The end of December means it’s time for the World Junior Hockey Championships. Here is a look at the Canadiens youngsters that will be participating.
Kaiden Guhle (Canada) – Guhle is one of Montreal’s most promising prospects and is off to a dominant start in the WHL this season after making a strong push for a spot at training camp with the Canadiens. With Prince Albert (and briefly Edmonton before leaving for Canada’s camp), Guhle has been impactful at both ends of the rink.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a big offensive threat in this tournament. Guhle is likely to play behind Owen Power who will likely be a top power play guy. So, too, will Olen Zellweger who is Power’s partner at even strength. That’s not going to leave a lot of power play opportunities for Guhle and that’s where the big offensive numbers often come in this tournament.
That said, Guhle will still play a key role for the Canadians. He’s likely to be the shutdown defender, logging heavy minutes on the penalty kill, in late-game defensive situations, and facing the top players from other teams. From a development perspective, that’s still great for the Habs and as the tournament progresses and the bench shortens, he’ll likely play heavy minutes.
The final numbers may not stand out too much but Guhle will be a very important part of a Canadian squad that’s expected to contend once again.
Oliver Kapanen (Finland) – It has been a bit of a tough year for Kapanen so far as injuries have limited him from really establishing a rhythm. That said, he was quite productive in their junior league and has held his own in limited action with KalPa of the SM-liiga as well.
In Finland’s pre-tournament game on Thursday, Kapanen was slotted in as the centre on the second line alongside one of the top prospects in the draft in Joakim Kemell and he certainly didn’t look out of place. Assuming those lines hold up, he’s set to have a pretty important role for his first taste of World Junior action. Finland doesn’t have Aatu Raty this year due to COVID and it appears Kapanen will be one of the primary beneficiaries.
Jan Mysak (Czechia) – Their federation has officially asked to no longer be referred to as the Czech Republic so we’ll oblige them here. This is the third and final year that he’ll be in the tournament and second straight as their captain so expectations are going to understandably be high.
Mysak will likely be deployed as their top centre, playing in all situations and could push the 20-minute per game mark as a result. But, like last season when he played a big role as well, offensive production is far from guaranteed as teams will be keying in on his line as well.
For me, that’s one of the more interesting subplots from a Montreal perspective in this tournament. Mysak has done well as a secondary player before and while he is one of OHL Hamilton’s top scorers, he’s not their go-to top threat every night. He should be more often than not in this tournament so can he find a way to shoulder a big offensive load? I’m curious to see how he fares.
This article originally had a blurb about the Spengler Cup as well as Mattias Norlinder was supposed to participate with Frolunda. However, that tournament was cancelled earlier today due to a COVID outbreak on Davos’ squad, making it the second straight year that it hasn’t been able to happen.