Most of world’s best under-20 players will be in Czech Republic for the next couple of weeks to battle for medals at the World Junior Championship. There are a few players who would be eligible for the tournament but they are already full-time NHL players. But additionally, there are also some prospects who will miss the tournament because of an injury or because their team has tremendous depth. Here’s a look at players who were either close to making the final roster or at least should have been in consideration for that.
Kirby Dach (CHI) was not released by the Blackhawks even though he hasn’t really played a huge role for them. But the following forwards did not crack the roster just because Canada decided they had better options available: Alex Newhook (COL), Cole Perfetti (2020), Dylan Holloway (2020), Connor Zary (2020), Peyton Krebs (VGK), Philip Tomasino (NSH), Jakob Pelletier (CGY), Brayden Tracey (ANA), Samuel Poulin (PIT), Ryan Suzuki (CAR), Jamieson Rees (CAR), Benoit-Olivier Groulx (ANA), and Serron Noel (FLA).
On defense, Noah Dobson (NYI) wasn’t released by the Islanders even though he isn’t playing a huge role either. But Canada also left Ryan Merkley (SJS), Thomas Harley (DAL), Jeremie Poirier (2020), Jett Woo (VAN), Kaedan Korczak (VGK) and Jonny Tychonick (OTT) off the team.
It’s safe to say that Canada’s second team would be in medal contention. You can put together a great team from those players. For example:
USA has one of the best teams in the tournament but they didn’t actually have a lot of great players who were left off the team. Matthew Boldy (MIN), Robert Mastrosimone (DET) and Trevor Janicke (ANA) are the most notable forwards they left off, so that’s not a lot.
News broke yesterday that Anton Lundell (2020) will officially miss the tournament because of an injury. There was a chance he would get healthy in time but that didn’t happen. The most notable cut up front was Roni Hirvonen (2020) who deserved to be there. I guess he was just too young. Otto Kivenmäki (DET) was one of the final cuts, and he would have made my team. Niklas Nordgren (CHI) is another forward who many expected to be on the team but he didn’t play for nine months because of surgery and just couldn’t come back from it soon enough to get back to full speed before the tournament starts.
On defense, Finland had a lot of good options. The most notable cut was Topi Niemelä (2020) who deserved to play a big role on the team but was likely cut because of his age. I thought he would be Finland’s number four defenseman at even strength. Axel Rindell (undrafted) is the leading U20 scorer in the Liiga among defensemen, so he was another surprise. Antti Tuomisto (DET), who recently committed to Denver University, is a player who deserved a chance but never got one because he has to stay in the junior league to maintain his NCAA eligibility – the coaching staff favored pro experience. Finland’s defense group is very small, and Tuomisto could have brought some much-needed size to it.
Forwards Filip Hållander (PIT) and Jacob Olofsson (MTL) will miss the tournament because of injuries. I think Hållander is the better player between the two but Olofsson is a natural center and the Swedes don’t have any depth down the middle, so losing him was a huge loss.
Biggest omissions up front were wingers Simon Holmström (NYI) and Noel Gunler (2020). I thought Sweden could have used some more skill up front but instead, they decided to take defensive forwards to fill their lineup. Albin Grewe (DET) and Elmer Söderblom (DET) are other forwards who should have received consideration but never even got a chance to prove themselves.
Adam Boqvist (CHI) wasn’t released by the Blackhawks even though he isn’t playing a major role for them. But Sweden’s depth on defense is insane. The players they left off the team include Axel Andersson (BOS), Filip Johansson (MIN), Eric Hjorth (CBJ), Simon Lundmark (WPG) and Albert Johansson (DET). Yeah, that’s a good group of players.
Dmitri Zavgorodny (CGY) misses the tournament because of injury. Players from North America often get left off the Russian team, and that happened again this year with CHLers Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (TOR) and Yegor Afanasyev (NSH) as well as NCAA players Ruslan Iskhakov (NYI) and Vladislav Firstov (MIN).
The most notable cuts among forwards who played in Russia were Rodion Amirov (2020) and Ilya Nikolayev (CGY). Amirov especially would have been on my team because Russia seems to be lacking nine offensive forwards, so Amirov could have helped in that regard. Nikolayev would have been an option for fourth line center role but they felt like they had better options for that role.
On defense, Artemi Knyazev (SJS) and Daniil Chayka (2021) are the most notable names missing, and they’re both CHL players.
Center Michal Gut (2020) will miss the tournament because of injury, although it wasn’t a sure thing he would have made the final roster anyways. Winger Pavel Novak (2020) didn’t even get invited to the final camp which was a big surprise. I thought he would play a top nine role for the Czechs.
Defenseman Stanislav Svozil (2021) would have been the youngest player in the tournament but unfortunately that didn’t happen. He’s the best Czech defense prospect in a long time.
The Czechs had four great options in net, and Jan Bednar (2020) was the odd man out.
One of the weirdest cuts this year has to be winger Martin Chromiak (2020). He didn’t even get to play in either of Slovakia’s pre-tournament games, so it’s not like he was given a legitimate chance either. Chromiak was expected to play a middle-six role for the Slovaks but for whatever reason, the coaching staff didn’t see things that way. Perhaps it’s just because he’s young and they had older, more experienced options who are almost as good. But I think they’ll end up regretting this decision.
Defenseman Noah Delémont (2020) didn’t even get invited to the final camp which was a surprise. Another defenseman, Giancarlo Chanton (2021), was one of the final cuts from camp. Both of these guys play in the CHL, so perhaps the Swiss are also using that fact against them.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of Yle.fi
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