Pronman: 2022 World Juniors standouts and disappointments

After a week in Red Deer for the Hlinka Gretzky, it was off to Edmonton for the rescheduled 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. Here is a summary of players who I felt stood out — or failed to stand out — this past week in Edmonton after Canada beat Finland 3-2 in overtime in the gold medal game, with Kent Johnson scoring the golden goal.

Standouts

The Canadian Ducks: Mason McTavish, C / Olen Zellweger, D

McTavish was the best player at the tournament. His combination of pace, high-end skill, power and scoring ability distinguished him from the group. McTavish was impactful in puck possession due to his feet, strength and two-way compete while also being able to make very creative plays to generate chances. He also made a tournament-saving defensive play in the gold medal game in overtime. He looks like a player ready to step in with the Ducks.

Zellweger was one of the best defensemen in the tournament. His skating and puck-moving stood out consistently. He made a lot of plays, and with his feet he was able to play at the fast pace of this event without issue. His defending wasn’t amazing given his size, but with his skating he was able to be good enough on retrievals and make enough defensive plays to make the most of his offensive gifts.

Emil Andrae, LHD, Philadelphia

Andrae was Sweden’s clear best skater in the tournament. His great skill and playmaking ability drove their offense, and when they needed a goal the puck went to his stick to make things happen. Andrae isn’t the biggest defenseman but he competes quite hard, allowing him to make stops and win battles. Due to his skating I question whether his game will actually work in the NHL, but he’s certainly a player trending up after a strong year in the Allsvenskan.

Ridley Greig, C, Ottawa

Up until he got injured in the quarterfinals, Greig was one of the best players in the tournament. He showed his typical two-way tenacity, being great defensively while also attacking the net consistently with speed and skill. He looks like a player on the fast track to becoming a top-nine center in the league.

Roby Jarventie, LW, Ottawa

Jarventie had a huge tournament for Finland as a big part of their offense. He’s not a perfect player as he lacks foot speed and physicality, but inside the offensive zone Jarventie can make a lot happen. He’s very skilled, can hit seams as a passer and has a great shot, making him a real threat on the power play. The difference between him at this tournament and the version of him we saw in 2021 was night and day.


Kent Johnson faces off against Finnish goalie Juha Jatkola in overtime during the gold medal game at the 2022 World Juniors (Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press via AP)

The Kent Johnson (Columbus)-Logan Stankoven (Dallas)-Tyson Foerster (Philadelphia) Line

In the tough games, it was this group that stepped up for Canada and was their most consistent line. Johnson’s skill is elite and his imagination with the puck was above the crop at this level. Stankoven brought a ton of energy and skill too, on top of being reliable down the middle for this line, and by the end of the tournament Canada’s power play was flowing through him. Foerster didn’t have the best year in junior but he was quite good in this tournament. He made a lot of plays, he worked hard and he was involved in the offense consistently. His skating is going to be an issue as a pro until he proves it’s not an issue, but at the fast pace of this tournament he showed it wasn’t.

Finland’s Top Line

The top trio of Roni Hirvonen (Toronto), Aatu Raty (New York Islanders) and Joakim Kemell (Nashville) were the clear drivers for Finland at even strength. Raty and Kemell were among the leading scorers in the tournament, Kemell doing so just a few months after being drafted after a so-so showing in the December World Juniors. The three of them all showed great compete levels to go with their skill and Kemell was able to play with a pro pace.

Jiri Kulich, LW, Buffalo

As with Kemell, Kulich was average at this tournament before it was canceled in December, but he was all of a sudden a go-to player in this event and a statistical leader for Czechia. Kulich showed the speed, skill and scoring ability that made him a recent first-round pick but was also strong on pucks and wasn’t physically overwhelmed by going up against older players.

Joel Maatta, C, Edmonton

Maatta’s scouting report has always been focused on his work ethic, but he’s never been that impressive from a skating or skill standpoint. That’s why it was so interesting to see the recent seventh-round pick of the Oilers be elevated into a prominent scoring role for Finland with power play time. I still wouldn’t call him a natural scorer or playmaker, but he may have more skill than I thought.

