The World Junior Hockey Championships are underway in 2020 and we can look back at a decade of tournaments ending in 2019. I’d like to focus on the IIHF top forward and top defenceman of each tournament over the decade and see how those players have fared.
Champion – United States over Canada 6-5 OT
Top defenceman – Alex Pietrangelo – Canada
Top forward – Jordan Eberle – Canada
Both Pietrangelo and Eberle prospered early after the World Juniors, and played full seasons in the NHL in 2010-2011 as 20-year olds. Pietrangelo played 79 games and had 43 points with St. Louis and Eberle had 43 points in 69 games with Edmonton in their rookie years. This year was the year that John Carlson scored in overtime of the final to beat Canada 6-5 and break the hearts of a nation. All three of these players are still in the NHL and both Carlson and Pietrangelo are having excellent seasons in 2019-2020, while Eberle having peaked at 76 points in 2011-2012 might never see 60 points again. I think both Carlson and Pietrangelo have had careers that they have met or exceeded expectations while Eberle has probably under-performed, other than early on.
Champion – Russia over Canada 5-3
Top defenceman – Ryan Ellis – Canada
Top forward – Brayden Schenn – Canada
Russia beat Canada in the final 5-3 after entering the 3rd period down 3-0. Artemi Panarin had two of those goals, as well as Vladimir Tarasenko. It would take Panarin another five years to reach the NHL, and Tarasenko two. Both Ellis and Schenn scored in a losing cause in the final and as fate would have it Schenn and Tarasenko have been team mates for years on St. Louis. Ellis took a few seasons to find a full-time spot in Nashville and is currently on a 64-point pace while averaging almost 24 minutes per game. Schenn as a 5th overall pick by Philadelphia, struggled his first two seasons in the NHL before scoring 20 goals in his third season. He was subsequently traded to St. Louis and is a pretty safe bet to get 60-70 points. Both players awarded in 2011 have gone on to meet or exceed expectations.
Champion – Sweden over Russia 1-0 OT
Top defenceman – Brandon Gormley – Canada
Top forward – Evgeni Kuznetsov – Russia
Mika Zibanejed of Sweden scored in overtime to give them the win over Russia 1-0, while Andrey Makarov kicked out 57 of 58 shots while getting the start ahead of Andrei Vasilievskiy in net for Russia. Brandon Gormley of Canada was given the best defenseman award over the likes of John Klingberg or Dougie Hamilton. Gormley was the 13th overall pick of Phoenix in 2010 and has played only 58 games in the NHL with two goals and three assists. He was injured often after the junior tournament and just couldn’t find the consistency or health to become a full-time NHL player. He is currently playing for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite league. Kuznetsov after some struggles in the NHL in his first two seasons has become a perennial point-per-game player and is a vital member of the Washington Capitals.
Champion – USA over Sweden 3-1
Top defenceman – Jacob Trouba – USA
Top forward –Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Canada
Rocco Grimaldi scored two goals in the final to propel the United States over Sweden 3-1. Jacob Trouba was selected as the top defender of the tournament with nine points in seven games while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had 15 points in six games on his way to being chosen top forward. In the NHL,Trouba has had some injury and consistency problems but is coming off a 50-point season last year and is on pace for 39 points in his first season with the New York Rangers. Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall pick in 2011 and has probably never lived up to being that pick (although it was a fairly weak draft year). He did have 69 points last season, but is on pace for 48 points this year and after what will be nine seasons in the NHL, he has probably peaked.
Champion – Finland over Sweden 3-2 OT
Top defenceman – Rasmus Ristolainen – Finland
Top forward – Filip Forsberg – Sweden
Rasmus Ristolainen was the hero in overtime for Finland this year as well as being named the tournament’s best defenceman. His career since being drafted 8th overall by Buffalo has been a series of ups and downs as he has scored 40 points or more in the past four seasons and is on pace to meet that again. It’s his defensive play that has made him the brunt of critics in Buffalo and around the league (he was minus 41 last year and is career best CF% is 47.99). His days in Buffalo might be numbered. Filip Forsberg had a 63-point rookie season in 2014-2015 with Nashville and other than injury has been very consistent (never less than 26 goals) as one of the most dangerous forwards on the team.
