Graphic courtesy of Andrew Armstrong
The World Juniors have come and gone once again. The Americans defeated the Canadians in a game where Trevor Zegras proved that Canada hadn’t faced a team like them. The Finns showed their typical cohesion, picking the Russians apart slowly to take the bronze medal. We saw Tim Stützle do a lot of really exciting and dynamic things as he did his best to show off the emerging talent in Germany. Sweden’s round-robin wind streak was extended from 52 games to 54 before snapping it by finishing the tournament with three straight losses to the Americas, Russians, and their rival Finns in their quarterfinal. Even in a year marred by a global pandemic, with many players having to skip the event because of COVID-19, the World Juniors was once again the holiday treat that hockey fans can’t seem to get enough of.
This year was a bit different, however. There was no NHL hockey going on at the same time. This meant even more increased concentration and focus on the annual U20 event. With the World Juniors already being the most popular event for “two-week scouts” as Rachel Doerrie from Elite Prospects put it, the criticisms and the praise of players can go a bit to the extremes. We saw that early on in the tournament with gold medal goaltender Spencer Knight after his poor start in the first game. We saw it again a couple of days later when Cole Caufield and Quinton Byfield didn’t load up the stat sheet in their team’s early tournament blowout wins. We also saw Yaroslav Askarov stumble in the first period of the quarter-final against Canada.
Here is the thing about the World Juniors. It doesn’t really play that big of a role in the grand scheme of things when you are trying to determine who will be a quality NHL player in the future. That may even be more true for the defender of the twine. For every Justin Pogge who looks great on a stacked team there is a Frederik Andersen who struggles with a smaller nation. Jack Campbell was a World Junior star and he’s become a very good backup at the NHL level. Tuukka Rask and Henrik Lundqvist were good as 18-year-olds but looked to regress in a big way as 19-year-olds. Of course, there are stars that look special at the event. From Roberto Luongo to Jacob Markstrom to John Gibson, we have seen stars step up and dominate. So why didn’t the best goalie prospect since Carey Price carry the Russian squad to a medal? Did the Nashville Pred