The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship from Edmonton, Alberta, starts on Christmas Day. Many future NHLers from all 10 participating countries will be participating in this under-20 tournament. For more on the NHL, click here. The tournament will be broadcasted on NHL Network in The United States and on TSN in Canada. Below is a country-by-country preview including some of the highly touted NHL prospects participating in the tournament.
A Beginner’s Guide to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
The defending champs bring a stacked roster that includes 20 NHL first-round picks, led by captain Kirby Dach, who impressed for Chicago in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Other highly drafted forwards include Los Angeles selection Quinton Byfield and two Buffalo draft picks, Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn, who were all top ten picks in their respective drafts. The defense is also loaded with talent, led by Colorado’s 2019 4th overall pick Bowen Byram and Anaheim’s 2020 6th overall pick Jamie Drysdale. Drysdale and Byram were major pieces of last year’s team and will look to continue their strong play in this 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament.
While the skaters on this team are loaded will high draft picks, the goaltending position is a big question mark for this squad. Devon Levi, a Florida 7th round pick, Dylan Garand, a New York Rangers 4th round pick, and Taylor Gauthier, a 2021 draft-eligible player make up an unproven goalie group.
The best goalie in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship tournament is Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov, who Nashville selected 11th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. According to TSN’s director of scouting, Craig Button, Askarov is regarded as the best goalie prospect since Carey Price. That is high praise, but if Russia is going to win gold for the first time since 2011, Askarov will be a huge reason why. 2019 Vancouver 1st round pick Vasily Podkolzin and 2020 Toronto 1st round pick Rodion Amirov lead the group of forwards, and the defensemen are led by 2020 New Jersey 1st round pick Shakir Mukhamadullin.
2019 Montreal 1st round pick Cole Caufield tallied a pair of goals in the US’s lone warm-up game against Finland on Tuesday night, and he will need to score even more in the tournament to win gold for the first time since 2017. 2020 Ottawa 5th overall pick Jake Sanderson and 2019 Philadelphia 14th overall pick Cam York are the two highest drafted blueliners for the Americans and look to make life easy for goalie Spencer Knight. Knight, a 2019 Florida 1st round pick, looks to challenge the aforementioned Askarov for the goalie of the tournament.
2020 Detroit 4th overall pick Lucas Raymond and 2020 New Jersey 7th overall pick Alexander Holtz leads this group of forward for Team Sweden looking to improve on their bronze medal finish last year. 2019 Arizona 11th overall pick Victor Söderström and 2019 Los Angeles 22nd overall pick Tobias Bjönfot lead a loaded group of defensemen looking to take home gold for the first time since 2012.
2020 Florida 12th overall selection Anton Lundell and 2021 NHL Draft top prospect Aatu Räty headline the forward group for Team Finland, while 2019 Winnipeg 20th overall selection Ville Heinola will attract most of the spotlight on defense. Finland is seeking their second World Junior Championship in three years, winning back in 2019.
Team Czech Republic
2020 Montreal 2nd round pick Jan Mysak leads the forwards on this team and is the most prominent of the eight NHL draft picks on this roster. The defense includes 2019 Washington selection Martin Hugo and 2020 Chicago selection Michael Krutil. 2020 Detroit selection Jan Bednar and 2019 Los Angeles selection Lukas Parik are the goalies for this squad looking to capture gold for the first time since 2001.
The only players who were drafted on this team are Ottawa selection Tim Stützle and Buffalo selection John-Jason Peterka, who were selected 3rd overall and 34th overall in the 2020 draft, resepctively. Stüzle projects to be an NHL star, and it will be interesting to see how he performs as his opponents will be able to zero in their focus on him.
There is only one drafted player on Team Austria, and it’s 2020 Minnesota 9th overall pick, Marco Rossi. Like Germany’s Stützle, Rossi will be the main focus of all his opponents. Clearly the best player on his team, let’s see how Rossi performs under this spotlight.
2020 Columbus 3rd round selection Samuel Knazko is the most prominent of the few NHL draft picks on this roster looking to take home a medal for the first time since 2015 when Slovakia won bronze.
No players on this team have been drafted, but make sure to keep an eye on defenseman Iniaki Baragano and forward Simon Knak, who are eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.