The Journey: The WJC Effect

Dave Hall

2021-01-02

I think I speak for all of us when I say…bring on 2021. Happy New Year’s, fellow prospect enthusiasts, and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. 

As always, there is no better way to ring in the new year than a suspenseful World Junior competition. I don’t know about you, but for me, this annual tournament is a life long tradition and it’s one that I obsess over. Perhaps even more so than the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Oddly enough, this year’s tournament fell at the perfect time for fantasy GMs – draft season. Why could this be a bad thing? Well, one can argue that the World Junior Championships are not fully indicative of a young player’s true potential. With an exclamation point on this year’s competition, where parody seems almost impossible to find, players have a tendency of outperforming (or under) their true upsides.

Let’s take Marco Rossi as a perfect example. Suiting up for Team Austria – who totaled just one goal and allowed 29 through four games – Rossi failed to register a single point. In fact, he managed just 10 shots, ran a minus-6 rating, and was basically non-existent throughout the entire tournament. 

Of course, we know that Rossi is a full-blown beast, worthy of putting up 100-plus points at the junior level (which he accomplished last season). He's even got a strong chance of cracking an NHL roster in less than two weeks time. Yet, if you don’t follow the junior levels often and hadn’t watched Rossi over the past year, your view on him may not be equivalent to the worth of his true draft stock. This may result in you fading him during your upcoming draft, which believe me, would result in pure disappointment down the road.

On the opposite end, we have Trevor Zegras, who has looked nothing short of godly throughout this year's tournament. Is he an extremely talented player? Yes. Is he one of the better prospects to target in dynasty formats? Absolutely. But despite his performance, is he a shoo-in for immediate deployment and worthy of a redraft format fantasy league? Probably not.  

Don’t get me wrong, Zegras is phenomenal, and one of my personal favorites to target. However, he still has elements of his game to work on, mainly board play and perhaps efforts in the defensive zone. He also has just one year of collegiate hockey under his belt, so the jump to the pro ranks should endure some growing pains. 

I sense the buzz around him at the moment and have a feeling that he may be targeted higher than usual, at least higher than he would have gone pre-tournament. This could easily end with disappointment come opening day, if and when he begins the year in the AHL. Of course, the extended taxi squads could fully change his immediate outcome, but you get my point.

With all that said, this is a fantastic opportunity to get a glimpse of a few prospects that fantasy own