It’s really great to be a hockey fan right now. With barely any snatches of NHL hockey – including our Minnesota Wild’s depressing loss to the Dallas Stars as one of the few games played recently – and players retiring from the Olympics with their heads bowed , nothing happens. All we can enjoy is dragging our feet and watching vacation reruns, instead of watching our favorite team beat the Arizona Coyotes or something like that.
Well thank goodness we have the world junior championships.
The winter tournament between 10 Nations of Teens to determine which NHL prospects really are the best, began with their prelims – the ones that haven’t been called off – in the past and the tournament itself starting on the 26th. December. And if you cure your hockey boredom is not enough the Wilds are well represented this year with six players from five different teams. Let’s take a look at some of the perspectives.
Carson Lambos, Canada
It’s always good to have a potential defenseman on Team Canada, as the hockey world in the North will likely remember his name decades from now if he puts in a strong enough performance. They’re monsters for that shit up there and Lambos will most likely be in Canada’s top four defensemen on the right side, even as a left-handed defender.
Canada has decided to only take lefties when it comes to defenders, supporting my personal prejudice that the lefty side is far exaggerated. This is important, but choosing to pick the best group of defenders rather than trying to force proper left-right pairs is something that is just plain nice to watch.
Hopefully Lambos excels on the big stage and that will propel him to make a strong impact when he visits Minnesota training camp later in the fall.
Ryan O’Rourke, Canada
The older of the two Canadian defenders, O’Rourke will play more of a stopping role and was in last place against the Russian team in a show Thursday. While he’s certainly not the flashy defender we’re used to seeing at this tournament – Calen Addison has been a highlight lately – O’Rourke can stabilize the squad and remove some other talented forwards in the tournament.
Since he loves to hit, I just hope he isn’t the author of the seemingly annual Defender hits talented striker in the head and everyone hates him now.
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden
Jesper is by far the best goalkeeper in the tournament. Of course, Sebastian Cossa – who was brought in front of him in the 2021 NHL Draft – has a solid record and other guys can compete with him. But Wallstedt has already played for the men at historic rates and is poised to become Sweden’s next stabilizing force between the posts. While Marat Khusnutdinov may be the most talented skater among the Wild’s prospects at the tournament, Wallstedt certainly has the highest cap and is going to get his fair share of the spotlight.
He should will start most of Sweden’s important games, and hopefully he can win one or two individual prizes.
Jack Peart, United States
Late call, Jack Peart wasn’t supposed to be on the final US roster, but with some players in quarantine his number was called and he rushed to Alberta to join in the fun. The second round of 2021 is a boy from Minnesota and models his game on our own Jared Spurgeon, so that will be fun.
He’s a firecracker when it comes to entering the zone and can skate well enough for a player who is just starting to put varsity game under his feet. Also, he is pronounced “PEE-ert” and I mean it wrong since he was drafted.
Marat Khusnutdinov, Russia
His name has already been mentioned, but Khusnutdinov is a complete stallion. The undersized but dynamic center will be on Russia’s top line and against Canada in an exhibition match, he had 2023 prodigy Matvei Michkov on his wing. Khusnutdinov is already receiving praise for his well-rounded appearance, and that has already been his game, so it’s going to be wonderful to watch him play.
We’re pretty familiar with that notion, but the Russian teenager has just returned to his KHL squad and will play there until 2024. It’s not the best case scenario, but he’ll be a player to look forward to and likely suddenly become the Wild. second best cross almost immediately, if nothing changes.
Our blog is going to have constant highlights from Khusnutdinov ready for all of you.
Pavel Novak, Czechia
And finally, and probably the most forgotten, Pavel Novak will play on the wing for Czechia. Not one of the serious contenders for this tournament, but Novak has earned his place playing in the WHL this season and could be one of their few offensive sparks this tournament. It can certainly surprise, and it’s a tournament made for 19-year-olds, so who knows, but we’ll see it from time to time.
Now that you know all of the Wild hopefuls who will be in the tournament, let’s check out the matches they’ll be in. All games are available on NHL Network in the US or TSN in Canada. The times are CST.
Russia (Khusnutdinov) against Sweden (Wallstedt) – 3:30 p.m.
Czechia (Novak) against Canada (Lambos, O’Rourke) – 6:00 p.m.
United States (Pear) vs Slovakia – 8:30 p.m.
Russia (Khusnutdinov) against Switzerland – 3:30 p.m.
Germany v Czechia (Novak) – 6:00 p.m.
Sweden (Wallstedt) vs Slovakia – 8:30 p.m.
Switzerland v United States (Pear) – 3:30 p.m.
Austria vs Canada (Lambos, O’Rourke) – 6:00 p.m.
Finland v Czechia (Novak) – 1:00 p.m.
Slovakia vs. Russia (Khusnutdinov) – 3:30 p.m.
Canada (Lambos, O’Rourke) against Germany – 6:00 p.m.
Sweden (Wallstedt) against the United States (Pear) – 8:30 p.m.
Czechia (Novak) vs. Austria – 3:30 p.m.
the 31st of December
Switzerland v Sweden (Wallstedt) – 3:30 p.m.
Canada (Lambos, O’Rourke) against Finland – 6:00 p.m.
United States (Pear) against russia (Khusnutdinov) – 8:30 p.m.
Qualifiers and rounds for medals