Throughout this week, the DobberProspects’ team is going to be bringing you a full World Junior Championship preview! From team breakdowns to hot takes and picks and predictions to cap off the week on opening day and Christmas! Be sure to check back all week for more World Juniors preview and coverage!
Monday, December 21: Team Breakdowns: Group A/Group B
Tuesday: World Juniors Players to Watch
Wednesday: World Juniors Sleepers
Thursday: World Juniors Hot Takes
Friday: World Juniors Picks and Predictions
Dobber’s DraftCast World Juniors Preview with Cam Robinson and Danny Tiffany
DPR Episode 96: USA WJC Preview with Chris Peters
DPR Episode 97: WJC Preview Team Canada with Craig Button
DPR Episode 98: WJC Sweden Preview with Jimmy Hamrin
DPR Episode 99: WJC Preview Finland with Marco Bombino
Every year we get to see the stars of the prospect world shine at the World Juniors. Every year we have surprises and heroes that we don’t expect but we also get to see some of the most impressive talents in the world come into the event and take care of business. That’s what this group is. They are names you likely have heard from before, or soon will, that should play big roles in this event. The DobberProspects’ scouting team has taken a look at the rosters and picked a couple of names that will play starring roles for their teams.
RW Cole Caufield – Team USA – Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens prospect and University of Wisconsin product, Cole Caufield, is ready to shine bright for Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship.
This year will be Caufield’s second appearance at the World Juniors. At the 2020 WJC, the highly-skilled NHL Draft prospect did not have the best tournament, posting only a goal and an assist in five games, after many had hoped he could be a leading point-getter on the squad. During the last tournament, Caufield was playing with defensively sound players and playing mostly bottom-line minutes, hence why he might have had a lack of production at the games. He was also a first-time player and was competing for ice time against older and more experienced players on the international stage.
The American sniper and 2019 first-rounder is a true goal-scorer, having led the Wisconsin Badgers in goals last season with 19 total. While leading in goals was good enough, he ended up finishing the season leading the team in points with 36 in 34 games. A very good production of points for a freshman in the NCAA.
This year he is already off to a great start with six goals and six assists for 12 points in 10 games, leading the entire NCAA in points scored. While he has some sub-par games too, he has proven that size does not matter and that he can compete at every level he plays at.
This upcoming World Juniors tournament will be a big one for Caufield, as he will be competing against the world’s best young players. His defensive game is an area of improvement needed before he can make it to the NHL. If he can prove he can play a more defensive, as well as show his offensive capabilities in this tournament, he could look to challenge for a roster spot on the Canadiens by next year.
It will be interesting to see who Caufield will be playing on a line with next week. Especially after having a long break to develop and a decent start to his college season. Team USA has a lot of superior playmakers like Anaheim Ducks prospect Trevor Zegras, Minnesota Wild prospect Matthew Boldy, and Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Turcotte, to name a few. If he can manage to get ice time with more offensive-minded forwards, there is no doubt he will be lighting the lamp at the event.
W Alexander Holtz/W Lucas Raymond – Team Sweden – New Jersey Devils/Detroit Red Wings
The passer and the shooter. The playmaker and the sniper. The play driver and the play finisher. It’s a relationship as old as time. That very relationship will be the driving force behind the most dynamic duo of Swedes the country has seen in years. When this year’s World Juniors kicks off, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz will be looking to use their relationship to ensure that the Tre Kronor are graced with gold.
Alexander Holtz is the finisher. He brings a versatile skill set as a sniper, with the ability to finish in tight with his slick hands or beat goalies from distance with the best shot from the 2020 draft class. He can create his own shots but he is lethal when he can work off a true play driver and playmaker.
The Swedish shooter has been lights out at international events and excelled in league play in comparison to his age group. Playing in the Djurgården system, he was absolutely dominant at the U20 level. His 30 goals in 38 games in his age-16 season led the SuperElit (now J20 Nationell) and his 47 points were only two back of the league lead. Playing primarily in the SHL last season, he collected nine goals and played at almost a half point-per-game clip.
