With Development camps in the rear view for the most part, the focus of draft junkies moves towards the next wave. The first major showcase event of the draft year is the World Junior Summer Showcase (WJSS) hosted by USA Hockey. One of the issues is that it is not well publicized and many hockey fans do not even know what it is. So I will break it down for everyone in a quick refresher and preview of each team.
Four countries participate each year; Canada, Sweden, Finland and the United States. Its used as a platform for testing and evaluating players who are eligible for the World Junior U20 Championships (WJC) that begin each December. While many times draft eligible players don’t make the World Junior U20 teams for their respective nations, it is largely a 19-year-old’s tournament, the WJSS features quite a few of the high-end draft eligible players this year.
While the Finnish roster is not finalized, the camp rosters are out. They will be hosting a camp from July 20th-25th. The camp will feature two full rosters, one of which being a main roster and the second being a challenger roster. The US will have two teams compete in the first half if he event before combining them, Canada will bring 43 players of their own and interchange them throughout the event. The Swedish contingent at the event was announced in mid-June, including two of the best prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft.
2020 Draft Eligible Talent to Watch
Justin Barron, RHD, Canada:
While the easy answer for which draft eligible prospect on Canada would be top ranked Alexis Lafreniere, Barron deserves your eye. The young defender was among the best blueliners in the QMJHL last year in his D-1 season. He offers a complete game, excelling in all three zones and he possesses extraordinary offensive upside. He could be among the best Canadian rearguards in the event.
Anton Lundell, C, Finland:
The top ranked Finnish player is a complete center who does all of the small things well. He has a knack for being able to make difficult plays look easy which gives the impression that he isn’t as highly skilled as some players ranked highly in the draft. His puck skills and hockey IQ are among the best in the class and he displays efficiency in all three zones. Look for Lundell to be among the best Finnish forwards at the WJSS.
Alexander Holtz, RW/LW, Sweden:
Sweden’s goalscoring phenom will likely play a staring role on the wing of fellow top prospect Lucas Raymond. While Holtz will catch you eye with his goal scoring ability, this really is a tandem that we will see at international play all year. Both Holtz and Raymond will he selected near the top of the 2020 NHL Draft. Holtz is able to find space and the puck finds him. Once the puck is on the young Swede’s stick, he is a torment to opposing goaltenders with an elite release and bomb of a shot.
Luke Toporowski, LW, USA:
The only over-aged player listed here, Toporowski was projected to go in the mid-rounds of the 2019 NHL Draft. The young American plays a tenacious game and forechecks with purpose. Early taking himself out of the play to lay a hit, he is a feisty forward who never stops working. He has a nose for the net and collects most of his points in tight. Toporowski will be one of the more intriguing over-aged prospects to monitor for the next year.
The American roster is split into two teams to start the event. Both teams have talent from top to bottom from all leagues and levels of hockey. There is a lack of first year eligible draft talent but it features an outstanding cast from recent drafts. 2019 Draft picks Alex Turcotte, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy and Trevor Zegras will likely play big roles in the split squad action, hoping to secure playing time once the two teams come together. The offensive firepower that the US has at their disposal at the U20 level has been consistently among the best in the world over the last decade.
On the backend they have a solid pool of talent as well. Led by the likes of K’Andre Miller, Bode Wilde, Cam York and Alex Regula, both USA Blue and White will have players who can do it all on the back end. Whether it be shutdown opponents or break the puck out, the American pipeline will be on display at the WJSS. The goaltending tandems are solid as they feature former USNTDP star Spencer Knight and USHL goaltender Isaiah Saville for team Blue. Team White will showcase WHL statistical king Dustin Wolf and NCAA goaltender Drew Deridder. When these teams merge, the USA roster will likely challenge for the strongest roster in the WJSS. The skill level on the American roster has a large amount of high-end talent. They will likely have a strong group both here and at the WJC at the end of the year.
The Canadian roster is overflowing with talent as usual but there’s an interesting mix of older players and younger players. Bringing a total of 43 players with them to Plymouth, Michigan, they will likely feature multiple looks and different roster arrangements on game days. The Canadian squad treats this event as a training camp.
The roster features players young and old like forward Jack McBain and Luka Burzan providing veteran presences, both less than a week from aging out of the U20 circuit. Adding in the presence of players like Barrett Hayton, Noah Dobson, Joseph Veleno and Jared McIssac will likely mean that there is a very strong contingent of high-end, high-skill 2000-born players leading the way for the Canadian squad.
