The World Juniors Championships provide one of the biggest stages for junior-aged players to put their skills on display and make their mark on the world stage. It’s a chance for a player to enamor teams with a great performance on the biggest stage of junior hockey. For some players, it’s the chance of a lifetime.
Every year players stick out and seem to be ‘the guy’ in the big moments even if they aren’t the team’s best players. These players capture lightning in a bottle and have their best stretch of the season while representing their country. they are the X-Factor. Who has the chance to be their team’s X-Factor?
Justus Annunen, Goaltender, Finland
If the Finns have a chance to repeat as champions, the bulk of the success will be driven by the young netminder. Justus Annunen has had an absolutely stellar season in the Liiga, earning the reigns as the starting netminder for Kärpät. The young Finn hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a game all season in Liiga play and at one point had four straight shutouts. Annunen has been popping up on the radar of more and more fans and analysts alike this season and the World Juniors could be his coming out party as one of the best goaltending prospects in the world.
Annunen is a big goaltender, 6’4″ and 216lbs, who moves well. His lateral movement is smooth and he closes off the bottom of the net extremely well. His length allows him to cut down the angles with ease. He keeps his eyes free from a screen by peeking around and above defenders. He has a good glove and blocker, controlling rebounds quite well and absorbing the puck into his chest more often than not. He has the athleticism to get himself out of trouble when things break down in front of the netminder. Watch for Finland to go as far as Annunen takes them.
Quinton Byfield, F, Canada
For most, Quinton Byfield is the second-ranked prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft and while he is going to be teammates with the near-consensus number one Alexis Lafreniere, Byfield may be the X-Factor for the Canadian squad. With the majority of teams deploying their strongest defensive uni