Champion – Canada over Russia 5-4
Top defenceman – Vladislav Gavrikov – Russia
Top forward – Max Domi – Canada
Canada led Russia 5-1 midway through the second period, but shades of 2011, allowed Russia to score three goals before the end of the period, but managed to hold on in the third period and win. Gavrikov is playing in his rookie season in 2019-2020 with Columbus and is asserting himself well enough that his ice time is increasing. He will never be a prolific scorer but seems to have found a home. When Connor McDavid is your team mate, it is no small feat to be named the tournament’s top forward, but that is what Max Domi did when he had 10 points in seven games. Domi is in his second season in Montreal after spending his first three in Arizona. He had 72 points last year and is on pace for 58 this season while becoming a leader on the club.
Champion – Finland over Russia 4-3 OT
Top defenceman – Zach Werenski – United States
Top forward – Jesse Puljujarvi – Finland
Kasperi Kapanen scored the overtime winner, while Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine and Mikko Rantanen also scored for Finland in the final (not a bad lineup). Werenski had nine points in seven games while Puljujarvi had 17 points in seven games. Werenski is a top-two defenceman on Columbus who had 44 points last year and is on pace for 55 this season. Most people are aware of Puljujarvi and his early struggles in the NHL and Edmonton along with his injuries. He returned to the Finish Elite league (Liiga) with Karpat and has 28 points in 30 games. Werenski has had a great start to his NHL career and potentially will become a 55-60 point defenceman, whereas there a lot of doubts with Puljujarvi and his top -end, or whether he even does much in the NHL. I think he comes back to the NHL and scores at least 20-30 goals in the next two to three years.
Champion – United States over Canada 5-4 SO
Top defenceman – Thomas Chabot – Canada
Top forward – Kirill Kaprizov – Russia
Overtime solved nothing in this final between the United States and Canada and they went to a shootout, where Troy Terry scored the game winning goal (and only goal of the shootout). Thomas Chabot had 10 points in seven games and Kirill Kaprizov had nine goals and 12 points in seven games during the tournament. Chabot had 55 points in 70 games with Ottawa last year as a 21-year old. Ottawa relying on him a little is an understatement, as he has played more than 30 minutes in each of the four games before Christmas this year. He has averaged over 26 minutes per game and is on pace for 44 points so far in 2019-2020. Minnesota is eager to get Kaprizov over to the NHL after he has posted almost a point per game in the KHL with CSKA Moscow, this year and last. His KHL contract expires after this season, so expect to see him in Minnesota in 2020-2021.
Champion – Canada over Sweden 3-1
Top defenceman – Rasmus Dahlin – Sweden
Top forward – Casey Mittelstadt – United States
Carter Hart made 35 saves on 36 shots, helping Canada win in 2018. The 1st overall pick in 2018 did not disappoint at the World Junior tournament or in his first season and a half in the NHL. In his rookie season with Buffalo he had 44 points in 82 games and after 30 games of 2019-2020 he is on pace for 57 points. He is a stud. Casey Mittelstadt has struggled in the NHL after a full rookie season where he managed 25 points in 77 games and nine points in 31 games this year before recently being sent down to the AHL. He just turned 21 years old, so there is no need to push the panic button yet.
Champion – Finland over United States 3-2
Top defenceman – Alexander Romanov – Russia
Top forward – Ryan Poehling – United States
Kaapo Kakko broke a 2-2 tie with less than a minute and 30 seconds in the third to give Finland their third gold medal in the past six tournaments. Both Romanov and Poehling are property of the Montreal Canadiens and I’m sure they were ecstatic at the performance of both players last year. Romanov is 2nd round and 38th overall pick in 2018 while Poehling was a 26th overall pick in 2017. Poehling started his career as well as you can, with a hat-trick in his first NHL game (at the Forum no less). It hasn’t gone as easily since as he has yet to record a point this year while spending most of the year in the AHL. Romanov is at the tournament again in 2020 and is in his second full season in the KHL.
The players chosen throughout the years have a pretty good track record and have proven to have success in the NHL, except in a few cases. The 2020 tournament looks like it will produce a few more very exciting players.
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