Noel Gunler is the forgotten draft-eligible Swede
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The ponds are frozen. The outdoor games are rolling and the toes of countless kids are numb. Best of all, we’re inching closer and closer to the 2020 World Junior Championships. Two weeks to go!
This rendition of the event is being held in the Czech Republic and will once again pit the very best of the U20 talent that the hockey world has to offer against one another. However, like every year before it, the 2020 tournament will happen and many an elite player will be left at home wondering what went wrong. And so I present to you an idea – and not one that is altogether just for fun. It’s the first-ever All-Snub Team. How would they fare? You can bet they’d be up for every game as they go out and prove the opposition coaching staffs that they made a mistake leaving them off of the national roster.
For now, we are mostly left to sift through the players who were not even given a chance to have their hearts broken by that early morning phone call alerting them that they’ve been cut on Christmas eve. As the camps continue and more players are sent home, I’ll update the Snub Roster. It’ll be a shame for a few of these guys as they’re cut from the Snub team for better players. But hey, it’s a cruel world out there.
This team will be home to many Canadians. The perennial challenger often leaves behind ridiculously talented players. They also often boast the most players absent due to their playing in the NHL as teenagers. That remains the case in 2020. We also figured for a mixed-nation bag, the polite Canucks would help make the dressing room warm and fuzzy.
- Philip Tomasino, C – Canada
- The Predators first-round selection last season has been doing his thing in Niagara this year. His 17 goals are just outside of the top-10 in the OHL. His 41 points in 30 contests also sit just outside that benchmark. Tomasino is a lock for the Snub Squad and is ready to unleash some snipes against the Red and White for leaving him at home.
Sidenote: Tomasino will almost assuredly be on the Canadian team next year, so he’ll have to keep the real dirty stuff in his back pocket… for now.
- Matthew Boldy, LW – USA
- The Wild’s first-round pick from last June has failed to adjust smoothly to college hockey. Still, he brings the heavy, two-way game that would mesh well up and down the lineup.
- Rodion Amirov, LW – Russia
- Russia hates bringing draft-eligibles to the WJC. The Snubs love to. Amirov was dynamite at the U18s and has been hanging in the Russia pro circuit this season. He’ll go in the top 20 this June.
- Jamieson Rees, C – Canada
- Another OHLers who has lived amongst the top-10 scorers this season. Carolina’s 2019 second-round pick has been firing at nearly TWO POINTS per game for Sarnia. Rees is bringing speed and tenacity down the middle for the Snubs.
- Shane Wright, C – Canada
- While other nations are handcuffed by things like “age concerns”, not the Snubs. They’re going for the glory and will be damned if they leave an ELITE 15-year-old behind. Playing the OHL this season as an exceptional status kid, Wright has been better than a point-per-game and is just starting to look comfortable. Toss him on the top line and watch him fly.
- Zion Nybeck, RW – Sweden
- All sorts of skill stuffed into 5’8. Nybeck will waterbug his way to a first-round selection this June and will bring the Rudy-spirit to the Snubs.
- Connor Zary, C – Canada
- Let’s stick with some undrafted kids. What has Zary done to deserve an invite? Oh, I dunno, just led the WHL in scoring for large chunks of the season. The Kamloops Blazer’s pivot is just 10 days shy of being eligible for last season’s draft so his age shouldn’t have been an issue when camps were being laid out. Oh, so Canada thinks they can send him a late invite? Well, we’re keeping him on our roster for when they inevitably cut him.
- Noel Gunler, W – Sweden
- Gunler has been very good in the SHL this year as a draft-eligible seeing bottom-six minutes. His shot would normally be at the top of the class, but in 2020 he falls down a bit. Serious skill but whispers of attitude may have been the reason his invite was lost in the mail. The Snubs will gladly take him.
- Ryan Suzuki, C – Canada
- Carolina’s featuring a few players on this squad. Maybe they’re a bunch of jerks? The Hurricane’s first-rounder from last June is filling the orchard once again this year. His playmaking is sublime and he’ll drop more than a few dimes for the Snubs.
- Samuel Poulin, LW/RW – Canada
- This one was a head-scratcher for me. Poulin brings the combination of size and skill that has become synonymous with ‘Canadian Hockey” at the WJC. He’s been terrific in the Q, even dropping an eight-point night last month. The Pens’ top prospect will get his chance to smash in the corners for the Snubs.