Finishing one point ahead of his national team partner, Lucas Raymond capped his age-16 season in the Frölunda system with 48 points. His production came from his creativity and playmaking ability, finishing with 35 assists on the year. Also taking the step to the men’s level last season, Raymond didn’t fare as well. Less physically mature and struggling to find his footing with minuscule deployment at times, his 10 points in 33 games were a bit behind his counterpart.
Raymond’s game thrives on his ability to outsmart and out-skill his opponents. He visualizes the ice at an elite level, diagnosing the defense and attacking its weak points. He is agile and deceptive as he works his way around the ice, constantly on the lookout for passing lanes to put his teammates in the best position. He is one of the rare wingers who can truly drive play without being a center and he does it at an exceptionally high level against his peers. He’s starting to show he can do it against men this year in the SHL as well.
The pair led their country to a bronze medal at the 2018 World U17 Hockey Challenge where Holtz finished third in the tournament in scoring with eight points while Raymond finished one point back. Raymond scored the bronze medal-winning goal in the shootout to put his stamp on the event.
In April of 2019, the same pair was at it again when they helped lead Sweden to another medal at the World U18 Championships. This time, it was gold. It was Holtz this time coming in one point back of Raymond with seven and eight points respectively. The final against a Yaroslav Askarov led Russian squad put both of their skill sets on display as they reversed roles for a night. Holtz picked up two assists in regulation, both on Lucas Raymond’s goals. It was overtime, however, that will be the lasting memory from this tournament. Alexander Holtz himself described Lucas Raymond’s overtime winner best.
“It’s not like a rebound or something. He takes the puck, dangles a guy, and then shoots it into the net. It’s amazing!”
Much like both the U17 World Challenge and the World U18s, the Terror Twins went into last year’s World Juniors ahead of their age group. As 17-year-old stars at a tournament generally featuring the best 18 and 19-year-old players in the world, taking on a leading role would be difficult. Playing on the third-line primarily centered by Karl Henriksson, the duo made their presence felt in games as they flashed their chemistry and skill. Putting some production on the board through the round-robin, the duo went quiet in the elimination rounds as the team leaned on their veterans en route to the bronze medal. At the end of the day, Holtz came out on top of Raymond in the scoresheet with five points, just one ahead of his linemate yet again.
Primed to wreck worlds at the 2020 World U18s, Holtz and Raymond would finally be playing in a tournament where they were not a year or two younger than the rest of the team. The same duo that shone so bright at the 2019 event would finally get their chance to put their stamp on things at their age level. That was until the pandemic hit and canceled the majority of league play and international events through the summer.
This meant that the next time we are able to see the Terror Twins is this year’s World Junior Championships. COVID-19 has not gone away. The world has adapted. We wear masks and stay six-feet apart. Bubbles have become all the rage in sports. The 2021 World Juniors is going to be taking a page out of the NHL’s book, using the “Edmonton Bubble” that the NHL set up in the summer to finish their season. That unique setup and format will provide a bit of a different viewing experience for everyone at home and won’t allow for anyone in the stands, NHL scouts included.
One thing that will be a welcome site in western Canada will be the chemistry and talent on display for the Swedish duo of Holtz and Raymond. They will be in the driver’s seat for Sweden this year. Henriksson would have likely been their center again at this year’s event, as the New York Rangers prospect has slowly become a staple between the two studs, but he is out of the event due to COVID-19. It looks like he will be replaced by Theodor Niederbach to start at least but with these two, it shouldn’t matter who is at center if they can just let the stars shine. Slated to play on the top line this time around, Raymond and Holtz should challenge for the tournament lead in scoring. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them finish one and two, with just one point between the two, like it’s always been.
W/C Tim Stutzle – Germany – Ottawa Senators
Heading into their second consecutive season in the top division of the IIHF World Juniors, Team Germany has a much thinner roster than they were originally hoping for. After the confirmation that both Moritz Seider (not released by Detroit/Rögle BK) and Lukas Reichel (Covid-19) would not be suiting up in Edmonton for their country, it is clear that the Germans will be looking primarily at one player to carry a massive offensive workload this year: 3rd overall selection of the Ottawa Senators, Tim Stutzle.
