The annual post-Christmas World Junior Championships tournament begins this afternoon in Alberta, Canada. Between Red Deer and Edmonton over the next two weeks, Team USA will look to defend their 2021 Gold Medal against a heavy field with hosts Canada favored to re-claim the top spot at the U20 Junior level. The Chicago Blackhawks have four prospects playing in this year’s tournament, with three looking to help the U.S. repeat as Gold Medal winners.
How to Watch
When: December 26 – January 5
Where: Red Deer and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
TV: NHL Network (USA) / TSN, RDS (Canada)
Blackhawks at the World Juniors
• Landon Slaggert – One of the returning players to the U.S., Slaggert has been named to the Team USA leadership group this year as he looks to become a two-time Gold Medalist. Playing in a fourth-line role for the U.S., Slaggert is going to once again provide the energy in a checking role for the States. He has five goals and ten points in 17 games for Notre Dame this season in the NCAA.
• Wyatt Kaiser – A former third-round pick by the Blackhawks, Kaiser has been playing on the top-pair for Minnesota-Duluth for the past two years. He’ll be part of one of the deepest defensive groups at the tournament and playing in a second-line role for the U.S. He has one goal and seven points for Minnesota-Duluth in 14 NCAA games this season.
• Drew Commesso – Possibly the most important player for Team USA this tournament will be Blackhawks 2020 second-round pick Drew Commesso. The second-year goaltender at Boston University is going to be the No. 1 option in net for the U.S. after missing last year’s tournament due to COVID protocols. If Team USA is going to repeat as Gold Medalists, Commesso will likely be the key factor.
• Michael Krutil – The only non-U.S. prospect for the Blackhawks at the tournament, Krutil will be making his second appearance for the Czechs at the World Juniors after playing a top-pair role last year. He’ll again be playing in a top role, hoping to propel Czechia to their first medal at the tournament since 2005. Krutil has skated in seven games this season for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.
Players to Watch
• Shane Wright (CAN) – The top prospect in the 2022 NHL Draft class, Wright is looking to have a breakout tournament to solidify his status as the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Wright burst onto the scene with CHL exceptional status in 2019-20 with the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL. This season, he has 11 goals and 30 points in 22 OHL games as Captain in Kingston.
• Matvei Michkov (RUS) and Connor Bedard (CAN) – The top two prospects for the 2023 NHL Draft will be on full display for their Nations. Michkov is likely going to be one of the top contributors for the Russians, while Bedard, another player to have CHL exceptional status like Wright, is going to have an opportunity with Canada to be a surprise contributor on one of the deepest teams in the tournament. Michkov has two goals and five points in 13 KHL games with SKA St. Petersburg this season. Bedard has 14 goals and 24 points in 24 WHL games with the Regina Pats.
• Matty Beniers (USA) – After having an explosive offensive attack last year, the U.S. side will be relying heavily on Seattle Kraken 2021 second-overall pick Beniers to provide the spark. Beniers has 11 goals and 22 points in 20 NCAA games for the University of Michigan this season.
• Sebastian Cossa (CAN) and Jesper Wallstedt (SWE) – Heading into the 2021 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks had the 12th pick and before trading it to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Seth Jones deal, looked primed to draft their future top goaltender in the organization. Even after selecting Drew Commesso, both Cossa and Wallstedt looked like they could be franchise net-minders. While the three of them will be the top goaltenders for their countries, Cossa and Wallstedt look like they are potentially on course to matchup for Gold on January 5.
World Juniors All-Star Team
Forwards: Mason McTavish (CAN, Cole Perfetti (CAN), William Eklund (SWE)
Defense: Jake Sanderson (USA), Owen Power (CAN)
Goalie: Sebastian Cossa (CAN)
MVP: Cole Perfetti (CAN)