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World Junior Championship: Who Can Return in 2023 (Part 1)

With the 2022 World Junior Championships canceled, it's time to take an early look at what next year's tournament might provide. Tony Ferrari kicks it off by looking at who Canada, Finland, Germany, Czechia and Austria can bring back for next year.
Logan Stankoven

With the 2022 World Junior Championships canceled, it's time to take an early look at what next year's tournament might provide.

While a number of players will be age out of the event, every team has a few players that will likely get a second chance. Let’s take a look at who is returning for the teams in Group A.

Canada

Seven: D Carson Lambos, D Olen Zelleweger, F Connor Bedard, F Shane Wright, F Dylan Guenther, F Mason McTavish, F Logan Stankoven

This will be a really interesting group of returnees. While there is almost no doubt that Connor Bedard will be back for his draft year after an excellent, albeit limited, showing at this year’s event, the rest of the roster is a bit of a question.

McTavish was almost a full-time Anaheim Duck this year so it’s expected he’ll be there next year. Shane Wright is on track to be a first overall pick and will almost assuredly play in the NHL from day one. Buffalo did allow Owen Power to take an extra year at the University of Michigan, and if Wright is still not blowing the OHL out of the water in the second half, maybe he doesn’t play in the NHL day one. Guenther is another player expected to be in the NHL next season as the Coyotes will be in need of the scoring punch Guenther can provide.

That leaves Lambos and Zelleweger on the back end and Stankoven up front. Lambos has been a Hockey Canada fixture at events for years and will likely take on a bigger role next year than expected this year. Zelleweger will track to be Canada’s powerplay force and puck mover from the blueline. Stankoven has faced doubts at every level because of his size but he’s done nothing but score the lights out every time he’s been given a chance. With Bedard in tow and the possibility of Wright coming back, albeit slim, this could be a decent but small group of returnees for Canada.

Finland (7)

D Aleksi Heimosalmi, F Brad Lambert, F Joakim Kemell, F Oliver Kapanen, F Ville Koivunen, F Sami Päivärinta, F Kalle Väisänen

The Finns were being led by the pair of Koivunen and Lambert in the early goings of the 2022 World Juniors so having those two back will be a big win for the Finns. Lambert is an elite transition player with some of the best raw tools among junior-aged players worldwide and is eligible for this year’s NHL draft. Koivunen thinks the game at an elite level and has the skill to play off his linemates at a very high level. Hopefully, the chemistry developed this year can carry over so that the combo of Koivunen and Lambert should help lead the way next year again.

Heimosalmi will be one of the team’s best blueliners next year. The young Finnish defender was slowly beginning to show that his puck-moving ability and manipulative puck skill that earned him top defenseman of the tournament at the U18 tournament in Texas this past spring. He may even possess the offensive flair to challenge for World Junior top defenseman next year.

Joakim Kemell and Oliver Kapanen will be looking to establish bigger roles as neither were really able to get their feet off the ground in Edmont. Kemell can be a difference-making goal scorer while Kapanen has the two-way game to match up against opponents’ best lines. Päivärinta and Väisänen both played small roles this year but will be looking to establish themselves as stronger contributors in the middle-six next year.

Germany (4)

G Nikita Quapp, D Adrian Klein, F Bennet Roßmy, F Thomas Heigl

The German team was fun to watch in their short stint in Edmonton, beating Czechia in a thrilling overtime game and giving Finland a run for its money. The German hockey program is starting to make its mark, and they did it without Tim Stützle, JJ Peterka, and Moritz Seider. They will again be looking at a new group of talent next year as they return the fewest members of any nation from this year’s team with just four returnees.

Roßmy will be the key skater who returns to the group. Bringing his leadership experience as captain of the U18 team, he will likely be looked to for some more offensive production next year. Klein has shown some promise as a defensive blueliner and he has some pro experience as well. Getting him back to anchor the backend will be important. The most important returning member of the squad is Nikita Quapp. A legitimate NHL prospect, Quapp was a draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes and will look to continue his development in the DEL. 

Czechia (12)

G Daniel Král, D David Jiříček, D David Moravec, D Jakub Šedivý, D David Spacek, D Jiri Tichacek, D Stanisalv Svozil, F Jiří Kulich, F Jakub Brabenec, F Jakub Kos, F Pavel Novák, F Martin Ryšavý

Czechia is in a great spot with a great deal of their team returning! They have six defensemen returning which could give them an entire top-six blueline group with at least a bit of World Junior experience. Jiříček was slated to miss the remainder of the tournament so he will get his second chance at helping the Czechs with his impressive two-way game. Jiříček can fire bombs from the blueline, quarterback a power play quite well and his physicality defensively will bring a big element to Czechia. Svozil impressed with a bit of surprising skill, scoring one of the tournament's nicest goals while holding his own defensively. Tichacek and Spacek have some fun elements to their game as puck movers which should make them welcome returns.

Upfront, the most important returnee may wind up being Kulich. The 2022 NHL draft prospect has been a fast riser through the first half of the year. His pace pushing game puts defenses on their heels and his skill at high speed is impressive. Novák is a hired gun, showing plenty of ability to score at the junior level. He lacks high-end mobility but he has a solid shot and good timing when getting into pockets of space. Branenec and Ryšavý will be looking to continue their run as solid contributors and secondary scoring.

Austria (15)

D Luca Erne, D Lukas Hörl, D Lorenz Lindner, D Matteo Mitrovic, D Lukáš Nečesaný, D David Reinbacher, D Tobias Sablattnig, D Christoph Tialler, F Luca Auer, F Mathias Böhm, F Tim Geifes, F Marco Kasper, F Vinzenz Rohrer, F Johannes Tschurnig, F Fin van Ee

The Austrian team returns more players than any other country with 15 returnees. This year’s group was young and although they were blown out in both games they played by a combined score of 18-3, they had a better performance than years past and showed fight in both games at various times. Austria would have likely been the team with the likeliest chance of being relegated at this year's event but thankfully, much of the group will be able to develop another year and attempt to avoid that fate in 2023.

Nečesaný and Tialler showed promise at this year’s event on the blueline. Tialler showed some very intriguing defensive tendencies at times. Nečesaný displayed a decent two-way game and the ability to work a breakout against tough competition. Mitrovic got into just the one game but was one of the team’s best blueliners in that game.

The group up front is where the three best returnees are with Rohrer, Böhm, and Kasper. Rohrer has been a productive player at the OHL level with his nice hands in tight and ability to get his shot off from good spots on the ice. Böhm has impressed as a net-front presence on the powerplay and some surprising zip to his step at times, beating Owen Power wide to earn a breakaway against the Canadians. The real prize of the group though is dynamic playmaker Marco Kasper. He has the hands and skill to evade pressure in open ice as well as the vision to find teammates in good spots to score. Hopefully, having a bit of familiarity with each other works out for Austria to avoid relegation.

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