played in Czech Republic. It starts on December 26th, 2019 and the gold medals will be handed to the champions on January 5th, 2020.
Here is my early projection of what Team Finland – the reigning champions – could look like in that tournament. This first projection has been done with the assumption that Kaapo Kakko will be staying with the Rangers but the Jets will release Ville Heinola for the tournament and the Kings will release Rasmus Kupari from the AHL. I will also have another projection without Heinola and Kupari just in case.
2020 roster with Heinola and Kupari
Kupari and Anton Lundell (2020) are the only returning forwards from last year’s gold medal winning team, so it’s only natural to have them both on the top line. Kupari is a natural center but this team has a lot of them, so might as well create a deadly unit that can play against any line in the tournament. The third wheel for that line is Matias Maccelli (ARZ) who didn’t get to play at the World Junior Summer Showcase – despite a strong showing in the friendly tournament that was played before that – but Maccelli has been one of the best teenagers in the Liiga this season, so he felt like a natural choice to play with the team’s top forwards.
The second line is built around the Räty brothers. Aatu Räty (2021) is the currently projected first overall pick for the 2021 NHL Draft, and at age 16, he has already played very well in the Liiga. His older brother Aku Räty (ARZ) doesn’t have the same kind of high-end skill but Aku is the type of player who can play any role, and the brothers have shown excellent chemistry. NCAA player Sampo Ranta (COL) is my choice for the third wheel on this line because I think he deserves a spot on the team and this seemed to be the only spot I had available for him. He has a big body and he works hard on the ice and doesn’t lack skill either, so I think he could be a good complementary player for the Räty brothers.
Lenni Killinen (CAR), Otto Kivenmäki (DET) and Roni Hirvonen (2020) all play for Ässät in the Liiga, and even though they don’t play together as a line there, I think it helps with chemistry when you have that kind of familiarity. All three deserve a spot on the team based on how well they’ve played but I also think it’s a big advantage early in the tournament to have this kind of line from one team.
The fourth line is built around