Four Takeaways From The World Juniors

Photo: NHL

By Logan Orsini

Well, that was fun. And with that, the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships are a wrap. The epic rivalry of USA vs Canada was renewed in the gold medal game where the Americans, with the help of Trevor Zegras heroics and outstanding play from Trevor Knight, bested the Canadians 2-0 to capture their fifth gold medal.

This tournament was different, to say the least, and I am not only talking about the COVID testing, bubble hockey, and no fans but with the circumstances, some of these players were playing under. Most of them have not played a game in their respective leagues this year, so it was interesting to see how each of these players would play with most of them not playing since February or March of last year.

But oh boy they did not disappoint.

I watched almost every minute of every game and took notes on what I saw. I compiled what I got, and these are the main takeaways I got from this year’s play.

2. Canada was really good, but not when it counted.

Photo: Sportsnet

Going into the gold medal game, Canada outscored their opponents 41-4 and had not gotten scored on in 5 on 5 play. That is a ridiculous stat. Their stars were playing great with Dylan Cozens leading the way and the lethal duo of Jamie Drysdale and Bowen Byram spearheading the blue line. Goaltender Devon Levi was putting up fantastic numbers as well. They steamrolled their way through pool play and beat a good Russian team 5-0 in the semi-final to reach the gold medal game.

Meanwhile, the United States lost its first game of the tournament to the Russians. After that, they turned it on and won out the rest of their games, beating Sweden and Czech on the way to the semifinal where they had a matchup with Finland.

It was no wonder the Canadians were heavy favorites. The U.S. lost to the Russians who Canada beat handily, Canada had more depth, Canada this, Canada that, all the signs were pointing towards them. I mean 20 first-round picks on that team, that’s a bit absurd.

But, this is hockey. A sport where it doesn’t matter who’s better than who on paper, it’s about who can show up in the big moments.

Every game Canada played they were on the board within the first four minutes, and from there on out controlled each game and won with ease. If the U.S. wanted a chance, they needed to get on the board first. The first period in this game was the most crucial part that I knew would determine the rest of the game.

So when the puck finally dropped, the U.S. got on the board first with a tip-in from Alex Turcotte.

“My goodness!” every American watching must’ve thought, “They’re human! They can be beat!”

Canada had not trailed ONCE in the tournament until then, nor have they been scored on 5 on 5.

Then, in the beginning of the second period, a point shot from Arthur Kaliyev took a funny bounce off the boards and (obviously) ended up on the stick of Trevor Zegras, who caught an unsuspecting Devon Levi leaning the other way. 2-0. An absolute dagger to the Canadians.

From this point on the Canadians turned it on and wave after wave of offensive pressure came. The U.S. knew this was coming and were well prepared. After the Zegras goal they all bought into the game plan and parked the bus playing great defensively, especially from Captain Cam York who made numerous outstanding defensive plays.

So, Canada’s weakness? They faced no adversity until the last game. They hadn’t trailed once during the tournament. They steamrolled each game they played and when they were finally behind in the tournament, they couldn’t get past a team that was prepared to play defensively and bought into a certain game plan. So when they were finally trailing and had to claw back, it was too late. In my opinion, that is a big trend in how tournament hockey works. It’s who can show up when it counts the most. Trevor Zegras said it perfectly in this interview: Zegras Interview

2. All respect to Zegras, but Tim Stuztle was the best player in the tournament.

I was really disappointed when I heard that eight German players tested positive for COVID and had to sit out the first three games of the tournament. This German team was in a tough division, but they were a dark horse to make a medal run this year.

With only 14 players able to play their first three games, and a tough schedule against Canada and Finland, the Germans were certainly challenged. But third overall pick and Ottawa Centers prospect Tim Stutzle stepped up to the challenge. He logged 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 5 games, leading the Germans to the quarterfinals where they lost in a hard-fought game against the Russians.

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An important note, he got most of these points while Germany had only 14 players. That means that they were rolling only two or three lines at a time, and he got minimal rest and had to log heavy minutes against some tough opponents. Every time he stepped on the ice he was a difference-maker and made something happen. He plays with a ton of fire and its super fun to watch. His style of play should translate well in the NHL. If you’re a Senators fan, be excited, this kid is going to make an impact quickly.

Oh, and keep an eye on Buffalo Sabres prospect John-Jason Peterka. He, along with Stutzle, had a phenomenal tournament for the Germans and was a big reason they got to where they are. His play reminds me of another German star that happens to play in Edmonton…

3. If you’re a Ducks or a Kings fan, you have every right to be excited.

Get ready Southern California, they’re coming.

Combined, cross-town rivals Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings had 16 total prospects in the tournament this year. 10 for Los Angeles, and 6 for Anaheim.

The Kings prospects were highlighted by USA’s Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Brock Faber, and Canada’s Quinton Byfield, and Jordan Spence. Byfield and Turcotte were absolute forces in the tournament this year. They both play a similar style game, hard-nosed, physical, and love to go to the dirty areas.

Meanwhile, Kaliyev is a pure goal scorer with a rocket of a shot. I mean look at this psychopath tape job, only a true goal scorer would ever tape their stick like this.

For Anaheim, Trevor Zegras once again shined and was clearly the star of the tournament. He had 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points. This gives him 27 points in total for team USA and ties him with Jordan Schroeder for most all-time. He led team USA offensively and he was a true game-breaker every time he stepped on the ice. Last year he showed off his passing, this time around he stepped up in big moments to score some crucial goals. After this performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Murray gave him a shot this up and coming season.

Jamie Drysdale was one of Canada’s top defenseman in the tournament. He didn’t put up huge offensive numbers, but he brought exceptional poise to his game that really showed. He was still outstanding defensively and played very well with Avalanche prospect Bowen Byram.

The Ducks and Kings rivalry is set up to be very fun in the coming years with all this talent coming. I think both teams fans momentarily got along when Turcotte and Zegras were lighting it up together against Canada.

4. Matthew Beniers will be a top 5 pick.

Photo: Athletic

USA’s Matthew Beniers is a 2021 NHL Draft Eligible prospect and is a freshman for the University of Michigan. He had a solid start to his college career, netting six points in eight games and he was given a chance to showcase his skills by helping USA win gold this year.

In his first WJC, he logged some solid minutes and netted 3 points in 7 games. He centered top prospects Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy. His playstyle is hard to miss. He has an extremely high motor and plays with great speed and pace. He pushes the play very well when he has the puck and has exceptional offensive skill.

He has the potential to be a solid two-way forward in the NHL. He needs a big year at the University of Michigan to increase his draft stock, as next year’s draft is looking to be another solid one with more NCAA players in the top mix.

Next year he’ll be looked to too lead USA in their gold medal defense.

All in all, hats off to all the personnel that made this tournament possible, and congratulations to USA Hockey for capturing another gold medal.

Don’t go too far, NHL is right around the corner…

Related Articles:

Recapping Anaheim’s WJC

Anaheim Top 10 Rookies

Anaheim Prospects We Could See In The NHL

Ducks Announce Training Camp Roster

Ranking Anaheim’s Prospect Positions

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January 9th, 2021