The 2022 World Junior Championships (WJC) concluded after being cancelled back in December and Canada won the Gold in a thrilling game in over time.
Each year this tournament has some breakout prospects and players that have a standout performance that endear them to a bigger audience. Here in Canada, I, and many of those reading this, may be very familiar with most of the Canadian players and some of the European players that play in the CHL. But the other countries are loaded with names we are not familiar with and struggle to pronounce.
In some cases, these lesser know prospects are discovered by us fantasy GM’s but are they actually fantasy relevant? Are they actually as good as they are playing in this small sample size? Even if a player that has a standout performance at the WJC this could be the pinnacle of their career. Remember Justin Pogge? Let’s review some of the players who made some noise at the tournament and see if they are worth investing in the deeper leagues, or if they are a sell high option.
Mason McTavish, C – Canada (Anaheim Ducks)
This one is obvious, McTavish is a blue-chip, can’t miss prospect. The 19-year-old actually has one more year of junior and WJC eligibility remaining, but he will no doubt be playing in the NHL instead as he has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he is done with junior hockey. This past season was one for the ages as he played nine NHL games and three AHL games before heading back to the OHL. He led the Hamilton Bulldogs to an OHL Championship and one win away from a Memorial Cup. He also played for Canada at the Olympics, and the WJC. The tournament MVP and leading scorer is a fantasy hockey must own in any scoring format and almost any league size.
Olen Zellweger, LD – Canada (Anaheim Ducks)
Ducks’ fans are salivating reading this. The Ducks stole Zellweger in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft. His D+1 season with the Everett Silvertips was a massive breakout as he produced 78 points in 55 games (Remember he is a defenseman). Zellweger immediately established himself as Canadas number one defenseman playing top minutes with partner Donovan Serbango and getting first unit PP deployment. His 11 points in seven games (1.57PPG) led the tournament in defense scoring. Zellweger has been making noise all season as one of the fastest rising prospects in hockey and after his play in the WJC the cat’s definitely out of the bag. He has become a blue-chip prospect and will challenge Jamie Drysdale as the Ducks top defenseman in the future.
Ridly Greig, LW/C – Canada (Ottawa Senators)
Greig is another prospect that has been on the rise. His final season in the WHL as Captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings was impressive with 26 goals and 63 points in just 39 games as injuries cut his season short. He also racked up 92 PIMs and was a plus -26. So, it was no surprise to some when he not only made Team Canada but played his way quickly into a key role. His impact was hard to miss as he was impactful in all aspects, offensively six points in five games, physically with eight PIMs and some impactful hits, and defensively. Greig is close to being NHL ready and likely gets some AHL reps in Belleville before he is a fantasy multi-cat stud. Greig definitely raised his fantasy value, and he deserves the attention. His value in banger leagues makes him a must own, but for points only he could be a sell high option if you can get a hefty return.
Roby Jarventie, LW – Finland (Ottawa Senators)
The Finnish PP was lethal in this tournament and Jarventie was the triggerman with four goals and nine points in seven games. He was one of the more talked about prospects from Finland, but we have already seen him in North America as he played the past season in the AHL with Belleville where he scored 11 goals and 33 points in 70 games. His WJC production exceeds his league play both from the AHL and Liiga and given the depth of the Sens organization he has some work to crack the NHL roster. The 6-3 winger was a second-round selection (33rd overall in 2020) so there is some draft pedigree behind him, but if his value increased due to his WJC play I would entertain offers based on that value.
Kasper Puutio, RD – Finland (Florida Panthers)
Puutio was named the top Best Defenseman of the tournament with his seven points in seven games. The 5-11 right shot defender was another key factor in Finland’s Silver Medal run and drove their power play. His defensive play was also excellent, and he edged out Emil Andrae and Olen Zellweger for the best D award. But he lacks draft pedigree as a 2020 fifth round selection (153rd overall) and remains an unsigned prospect. Puutio has played in North America in 2019-20 season with Swift Current for 35 games before being dealt to Everett for another 21 where he combined for 28 points in 56 games. His past two years have been back in Finland in the Liiga where he has 13 points in 80 career games and is scheduled to return to KalPa for the upcoming campaign. He is currently only 9% Fantrax owned so not likely a sell high option. However, for the deep, deep dynasty leaguers he could be a sleeper free agent pick up that you can stash on your prospect bench for a year or two and see what happens as a free add. His fantasy value in banger leagues will be lower as he is not much of a hitter and his offensive upside likely keeps him in a bottom six role.
Emil Andrae, LD – Sweden (Philadelphia Flyers)
Drafted in the second round of the 2020 Draft (54th overall) Andrea struggled in his D+1 season in the SHL with no goals and seven assists in 31 games. He played the entire 2021-22 season in HockeyAllsvenskan (a lower tier) and regained his forum with 33 points in 41 games. His development has not inspired the Flyers to offer him a contract and he is scheduled to take another run in the SHL with HV71. His play at the WJC as Sweden’s Captain was impressive as he outplayed big name prospects like Simon Edvinsson (DET), William Wallinder (DET), and Helge Grans (LAK) with four goals and eight points. I see this as a sell high opportunity if you are part of the 37% Fantrax ownership.
Jan Mysak, C/LW – Czechia (Montreal Canadiens)
The Canadiens 2020 second round pick (48th overall) has not developed as much as I would have liked. With the OHL shutdown during COVID he played in the AHL for 22 games posting only two goals. In the 2021 WJC he scored three points in seven games as the Captain for Czechia. This past season back in the OHL he scored 34 goals and 64 points in 61 games on a loaded Hamilton Bulldogs Championship roster as the second line center. The 20-year-old returned to Captain Czechia to a Bronze Medal game and loss earning All-Star recognition with his four goals and eight points in seven games. His WJ play in this tournament exceeds my projections for his NHL upside and this should be a sell high opportunity for the 46% Fantrax ownership that own Mysak.
Michal Gut, C – Czechia (Undrafted)
The 20-year-old may be undrafted, but he caught my eye in the tournament with his six points, but more than that his hard play. He played a physical game for a 5-11, 185-pound player and was mixing it up making an impact. Gut has two years of development in the WHL with Everett, including the 2021-22 campaign where he produced 18 goals and 71 points in 53 games (1.34PPG) with 50 PIMS. He is signed to play in Czechia this season with HC Litvinov so he is not a fantasy add at this time, but if he has a good season, I could see him signing as a free agent and taking a crack at the AHL trying to play his way int the NHL. Keep an eye on the Czechia Player of the Game from the Bronze game.
Ralfs Bergmanis, LD – Latvia (Undrafted)
Another 20-year-old undrafted prospect to keep an eye on. The Latvian Captain led the team in scoring with five points helping Latvia to their first ever WJC quarterfinals including a hat-trick to clinch the victory. Latvia played inspired hockey and Bergmanis was hard not to notice. He played last year in the USHL with Sioux City scoring 14 points in 50 games but the stat line that pops out is his 157 PIMs. Committed to the NCAA to play at the University of Vermont Bergmanis may come back into fantasy consideration as a NCAA free agent signing in a few years if he continues to play an impactful role. Keep in mind his fantasy value is likely limited to bangers leagues where his hits, blocks and PIMs make him fantasy relevant.