Maxim Strbak, RHD, Slovakia, 2023 eligible

I don’t think Strbak stood out, but for a 2005-born player in a 2002 tournament I thought he held his own, which is impressive in its own right. Strbak is quite toolsy, he’s a 6-foot-2 defenseman who can skate well, and he showed flashes of impressive skill at the tournament — including running a power play unit. I commented in my previous pieces about the lack of top defense prospects in the 2023 NHL Draft, but it looks like Strbak has a chance to improve that group.

Team Latvia

For a group of players who wouldn’t have been at the tournament without Russia being removed, they sure look like they belonged. The Latvian U20 team was highly competitive in nearly every game they were in. The two NHL draftees at forward in Sandis Vilmanis (Florida) and Dans Locmelis (Boston) both looked like solid prospects. I like Vilmanis the most due to his good speed and skill, but Locemlis made a lot of plays too. The draft-eligible defenseman Niks Fenenko is a strong skater who can move the puck well enough too, potentially having some draft intrigue in 2023 as well.

Jesper Wallstedt, G, Minnesota

There weren’t a ton of great goaltending displays in this tournament, but the few of them often came from Wallstedt. He was one of the rare goalies put under pressure from his team to carry them, and he came through when asked. He’s so smart and technically refined that he made a lot of tough stops look easy. He will still need time to learn how to make the quick saves versus men in North America but there was no doubt he’s a top goalie prospect.


Disappointments

Dalibor Dvorsky, C, Slovakia, 2023 eligible

Dvorsky was good on the power play, but I thought he struggled to generate much offense at even-strength, mostly due to a lack of footspeed and being physically underdeveloped as in ’05 in an ’02 tournament. He’s a top prospect still for the next draft due to how talented offensively he is, but the lack of pace in his game is a bit of a flag as he prepares to play pro hockey in his draft season in the Allsvenskan.

Ville Koivunen, RW, Carolina

For a player who was so productive against men this past season, I expected more from the 2021 second-round pick. Koivunen is a skilled, creative forward, but his skating has never been a strong point, especially for his size. I’ve historically liked his work ethic on the ice, but he wasn’t competing that well or generating enough offense to compensate for what led to his ice time being cut back.

Matthew Knies, LW, Toronto

Generally I thought the top USA line of Knies, Logan Cooley and Matthew Coronato played well, at least until they needed to in the quarterfinals, where that group didn’t get it done. Knies specifically was a disappointment for me. While throughout the tournament he showed great physicality and flashes of skill, he ended the event with no goals and three points. He scored more goals at the Olympics than he did at the World Juniors. I felt that his game lacked pace and creativity at times.

Sweden’s Forwards

This one is tough because we knew coming in that Sweden was going to be in tough to score minus Alexander Holtz and William Eklund (never mind Lucas Raymond). With that in mind they still had several older first-round picks in Fabian Lysell (Boston), Isak Rosen (Buffalo) and Oskar Olausson (Colorado) to go with some young 2022 first-rounders in Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Vancouver) and Liam Ohgren ( Minnesota). None of them stood out. In particular, the efforts from Lysell, Rosen and Olausson were quite disappointing as against the good teams they could get very little going consistently. Lysell probably was the best of the three due to his great speed and skill, but he stuck to the perimeter a lot when creating his offense, as did Rosen and Olausson.

Brad Lambert, RW, Winnipeg

Lambert was a star of the December tournament, but struggled at this event, seeing his ice time cut as the event progressed down to being a healthy scratch. He had flashes of showing his great speed and skill, but he struggled to make a lot of plays at the fast pace of the tournament, and a lot of his offense came from the outside. Next year will be his year to have a bigger role at this event.

Simon Edvinsson, LHD, Detroit

Edvinsson was one of the standouts of the December tournament, but it’s fair to say he didn’t have the week he expected. Part of that was due to being injured in the pre-tournament game and getting food poisoning mid-week, but even with that in mind he didn’t do a ton to help Sweden win games. He’s a great player coming off a great season, and there aren’t very many players in hockey with his combination of size, skating and skill, but he coughed up a lot of pucks this week when the games got quicker and it was hard to say he looked NHL-ready.

(Photo of Mason McTavish: Andy Devlin / Getty Images)

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