The squad is likely to feature many 2001-born players that were drafted this past year including Philip Tomasino, Alex Newhook and Thomas Harley as well as top-five selections Bowen Byram and Kirby Dach. This group is going to help power the Canadian team towards a fast paced, high intensity game. The Canadian’s will likely lean in these players early to make a difference. In the WJSS and the WJC, the Canadian squad will go as far as their 2001-born players take them behind the leadership of their veteran teammates.
The team also features three first year draft eligible players in consensus top-ranked Alexis Lafreniere and defenders Braden Schneider and the aforementioned Justin Barron. While the two defenders may not play major roles on the team, Lafreniere will likely be one of the top offensive catalysts at the tournament. His pro-ready game will lead to him often playing high impact minutes against the oppositions best players, dominating in the process. With a talent like Lafreniere, this will likely be his last year playing at the U20 level international as he will likely be preparing for his first NHL training camp at this time next year
The roster that the Swedes are bringing over to this tournament is going to be strong but it is lead by youth. While the veterans will certainly provide leadership, the show will be provided by the two-headed monster of Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond. Both projected to go in the top-five of the 2020 NHL Draft, the young skilled forwards will likely lineup together as previously mentioned, making their line immediately one of the most dangerous at the WJSS. Both players possess extremely high puck skills and hockey IQ which helps them mesh perfectly together.
Aiding the offensive attack for the Swedish contingent will be Jonatan Berggren, Filip Hallander and Jacob Olofsson who all showed well when available in their D+1 year. Jonatan Berggren is a player who could make a statement in a tournament like this, helping him secure a spot on the WJC team and putting doubts about his back injury to rest. He is a playmaker who could work well with a player of Nils Hoglander’s abilities. If the two get some playing time together, their skill sets could mesh well.
The backend is full of talented blueliners who will be competing with a strong group for a spots on the WJC team. They are a diverse group as well, as they have players who show varied levels of offensive capabilities and defensive prowess. Safe, smart defenders like Tobias Bjornfot and Victor Soderstrom will be strong candidates to crack the roster. Smooth skating, push-the-pace defenders like Philip Broberg and Nils Lundkvist will look to put on a show and claim a spot of their own. The Swedish blueline will be one of the most competitive positions at the WJSS.
The only roster not finalized is the Finnish roster. The rosters above are the two camp rosters that the Fins will be working with. On the left is the “Challneger Roster” and the right is the main roster. While the team sent to Plymouth, Michigan will likely have a few players make it from the challenger roster, we are going to focus on the players that are almost assuredly going to make the team.
The star power for Finland up front is not at the level of the Canadian or American teams, but they will have some very underrated talent. Lundell will be a force at the WJSS and will likely work his way onto the WJC roster in the winter. Offensive contributors Patrik Puistola and Antti Saarela will likely be factors for the Finns. Players like the diminutive Otto Kivenmaki and undrafted Kristian Tanus will look to prove they belong with some strong offensive play as they are candidates to have strong seasons in the upcoming year.
On the back end, the Finns have some intriguing prospects led by back-to-back first round 2019 Draft choices Lassi Thomson and Ville Heinola. Although they play different styles of game, both defenders are going to be relied upon to make a difference in the offensive end of the ice. Thomson will likely use his big shot from the point and Heinola will be relief upon in all situations with his high hockey IQ and good skating. Anttoni Honka will be a wild card for the team as he can be an unstoppable force when he puts his game together and doesn’t make simple mistakes in his decision making. The Finns strength may be their backend.
There will be a few players from the “Challenger” team to keep an eye on in camp to see if they can make the final roster. Smart, responsible defender Antti Tuomisto and puck mover Kalle Loponen will try to make an impression on the coaching staff. Up front there is plenty of talent that will be left off the team. Aarne Intonen is likely a long shot to make the team but he’s produced at the Jr. A SM Liiga level and could be a surprise. Henri Nikkanen and Matias Maccelli are likely the strongest contenders to crack the roster up front, both were fourth round picks in the 2019 NHL Draft.
The Forgotten Tournament
Unless you’re around the hockey prospect world, it is hard to keep up with all the tournaments, leagues and games that prospects play. The World Junior Summer Showcase is slowly growing in stature and it is an outstanding prequel to the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup which will be held in August. If you get a chance to get down to the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan you will get a chance to see a large contingent of the worlds next stars and you won’t pay an arm and a leg. It’s a nice facility and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
I hope to see you at the World Junior Summer Showcase! Leave comments below and you can always reach out to me personally on twitter at @TheTonyFerrari!
Be sure to check out the Dobber’s Fantasy Hockey Prospect Report for 2019! It’s the best guide for fantasy prospects around and makes sure that while you’re there you check out the rest of the fantasy hockey guides.
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