And so it concludes.
We’re out of junior hockey tournament season for a few months now and the focus returns to the start of hockey around the world. For the most part, we have an idea of what the rosters will look for the 2020 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic – minus Kazakhstan, which never participates in U-18 or U-20 action outside of IIHF events. Of course, some players will be busy with various training camps and pre-seasons and will miss out on the various Four Nations and showcase tournaments, but those are usually the guys you expect to play big roles at the tournament, anyway.
The projected rosters for the top five nations have already been profiled: Canada, Finland, Sweden and USA played at the World Junior Summer Showcase earlier in August, while Russia joined Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic in the Four Nations tournament in Russia later in the month. Germany, Slovakia and Switzerland have also played exhibition games over the past few months, too, allowing for a rough estimate as to what rosters will appear in the Czech Republic on December 26.
Today, it’s time to look at the other five teams that will participate at the World Junior Championship, with some good talent making up the final few squads:
Jan Jenik – Jakub Lauko – Matej Pekar
Michal Teply – Petr Cajka – Matej Blumel
Martin Lang – Vojtech Strondala – Karel Plasek
Jaromir Pytlik – Filip Prikryl – Jan Mysak
Martin Hugo Has – Libor Zabransky
Simon Kubicek – Jan Stibingr
Jan Mlcak – Radek Kucerik
The Czechs looked like true contenders last year, but ultimately failed to find any traction after the team’s top line of Martin Kaut, Martin Necas and Filip Zadina struggled to find the scoresheet. With the tournament on home ice, unfortunately, the players that made up the 2016 Hlinka Memorial championship dream team have all graduated, and the current group of U-20 players leaves a lot to be desired. There isn’t much hope for the defensive unit right now, but Pekar (Buffalo), Teply (Chicago) and Hugo Has (Washington) bring value on the NHL prospect side. The goaltending situation does seem promising, though: Dostal will return as the starting goaltender and Parik will do everything in his power to challenge for starts. Even Dvorak, who looked good at the Four Nations tournament in Russia, has a lot to offer. Mysak is the top draft prospect to keep an eye on after a good Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August. The Czechs will need to beat Germany to avoid relegation, which is likely the case, but hometown fans won’t have much to get excited about.
Justin Schutz – Tim Stutzle – Dominik Bokk
John-Jason Peterka – Taro Jentzsch – Erik Betzold
Magnus Eisenmenger – Tim Fleischer – Dennis Lobach
Filip Varejcka – Luis Schinko – Yannik Valenti
Simon Gnyp – Moritz Seider
Phillip Mass – Leon Huttle
Max Glotzl – Alexander Dersch
Could we actually see a recently promoted team stay up in the top tournament for the second year in a row? If the Germans can find a bit of luck along the way, indeed. The roster features many of the team’s 2019 roster that won gold at the Division IA tournament, with much of the core able to return in 2021 as well. Seider, Detroit’s first-round pick in June (sixth overall), is the obvious draw here. He was a major reason why the Germans won the tournament in December and will be a catalyst for a team that will be busy defensively. Bokk, a first-round pick by St. Louis in 2018 (25th overall), will embark on his second full season in the Swedish pro league after lighting up the international scene last year. Draft fans will be drawn to Stutzle’s play after an incredible start to the Champions Hockey League season and could find himself just outside of the top 10 of the NHL draft later this season.
Vladislav Saiko – Dias Guseinov – Maxim Murosov
Ruslan Dyomin – Andrei Buyalsky – Oleg Bioko
Stanislav Filippenko – Denis Chaporov – Yusup Asukhanov
Nikita Lyapunov – Ansar Shaikhmeddenov – Ali Kasenov
Ernar Musabayev – David Muratov
Artyom Korolyov – Madi Dikhanbek
Timofei Katasonov – Vladimir Shlychkov
Not many people had Kazakhstan returning for the 2020 edition, but the fan favorites from Victoria will look to stay up on a more consistent basis with a good showing in the Czech Republic. It’s always tough to evaluate Kazakhstan’s roster beforehand because the team doesn’t participate in international tournaments prior to the world junior. Players mainly come from two MHL club teams, but the skill level is below average for both. Nine players can return from last year, with Murosov and Korolyov being the two players with the most draft value. Nurek’s stats were horrendous in two games last year but he’s the best Kazakhstan has at this point. Kazakhstan has been unafraid to rely on youth, and with a good chunk of the team containing 2002-born kids in a tournament dominated by 2000s, the youngsters will have their work cut out for them before being older and more experienced in 2021.
Oliver Okuliar – Kristian Kovacik – Maxim Cajkovic
Robert Dzugan – Simon Jellus – Martin Chromiak
Martin Fasko-Rudas – Dominik Sojka – Michal Mrazik
Jan Sarvas – Marek Minarik – Lukas Skvarek
Martin Bucko – Boris Cesanek
Samuel Knazko – Andrej Golian
Oliver Turan – Marcel Dlugos
Only three players can return this winter, but none are more important than Hlavaj. The goaltending situation is bleak this year, but he’ll assume the starting role for the second year after a couple of solid performances in British Columbia. Cajkovic will be the top offensive option for the team despite being a late cut last year. Draft wise, Chromiak will gather some attention by June. But overall, it’s not going to be Slovakia’s year in 2020, but the 2021 and 2022 teams will have a handful of top prospects to choose from with the likes of defenseman Simon Nemec and forward Juraj Slafkovsky.
Mathieu Vouillamoz – Valentin Nussbaumer – Matthew Verboon
Jeremi Gerber – Sandro Schmid – Kyen Sopa
Gilian Kohler – Stephane Patry – Joel Salzgeber
Gaetan Jobin – Gian-Marco Wetter – Simon Knak
Nico Gross – David Aebischer
Davyd Barandun – Tim Berni
Rocco Pezzullo – Janis Jerome Moser
With 11 returning players, including New York Rangers prospect Nico Gross for the fourth consecutive year, experience is on Switzerland’s side this year. Once again, Switzerland’s defense is looking solid with five players eligible to return, and Hollenstein and Schmid will share the crease once again after some solid efforts in 2019. There’s no star forward who can lead the charge upfront like Philipp Kurashev was last year, but Nussbaumer, an Arizona Coyotes draft pick in 2019 (207th overall) enters the event with two years of world junior experience under his belt already. The Swiss aren’t afraid to use draft prospects in the lineup, and Knak should earn good opportunities if his WHL regular season goes well with Portland. Of course, there’s always the question as to whether Theo Rochette will play for Switzerland in the future as a dual citizen, but his inclusion on Canada’s roster at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August – a tournament the Swiss partook in – makes it seem like he’s going the Hockey Canada route.
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