- Brayden Tracey, LW – Canada
- The Ducks grabbed Tracey late in the first round last June. He’s been good once again on a slightly depleted Moose Jaw squad. Tracey will bring a mix of skills to help bolster any line.
- Carson Focht, F – Canada
- The 19-year-old WHLer will come to camp with a clear goal in mind: become the swiss army knife player every successful team has. Focht can start as the 12th/13th forward and slide into any forward position up the lineup. Kill penalties? Sure. Help a power-play? You betcha? He’s not Swiss, but he’ll play like one here.
- Roni Hirvonen, C – Finland
- The 17-year-old has been quietly performing very well in the Liiga. He’s the skillful type of forward who can slide up into the top-six in case of injury or inconsistency.
- Victor Soderstrom, RHD – Sweden
- This one is a gift from the Swedes. The 11th overall pick from 2019 is competing very well as an 18-year-old in the SHL. His nine points in 15 games represent one of the top U20 performing skaters in the top Swedish pro league. Not just defenders. All skaters. He’ll anchor the top pair for the Snubs.
- Ryan Merkley, RHD – Canada
- The on and off-ice concerns surrounding Merkley have been well documented. He’s on his third OHL team in four seasons but the production is unquestioned. Merkely will be given free rein to run around with this squad.
Oh, would you look at that, Finland made some cuts. That’s just more fuel for the Snub fire! We’d take Anton Lundell on one leg, but I suppose if he won’t see any action we’ll leave him at home.
Finland’s WJC camp cuts:— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) December 12, 2019
C Anton Lundell (2020) [injured]
F Roni Hirvonen (2020)
W Niklas Nordgren (CHI)
W Leevi Aaltonen (NYR)
C Henri Nikkanen (WPG)
W Samuel Salonen
C Patrik Siikanen (EDM)
W Mikko Petman
RHD Topi Niemelä (2020)
RHD Axel Rindell
RHD Miska Kukkonen (BUF)
- Topi Niemela, RHD – Finland
- One of the top-rated blueliners in the 2020 class will have a home on the Snubs. He can be the classic “start out as the 6th/7th defender and work his way up the lineup, up the draft boards, and straight into our hearts” guy.
- Jett Woo, RHD – Canada
- To be fair, it seems like Woo played himself out of an invite with the Canadians this year. The Canucks’ second-rounder seems to have left his offensive game in Moose Jaw after an offseason trade sent him to the Calgary Hitmen. He can still step up and lay the boom as good as any U20 in the world though.
- Jonny Tychonick, LHD – Canada
- The Sens 2018 second-rounder is an all-around player who will act in a shutdown role for the Snubs. He has a rich history with Canada on the international stage but takes this opportunity for his last crack at the U20 event.
- Jeremie Poirier, LHD – Canada
- A fluid, transitional defender who’s above a point-per-game in the CHL? We’ll take him even if he is 17.
- Filip Johansson, RHD – Sweden
- The Wild’s 2018 first-rounder won’t wow with his offensive production but brings a calming and steady defensive presence to the Snubs young and skillful defensive unit.
- Jesper Wallstedt, G – Sweden
- Askarov may be the most talented netminder we’ve seen in a draft since Carey Price. But Wallstedt is coming in 2021 and he could give that status a run for its money. The young swede has been insane on the international stage and will get a chance to do the same here.
- Joel Blomqvist, G – Finland
- This kid has been torching the Jr. A SM-liiga as a 17-year-old, and even had a spin in the Finnish top tier. He’s ready to battle.
- Magnus Chrona, G – Sweden
- The 19-year-old has been deadly as an NCAA freshman. He adds the height (6’4) and an elder-statemen element to the crease. We’re all just shocked that it was Tampa Bay who stole him in the fifth round back in 2018.
Amirov – Tomasino – Gunler
Boldy – Wright – Poulin
Zary – Suzuki – Nybeck
Tracey – Rees – Focht
Tychonick – Soderstrom
Poirier – Woo
Johansson – Merkely
Tell me this team wouldn’t be in the hunt for a medal. Go on, I dare you.
Follow me on Twitter @Hockey_Robinson
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