Recapping Anaheim’s World Junior Tournament

Photo: The Canadian/Jason Franson

By Thomas Harrington

Five of the six prospects that Anaheim sent to the World Junior Championships participated in the gold medal game, as Team USA, Trevor Zegras, Sam Colangelo, Jackson LaCombe, and Henry Thrun, faced off against Team Canada, Jamie Drysdale. Ultimately, the US won 2-0. The lone Anaheim prospect to not medal was Albin Sundsvik, as Team Sweden lost in the quarterfinals.

Trevor Zegras

There’s no question, Zegras had the best tournament of Anaheim’s six prospects, and one of the best tournaments by an Anaheim prospect ever. The USA didn’t have a great start to the tournament, losing to Russia 5-3 on Christmas day. Zegras did score his first goal at the World Juniors, after recording nine assists and no goals last year. It was in Team USA’s second game where he started to shine, as he scored two goals and four points against Austria. He followed that up with two goals and five points against the Czech Republic.

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In the final preliminary game, Zegras was dominant again, scoring a goal and three points against Sweden. In the quarterfinals against Slovakia, he only had two assists, and then one assist against Finland in the semifinals. In the gold medal game, he had a goal and an assist and finished the tournament with seven goals and 18 points, leading the tournament in assists and points, while finishing second in goals.

Zegras was named the MVP of the tournament and named to the tournament All-Star team. He also has 27 career points at the World Juniors, tied for the most ever by an American player, and his 18 points were the second-most by an American in a single tournament. Zegras’ World Juniors career is now done. He’s now heading to Anaheim for training camp, and I expect to see him in both the NHL and AHL this season.

Sam Colangelo

Colangelo was often the spare forward or played on the fourth line. However, even with the limited minutes, I think he was the player who impressed me the most. I expected great things from Drysdale and Zegras, but I wasn’t expecting much from Colangelo. He didn’t score a ton, but he was noticeable whenever he was on the ice. Colangelo was scoreless against Russia but picked up his first goal against Austria, his lone goal and point of the tournament.

Despite not scoring or playing much, he still had 14 shots and took the puck to the slot whenever he had a chance. He’s eligible to return to the tournament next year, so I’m looking forward to seeing how his play improves and if he takes on a much larger role with Team USA. He’s going to head back to Northeastern University, where he’ll hopefully get back on the ice soon.

Jackson LaCombe

LaCombe didn’t have a great tournament. He was shaky against Russia in the first game and ended up being a healthy scratch against Austria. He returned to the lineup against the Czech Republic and was often used as the spare defender through the rest of the tournament. However, his play did improve as the tournament went along, and his best game was probably against Finland.

Besides better defensive play, he also made a highlight-reel pass and assisted on Team USA’s second goal of the game. It ended up being his only point of the tournament. This will be LaCombe’s only World Juniors tournament. He’s now heading back to the University of Minnesota to continue his season.

Henry Thrun

This was the first time that I’ve been able to watch Thrun. I was hoping to see a solid defensive player, and that’s exactly what he was in this tournament. He wasn’t one of Team USA’s top defenders, but he played in every game and made few mistakes.

He recorded only one point in the tournament, a beautiful pass to Zegras against the Czech Republic. Similar to LaCombe, this was Thrun’s only World Juniors appearance. With Harvard not playing sports, he’s heading back to the USHL to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints for the rest of the year.

Jamie Drysdale

Drysdale didn’t exactly light the world on fire with his offensive production, recording only two assists in the tournament, but he was one of Canada’s top defensemen. He played on their top pairing with Bo Byram. Byram had a larger offensive impact, but he’s a year older and frankly would be in the NHL if not for the season starting late. Together, they formed the best defensive pairing in the tournament.

This was Drysdale’s second World Juniors, and he’s eligible to return next year, where I expect him to take on Byram’s role from this year: the best defenseman on the best defensive team. He’s now heading back to Anaheim with Zegras to attend training camp. Depending on what happens with the OHL this year, it’s conceivable that he ends up staying in the AHL for the entire year, and possibly even making his NHL debut.

Albin Sundsvik

Sundsvik and the Swedes didn’t have a great tournament. Sweden was without its top two centers, so Sundsvik was elevated to the top line at the start of the tournament. He was playing between Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond, two of the top picks from the 2020 NHL Draft. Sundsvik actually scored a goal in the first game of the tournament.

In a surprising twist, it wasn’t assisted by Holtz or Raymond. Sundsvik was playing on Sweden’s second powerplay unit and scored the second goal of the game against the Czech Republic, which ended up being the gamewinner. Sundsvik picked up an assist in each of his next two games but went scoreless in the final game of the preliminary round. He was moved down to the third line for the quarterfinal matchup against Finland. He was scoreless again, and Sweden lost 3-2 to Finland, ending their tournament. Sundsvik finished the tournament with a goal and three points in five games.

For a player not known for his offensive ability, I think Sundsvik had a strong tournament. This was his only World Junior Tournament. He’s now going to head back to the SHL where he’ll continue his season with Skelleftea AIK. While Sundsvik could come to North America as early as next season, I think he’ll spend another season in the SHL after this one before coming stateside, likely to the AHL.

Final Thoughts

With five of six players medaling, this tournament was an absolute success for Anaheim. Zegras and Drysdale stepped up and were stars for their respective teams, while Thrun played steady defense for Team USA.

LaCombe’s play improved as the tournament went along, something that you always want to see from a young player, and Colangelo really impressed me with his tenacious play. Sundsvik was put in a difficult position and played well.

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January 7th, 2021