World Junior Hockey Championship: Top 5 Risers

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Depending on where you’re reading this right now, it’s likely very hot outside. The local family campgrounds are booked to capacity, your neighbor’s kids are running their annual lemonade stand, and last but certainly not least, the World Junior Hockey Championships just wrapped up this past week from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Delayed until this month due to COVID-19, the 2022 World Junior Championships, normally a holiday staple, gave hockey fans a taste to savor and relish until players report to their respective training camps for another season. As is usually the case when it comes to best-on-best tournaments loaded to the brim with prospective NHL talent, it presents a unique and significant opportunity to peer into the theoretical crystal ball and determine which up-and-coming NHLers are worthy of the hype.

During the history of this tournament, one can glance into this crystal ball and see for themselves: who lived up to, or exceeded, the expectations presented in front of them? The percentage of players who go on to play in the NHL after representing their countries in the World Junior Championships is absolutely astounding, nearing 94%. Really, I did the math.

If one takes that number and looks at the top performers each year, you can easily get a grasp on which of these young stars have a good chance at succeeding in the NHL. But simply glancing at the top-five scorers in the tournament wouldn’t tell you the whole story. That would be too easy, so instead we’ll be looking at the players who weren’t quite household names before entering the tournament whose play elevated their stock after the tournament had finished.

5) Matthew Coronato, LW, USA

NHL Rights: Calgary Flames, drafted first round (13th overall) in 2021

GP: 5 G: 4 A: 3 P: 7 S%: 21.1

“That is a world-class release,” TSN color-analyst Mike Johnson said during a replay of Matthew Coronato’s game-winning goal against Sweden.

But you might be saying “Matthew Coronato was a first round pick, how can he be on this list?” Well, when you’ve had the kind of offseason that Calgary Flames fans have had so far, it’s nice to get excited about something once in awhile. Matthew Coronato bestowed that upon not just Flames fans, but fans of Team USA as well. Coronato exemplified valuable leadership and timely goalscoring for Team USA. And though the team bowed out out earlier than anyone expected, Coronato firmly lodged himself into Calgary’s future plans. Coronato will return to Harvard for his sophomore season in 2022-23, but expect him to push for Calgary’s roster in the near future.

4) Joshua Roy, LW, Canada

NHL Rights: Montreal Canadiens, drafted fifth round (150th overall) in 2021

GP: 7 G: 3 A: 5 P: 8 S%: 20.0

Joshua Roy entered the QMJHL with plenty of hype as the No. 1 overall selection in that league’s priority draft. That hype was derailed by a poor rookie season with the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2019-20 and COVID-19, but was reignited after a midseason trade to the Sherbrooke Phoenix. After the trade, he scored 18 points in 20 games and 119 the following year, his first full season with the Phoenix.

Roy is seen as a complementary forward but many wondered if he’d be able to produce the same way amongst stronger competition at the World Junior Championship. The answer as it turns out is that he most definitely can. Roy spent practically the entire tournament playing on a line with Mason McTavish (Ducks) and Connor Bedard and didn’t miss a step. Many expect Roy to compete for a roster spot with the Canadiens this upcoming season, though it would not be a surprise to see him start his pro career in the AHL with the Laval Rocket, where he managed to play in a single playoff game last season.

3) Emil Andrae, D, Sweden

NHL Rights: Philadelphia Flyers, drafted second round (54th overall) in 2020

GP: 7 G:4 A: 4 P: 8 S%: 16.0

To call Emil Andrae “undersized” would be generous. Standing at 5’9 and weighing 176 pounds, Andrae is just one of many “undersized” defenseman that should excel in the NHL. The 20-year-old captained Team Sweden to a bronze medal, led the team in points with eight, and made the all-star team when all was said and done.

“If you think of Swedish defensemen, like (John) Klingberg or somebody like that, it’s taller and kind of a smoother skater,” Latvia assistant coach Karlis Zirnis said in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia after their defeat to Team Sweden. “He’s just an average-sized player, but he’s got all the tools.”

Andrae’s hockey I.Q., his flashiness and elusiveness with the puck were all on display for what seemed to be the entirety of the tournament, all while being relied on as Sweden’s most effective defensive player. Andrae will return to Sweden to play for HV71 in the SHL for 2022-23, but is expected to sign an entry-level contract the following year.

2) Juha Jatkola, G, Finland

NHL Rights: Unsigned, undrafted

GP: 3 W:2 GAA: 1.96 SV%: .917

Any general manager employed by a team in need of a young goaltender should be calling Jatkola’s agent. The undrafted goaltender not only won the starting job from Leevi Merilainen (Senators) but also out-dueled tournament all-star Jesper Wallstedt (Wild) in the semifinal game versus Sweden, as he stopped 23 shots en route to the 1-0 victory. Jatkola earned the start against Canada in the final and he looked spectacular in the losing effort. Unfortunately for Finland and Jatkola, Mason McTavish ended up making the biggest save of the night in overtime. As Jatkola is signed to KalPa of Liiga for next season, he is ineligible to sign a contract with an NHL team, so expect his name to be called amongst the first of the goalies picked in the 2023 NHL draft.

1) Logan Stankoven, C, Canada

NHL Rights: Dallas Stars, drafted second round (47th overall) in 2021

GP: 7 G: 4 A: 6 P: 10 S%: 19.0

Why didn’t your team pick Logan Stankoven in the first round last year? Nobody is really quite sure about that, but it is definitely looking silly at this point. Stankoven was the heart and soul of the Gold Medal team, doing it all – scoring goals, setting up plays, dealing out big hits, forcing turnovers and winning draws to an incredible 76% success rate in the faceoff circle. For reference, the next best player at the World Junior Championship registered a 63%.

Centering a line with Kent Johnson (Blue Jackets) and Tyson Forester (Flyers), Stankoven earned a tournament all-star nod as that line became a driving force behind Canada’s potent offense. It was also Stankoven who led Team Canada down the ice in overtime against Finland, sliding the puck over to Johnson with the spinning backhand pass from the edge of the faceoff circle to setup the Golden Goal. The Kamloops Blazers’ captain is expected to return to the WHL for his fourth season, but a strong training camp with the Stars could force their hand to give Stankoven a good chance to make the team.

Honorable Mention: Connor Bedard, C, Canada

NHL Rights: Eligible for 2023 NHL Draft

GP: 7 G: 4 A: 4 P: 8 S%: 13.8

So, you knew we were going to talk about Connor Bedard, right? It felt unfair and cheap to include him in the actual list, but he deserves an honorable mention. Bedard leaves the tournament the exact same way he entered: as the most hyped-up prospect to play in the World Junior Championship since Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. Bedard came as advertised so far as the projected No. 1 overall pick in next year’s entry draft, and his performance with Team Canada only solidified that argument.

Though it would have been nice to see his counterpart Matvei Michkov play so the two could have gone head-to-head, we’ll have to take what we can get. Bedard did not look out of place, not only keeping up with players up to two years his elder, but leaving them in the proverbial dust as he skated past, and also showcasing a shot that looks NHL-ready.

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