The 2024 World Juniors came to an end recently with a pair of Montreal’s prospects taking home the gold when Team USA defeated Sweden. Here’s our report card on how the four Canadiens youngsters fared.
Owen Beck (Canada) – B-
For the role that Beck filled, he did fine. He was an effective penalty killer, played with plenty of energy, and was the best faceoff player in the tournament by more than 4% over the next-best player, coming in at 69.2% overall. Those are all good things and if you’re pointing fingers about Canada falling in the quarterfinal, it wasn’t the fourth line that did them in.
That said, I was a bit concerned with his offensive performance. That line was effective as a typical fourth line but Beck wasn’t the play-driver on that line; that was Nate Danielson. There wasn’t much in the way of creativity. He wasn’t particularly dangerous. No, Beck was just there without standing out. That’s part of the reason he wasn’t moved higher up the depth chart when the lines were shuffled around.
Is a five-game stint cause for major concern? No. But this carries on a trend from last year when after he went to Peterborough, he looked much more like a secondary offensive weapon compared to a primary one. This isn’t changing my viewpoint as I already had him in this range but I don’t see a player capable of second-line production in the NHL with Beck. He can be a high-end role player and be a very valuable piece but I need to see more dynamism offensively from him to think he has more upside than that.
Jacob Fowler (United States) – B-
As expected, Fowler was indeed the backup goaltender. I have no issues with him not getting the starting job either as Trey Augustine was the returning player and a quality prospect in his own right. His status as the backup isn’t reflected in this grade.
I thought he didn’t play all that well against Switzerland. He was better against the Czechs even though the numbers much suggest otherwise in a game he probably wouldn’t have played had it not been for Augustine’s illness. And he wasn’t tested a ton against Latvia either way.
As a result, it’s hard to justify going any higher than this grade. For a first time through this event, Fowler was somewhere between okay and decent. That’s really all they needed from him so he did his job.
Lane Hutson (United States) – A
Let’s get one thing out of the way quickly. I couldn’t care less that he didn’t light it up offensively in the preliminary round. Sure, it took the idea of a record-setting tournament off the table but that was an absolutely ridiculous goal in the first place on a team with as much firepower as a group as they had as I noted in the tournament primer. So he didn’t pick up some points against Switzerland when everyone else did. Big deal.
At the beginning of the tournament, Hutson was a bit sloppy in his own end at times. There weren’t a ton of mistakes but the ones he made were certainly noticeable. It wasn’t enough to be cause for concern but it was something I was going to keep an eye on as the level of competition increased.
As the games got tougher, Hutson got better. The mistakes went down and the quality of play went way up. He was rewarded with all the ice time he could handle when it mattered the most and he thrived with the extra responsibility. If you’re underwhelmed by him ‘only’ getting six points, fine, but he was named to the tournament All-Star team for a reason. A solid showing in his final time at this event.
Filip Mesar (Slovakia) – A
Mesar’s first time through the tournament last year was decent but more was expected of him this time around. He delivered. The Slovaks were one of the surprising teams in the opening round and with them getting a pair of big leads, they were able to roll four lines, resulting in Mesar playing a fair bit less than I was expecting to see. I thought he’d be around 20 minutes a night in the first round with Slovakia needing to use him a lot in late-game situations. He only went higher than 17 once with how well they played.
Despite the lower-than-expected ice time, Mesar put up a point in every game and was a true go-to threat. Then, in the quarterfinal, he saved his best performance for last against Finland while getting the heavy minutes I was expecting to see earlier on.
Mesar finished the tournament tied for the team lead in scoring with Servac Petrovsky; those two were the only players to be in the top 20 in points for the tournament that didn’t make it through to the second round. He had a very strong case to be named as one of Slovakia’s top players but somewhat surprisingly wasn’t as they opted to go with a forward, defenceman, and a goalie. That notwithstanding, there isn’t much more that Mesar could have realistically done.