World Junior Championship Recap: From a Devils Fan Persepective

Team Finland defeated Team USA 3-2 in the gold medal game. –Getty Images

Introduction

The World Junior Championships came to a bittersweet end for American New Jersey Devils fans. The United States was defeated by Finland in the gold medal game. However, throughout the tournament most of the Devils prospects shined. Another benefit from the tournament is the prospects whom the Devils may have a shot at drafting come the 2019 NHL Entry Draft also shined.

Tournament Recap

Team Finland and Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie took home the gold medal thanks to a 3-2 defeat of Jack Hughes and Team USA. Russia was able to capture the bronze medal after its defeat of Team Switzerland. Team Sweden once again went undefeated in the preliminary round but failed to medal and finished fifth. The host of the tournament, Team Canada, finished sixth. The relegation matchup of Kazakhstan and Denmark resulted in Denmark being relegated and will be replaced by Germany in next year’s World Junior Championship. The Czech Republic will host next year’s tournament and the new alignment of groups A and B are below:

Group A Group B
Finland USA
Kazakhstan Canada
Sweden Russia
Slovakia Germany
Switzerland Czech Republic

 

Devils Prospects

Team Finland’s captain Aarne Talvitie was an impact player all tournament long. –Getty Images

Aarne Talvitie

The current Penn State star fulfilled his role as Team Finland’s captain, as he logged valuable minutes on the penalty kill, the power play, and at even strength. Talvitie was even promoted to the team’s first line after the quarterfinal round. He finished second on the team in points, with seven (4G, 3A) in as many games. He was also a team-high +7 in the tournament. The success Talvitie has experienced while at Penn State hinted at the fact that as a 6th round pick, he is a steal. His performance at the WJC, whom many viewed as MVP-worthy, confirms the Devils have hit on another late-round draft pick.

Ty Smith

The Spokane Chiefs star defenseman had a relatively quiet tournament. Statistically, he compiled three assists in five games played and had a +2 rating. Outside the Denmark game, which he impressively led Team Canada in minutes, he wasn’t really given an opportunity outside the power play in terms of playing time. He served as Canada’s third pairing defenseman. Even though his time was limited, he still showed strong flashes of the offensive prowess he should bring to the Devils next season. Another noticeable thing about Smith’s play during the tournament was his ability to generate zone exits while he was on the ice. Overall, a quietly solid tournament for the Devils 2018 first-round pick.

Fabian Zetterlund

The 2017 third-round selection was not able to tally any points in five games. Zetterlund owned a +1 rating and racked up 6 penalty minutes. The lack of points wasn’t at all for a lack of effort, as he was able to generate numerous chances (10 shots on goal). A notable part of Zetterlund’s game, which was apparent, all tournament was his speed and strong ability to forecheck. This is a combination of two things general manager Ray Shero has tried to build the Devils on.

Akira Schmid

The 6’5” goaltender had a tournament full of ups-and-downs. In two starts and one relief appearance for Team Switzerland, he compiled a .878 save percentage. Below is a chart of each of his appearances:

Opponent Shots saved Shots faced Save percentage
Canada 29 32 .906
Russia 29 36 .806
Finland (relief) 26 28 .929

Schmid certainly got to play against quality competition this tournament. He faired well against a strong Canada team, where the Swiss ultimately fell 3-2. And in relief against Finland, where he played fantastic in relief. But against the potent Russian offense, Schmid really struggled. Overall, given the opponents, Schmid faired okay. But he was ultimately the backup to counterpart Luca Hollenstein, who was given the start in each contest after the preliminary-round, including the bronze medal game.

Draft Eligible Prospects

Center Brett Leason impressed many with his play for Team Canada. –Getty Images

Jack Hughes

The consensus first-overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft had lofty expectations coming into the tournament. However, after being injured for most of the preliminary-round, Hughes compiled an unimpressive tournament for someone dubbed as the first overall pick. He was able to tally four assists with a -1 rating in five games. Hughes was still impressive, notably with his puck-moving on the power play. But due to his injury, the future top-two pick wasn’t able to fully showcase his talents.

Kappo Kakko

The name that’s paired with Hughes for the first two selections in the upcoming pick is the Finnish winger Kappo Kakko. Unlike his count part, Kakko’s skills were on full display. He racked up 5 points (2G, 3A) in seven games played, the most notable being the game-winning goal in the dying minutes of the gold medal game. Kakko’s 20 shots on goal were third among Finnish forwards. Coupled with his size and puck-handling,  he certainly lobbied his name to be the first taken off the board come this June.

Brett Leason

The individual that most likely did the most for his draft stock was Canada’s center, Brett Leason. He served as Team Canada’s third line center and tallied five points (3G, 2A), which were fourth most on the team. His big body made him tough to get off the puck the whole tournament and resulted in him being one of Team Canada’s most consistent forwards. He’ll head back to the WHL and hope to continue his monstrous season, where his draft stock will most likely continue to rise.

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