After contributing 5 assists in 5 games in a 9th place finish for Team Germany last year, it is clear that Stutzle’s contribution this year has to be significantly greater. Although no team from the top division will be relegated in this tournament, the Germans will still have the goal of making a quarter-final match, as Slovakia and Switzerland join them in Pool A with weaker than usual rosters as well. In order for that to happen though, Stutzle will have to ignite the offense to offset the projected weak defending and goaltending on the German roster.
While expectations will be sky-high for the young star, there is no doubt that he is fully capable of living up to them. Stutzle possesses an electrifying skating ability, along with a well-refined offensive toolbox that allows him to produce at a high level. When on the puck, he instantly becomes not just the most dangerous player on the German team, but arguably the entire tournament. His high-end talent will be heavily relied upon to contribute not just offensively, but also defensively and in transition to control the pace of play.
The one concern for the young German is how well he has recovered from his recent injury. In mid-October, it was announced that Stutzle would have to undergo arm surgery after receiving a fracture during training. The timeline was six-to-eight weeks for a full recovery, and all signs point to the process being a success. If that is the case, fans should be tuning in to watch an electrifying Tim Stutzle put on a show that hopefully pushes Team Germany into a quarter-final match for the first time in their World Junior history.
RW Kirby Dach – Canada – Chicago
It’s not often that a player makes his World Junior debut after playing a full season in the NHL but that will be the case for Canada’s Kirby Dach. Three days after being selected third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft by Chicago, while speaking to the local media at his introductory press conference, Dach was confident in his game and knew that the opportunity to make Chicago’s roster was going to be there in training camp.
“One area I kind of need to add, is a little more size and the other thing I need to learn is just the pace of play. I don’t understand what that’s going to be like until I get there and play with those guys and practice with them so for me to get into camp, I’m going to make the decision tough on the management group to send me back and I’m going to give them every reason to keep me here”
Not only did he make it hard on the management team and coaching staff, he demanded a spot with his skill and work ethic off the ice. He sustained a concussion in the preseason during the annual prospects tournament which led to him beginning the season with an injured/non-roster designation but the team wanted to see what the nine-game tryout period would bring.
He collected three points in those nine games but his play on the ice and his overall impact on games were proving worth keeping around. He was poised, confident, and understood his role each and every night. Playing bottom-six minutes to start the year, Dach was ready for the NHL in whatever role Chicago had available and with that, his NHL career had begun.
Then, as with everyone in and out of sports, Dach’s world changed dramatically. COVID-19 shut things down in March after the rest of the North American sports world did the same following the lead of the NBA. The NHL returned to play in the summer and Dach returned to Chicago’s lineup a more dangerous and comfortable player in the NHL. He was one of the best players for his team in the Return to Play games that Chicago made it into and his skating, physicality and skill all shown bright as he racked up six points in nine games, helping Chicago to an upset over the Oilers to get into the ‘true’ playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights where Chicago was dispatched.
With the NHL season rumored (at the time) to be not starting until mid-January, the only question was whether Chicago would let their young forward attend the World Juniors. The Canadian camp roster was announced and mere hours later, Dach was released to the team. As soon as that permission was granted, Dach became an instant difference-making player on the Canadian roster.
Dach brings so many aspects to the event. Canada’s recently named captain should be among the top scorers at the World Juniors with a full season of experience playing against the best players in the world in the NHL. He has the speed and skill to play with the best in the world so playing at the junior level should be a walk in the park for the former Kamloops Blazer. Dach’s shown his ability in the pre-tournament intrasquad games and in practice with highlight reels plays. He looked like a different player when Chicago returned to the ice in the summer against Edmonton. He looked like a player who had taken some lessons from his rookie year and made improvements to his game. If he was able to put up six points in nine games against NHL talent, what is he going to do against the U20 squads he’s about to face? If he isn’t the front runner for the MVP and top forward at the tournament, he is certainly in the conversation with just a couple of other players. If he plays the way he did in the summer with Chicago, he shouldn’t have any competition.
The World Juniors are a beautiful time of year. They bring so much joy and excitement to our lives and we need that more than ever this year. Enjoy the event. Stay safe, stay healthy. It’s almost here and we have these stars and more ready to shine brightly in the spotlight for the next two weeks. It’s going to be fun. Be sure to follow everyone that contributed to this article! Clare McManus and Jacob Barker have been doing great work for the DobberProspects’ team!