The Journey: WJC Takeaways & Predictions

Brayden Olafson

2020-01-04


I had the pleasure of enjoying most of the round robin portion of the ongoing World Junior Championship from a pool in sunny Florida this holiday season… and let me tell you, I think it’s the best way to watch hockey. 

The tournament is only a few days away from completion, so I thought today would be a great opportunity to both look back at what we’ve learned so far, as well as look ahead with some predictions. 

Earlier in the week, former DobberProspects writer Sam Stern posted a controversial tweet touching on the value that the tournament has, or rather, doesn’t have in the world of scouting. 
 


It’s a great thread if you’ve got some time to take in the various opinions that people have on the topic, but otherwise, here’s my take. I think the way that Sam worded his original tweet is accurate – making snap decisions on any player based on such an acute window of exposure is foolish. On the other hand, I don’t believe that the U20 WJC is a “meaningless” tournament – Sam clarifies his definition in a later tweet.

Whether or not I completely agree with Sam, however, IS COMPLETELY meaningless, and irrelevant. His statement opens the window for an important discussion among all evaluators in regards to what weight should be applied to various unique exposures to players. Here are a few of the points that I’d like to make in protest of Sam’s opinion, which I have the utmost respect for.

  1. I believe players should be evaluated on a fresh slate every time they touch the ice. There are so many nuances in what it means to be a successful hockey player, and what happens from shift-to-shift, let alone game-to-game can have an impact on a human’s performance.
  2. The tournament allows players to be evaluated in a role that is unique from their typical club team. It’s supplemental if nothing else. 
  3. The tournament allows players from lower QoC leagues to be evaluated against the best of their peers. In this sense, it’s typically a subtractive evaluation for players from CHL teams. 

Having presented my own perspective on the tournament’s value, here are some of the valuable points that I’ve taken away from the tournament so far

Players who’ve impressed me: 

Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals

The Canadian forward has been extremely productive in the OHL all year long, but his play at this tournament has given me an opportunity to confirm that he hasn’t simply been out-skilling his opponents all year. McMichael makes split-second decisions that create space for his teammates, and while he doesn’t have the same level of production as some of his Canadian teammates, I think it’s possible that he becomes one of the more impactful NHL players from this roster. 

Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks

I’ve valued Zegras quite highly since long before this tournament. For as much as the tournament has been an opportunity for the American to showcase his highlight reel playmaking nack, it’s also been an opportunity for him to confirm a level of confidence in his creativity. While some skilled players will opt for a safe play on the big stage, Zegras has continued to play at the same pace and with the same confidence as he always does. In addition to his other well-rounded traits, this gives me confidence that the Ducks will take a serious run at signing their first-rounder, and that he’ll get every opportunity to become an NHL player next fall. 

Samuel Fagemo, LA Kings

As the highest scoring U20 forward in the SHL this year, there’s already plenty of reason to think that Fagemo should have been selected higher than 50th overall by the Kings in last summer's Entry Draft. His skating is quite spectacular and he shoots the puck with pro-like accuracy. He does well finding open ice for himself, which is a trait that is more likely than others to make him a successful and productive NHL player. Most importantly, he’s shown a strong improvement from his past hesitation to shoot the puck when given an opportunity. 

Players who’ve disappointed me: 

K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers 

I would’ve been happy to excuse a few egregious mistakes from the Wisconsin defender, but unfortunately, there have been more than a handful of instances where Miller’s decision making has cost the Americans a goal, scoring chance against, or another kind of positive outcome. I’ve had him pencilled in with the Rangers next fall based on what I’ve seen from his play in Division 1, however, the tournament has brought my eye to something that I think the team will see as an opportunity for further development either in the AHL or in the NCAA. 

I hate to knock on these young players too much though, and I certainly hope that Miller can prove me wrong!

Admittedly, I haven't been able to catch every minute of every game, however, thankfully, the tournament has had some value in giving me an additional perspective on these players. 

All things considered, here are my predictions on how the rest of the tournament will shake out, starting this morning. 

CAN v. FIN – Canada wins 4-2 (Empty Net) | POG: Joel Hoefer & Patrik Puistola

SWE v. RUS – Russia wins 5-4 | POG: Alexander Romanov & Nils Hoglander

Gold Medal – Russia wins 3-2 over Canada | POG: Yaroslav Askarov & Barrett Hayton

Bronze Medal – Finland wins 2-1 over Sweden | POG: Justus Annunun & Samuel Fagemo

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I’d love to hear your thoughts on the tournament – find me on Twitter @olaf1393

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
VICTOR HEDMAN T.B 6 3 5 8
JOHN KLINGBERG DAL 6 1 6 7
ALEXANDER RADULOV DAL 7 1 6 7
MATTIAS JANMARK DAL 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency WSH Players
13.9% EVGENY KUZNETSOV ALEX OVECHKIN TOM WILSON
10.9% NIC DOWD CARL HAGELIN GARNET HATHAWAY
10.9% NICKLAS BACKSTROM JAKUB VRANA TOM WILSON

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