The 2021 World Juniors have come and gone with Team USA winning Gold over Canada. Three Montreal prospects took part in the tournament with a bit of a mixed bag of results for all of them. Here is an evaluation of their performances.
First things first. I think the expectations were too high going in. This is not a tournament where a player often deemed as a one-trick pony for his shot is going to come in and be in a class of his own and/or contend for the tournament lead in scoring. Caufield is more of a complementary player, not a primary play-driver. We’d all love for him to become the latter but he’s a long way from being that amongst top competition.
I also can’t help but wonder if him being held off the scoresheet against Austria in the 11-0 blowout is skewing some of the negative opinion. Sure, he wasn’t a point-per-game player. But if Caufield had three or four points in that, would his tournament suddenly be viewed as a success since he picked up some freebies against an overmatched team?
There were some things I liked. His skating certainly seems improved and he had a better defensive effort as well. I’d have liked to see him produce at least a bit more in the competitive games but also to be more noticeable on a shift-to-shift basis. Caufield is effective at weaving in and out of traffic but he’s someone you don’t always see out there either.
All in all, it was a decent tournament. Nothing great but not a whole lot to worry about either. He’s still Montreal’s top pure scoring prospect in a pipeline that doesn’t have many of those but he just turned 20 and isn’t really ready for NHL duty either. That’s fine although it should temper expectations of him making an immediate impact midseason once his college season ends.
For the most part, I liked what I saw from Guhle in the tournament. He was mostly as advertised, a defence-first player with good mobility, a good shot, and is a bit iffy with the puck on his stick in transition. He had a couple of defensive mishaps that largely seemed to go under the radar but it is junior hockey and he hadn’t played in months so that certainly wasn’t unexpected.
He started off seeing decent minutes for a role defender although his playing time decreased as the importance of the games increased, going from the fourth-most minutes to the fifth-most. That wasn’t entirely shocking either as Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale got a heavier workload (and as better players, that’s perfectly fine). This was a good debut overall for Guhle and as he’s eligible to return next year, he should be in line for a top-four role.
It’s not hard to see what the Habs like about Mysak as he does a lot of things well and competes on both ends. He even looks bigger than I remember when I saw him with Hamilton last season. There is definitely the potential for an NHL package in there.
Having said that, what that end package might be is certainly up for debate. I didn’t see a particular element that suggests he has top-six upside. Instead, Mysak looks like a player who may fit in best as a third-line winger that can play in some different roles instead of being a one-trick pony. Don’t get me wrong, as a second-round pick, that’d be a good outcome for the Habs; I’d be happy to be right on this one.
One thing that concerned me a bit and helped lead me in this direction is how the Czechs used him. At times, the strategy seemed to be to give it to Mysak and let him figure it out from there. (It reminded me a bit of how Slovakia used former Hab prospect Martin Reway in the past.) He’s not a good fit for that type of role; instead, he’s more of a complementary player. He still has another year of eligibility and if they come back with a bit of a deeper roster that has him taking on a more proportional share of expectations, he’d have a much better showing as a result.