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2021 World Junior Hockey Championship: Who to Watch

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The 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship is fast approaching. Starting on December 25, 2020, ten countries from across the globe will battle it out to decide who is the best under-20 team in the world. In this article, we will look at a player from each to who should be very impactful in hos teams success for the tournament.

Austria

The Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi is an amazing talent. The ninth overall pick is a force on the offensive side of the game. Rossi will be the star player on the Austrian roster at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Rossi posted two incredible seasons with the Ottawa 67’s. During 2018-19, Rossi scored 29 goals and added 36 assists for 65 total points in 53 regular-season games for the 67’s. He only got better in the playoffs as he scored 6 goals in 17 games and he had 16 assists during the same playoffs. 

After getting some attention from NHL scouts, Rossi continued to impress. In his second season with Ottawa, he scored an absolutely ridiculous 120 points with 39 of those being goals. This generational Austrian prospect will look to continue his impressive production into the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The 2021 tournament will be Rossi’s second appearance for team Austria. Rossi played five games for Austria in 2020 and was very productive. He scored three goals and added two assists in Austria’s brief appearance in the tournament. This year, Rossi will look to lead his country to contention for the ultimate prize of a gold medal.

Canada

Quinton Byfield, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft will also be playing for Team Canada during the World Junior Hockey Championship. The Los Angeles Kings prospect is a generational talent who will play an important part in Canada’s success. Making his second appearance in the under-20 World Junior Hockey Championship, Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves will try to use last year’s experience and his experience with the Sudbury Wolves to help team Canada win the gold medal. 

During the 2020 tournament, he only managed to get a single assist in seven games. Although he had a disappointing appearance for team Canada his production for the Wolves was not disappointing. In 45 games for Sudbury, Byfield had a ridiculous 82 points including 32 goals. If he can bring production similar to what he had with the Wolves then Canada will have a good shot at the gold medal.

Czech Republic

The Montreal Canadiens have one of their best prospects participating in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Jan Mysak was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft. He is on a relatively weak Czech Republic team so he should be the focal point of their gameplan.

Mysak will make his second appearance for the Czech Republic in this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship. Last year, he played in only five games. During those five games, he had one goal and one assist. With more experience and a confidence boost after being drafted, Mysak should have a better tournament and try to make the Czech Republic team more competitive than last year.

Finland

Another top NHL prospect will make an appearance in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Anton Lundell was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers. Lundell is making his third appearance for Finland’s under-20 teams. Last year team Finland did not have much success as they only played six games. In those six games, Lundell was only able to get one assist.

This season, Lundell has been playing in the Liiga for HIFK. He was named assistant captain of the team and has scored 12 goals and added 8 assists in 17 games. Now he has assumed the position of Team Finland’s captain and will try to lead Finland to the gold medal.

Germany

The third overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft well represents his home country of Germany in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Tim Stützle was the first player drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the draft. Ottawa fans hope Stützle is the key to finding success in the league again. Team Germany fans share the same hope as they are relying on him to provide their country with success in the upcoming tournament. He has battled an injury during the 2020 season so he has played no hockey so far but he will return for the tournament. 

The last time Stützle played competitive hockey was last season for Adler Mannheim of the DEL. In 41 games, he had 7 goals and 27 assists. An impressive total for most but Stützle could have been even better had he not missed time because he was playing in the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship. In five games during last year’s tournament, Stutzle had five assists for Germany. After recovery from his injury, Stützle will hopefully lead his German teammates to success.

Russia

The Russian netminder Yaroslav Askarov was one of the talking points at the NHL Draft. Some said Askarov was the best goaltending prospect to enter the NHL Draft since Carey Price. The Nashville Predators drafted the highly regarded goalie with the 11th pick in the 2020 Draft. 

Askarov will make his second appearance in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Last year, Askarov played in five games for Team Russia. His performance was not ideal as he had a 2.71 goals-against average and a .877 save percentage. 

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Askarov’s poor play in last year’s tournament did not stop him from doing incredible things this season. As an 18-year-old Askarov was able to crack into the KHL and play for SKA St. Petersburg. Since being introduced to the line-up, he has been nothing but incredible. He has played seven games with St. Petersburg and has a 0.96 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage.

These are fantastic numbers for anybody, but especially for somebody as young as Askarov. The Predators definitely have their goalie of the future. With another year of competitive hockey under his belt, Askarov will look to improve his individual numbers and help lead his team to the gold medal this season.

Slovakia

The Kings have yet another player participating in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Martin Chromiak was selected by the Kings in the fifth round of the 2020 NHL Draft. Chromiak will be making his second appearance in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Last year at the tournament, Chromiak played 14 games for Slovakia and had 5 goals and 10 assists in a strong showing on the international stage. 

Normally, Chromiak plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Kingston Frontenacs. This season, however, he is playing for HK Dukla Trencin of the Slovak Extraliga. In eight games for Trencin, Chromiak has two goals and three assists. Slovakia will lean on Chromiak to try and lead the team to a successful tournament.

Sweden

Sweden has two fantastic players who will both be must-watch in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Lucas Raymond is a Detriot Red Wings prospect after being draft with the fourth overall pick in the NHL Draft. Alexander Holtz was also drafted in the top ten in the 2020 NHL Draft as he was taken by the New Jersey Devils with the eighth overall pick. These guys will matchup nightmares for the other countries in the World Junior Hockey Championship. 

Raymond is currently for the Frolunda Hockey Club of the Swedish Hockey League. He has played twenty-two games for the team and has five goals and seven assists. He is a fantastic two-player that is always ready to score or set up a teammate for a scoring chance. Red Wings and Team Sweden fans should get their popcorn ready to enjoy the show that Raymond will hopefully put on during the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The other very skilled Swedish forward is Holtz. Holtz is also playing in the Swedish Hockey League. Holtz plays for Djurgardens IF and in 19 games this season, has registered 6 goals and 7 assists. Holtz has one of if not the best shot in the entire tournament and will put it to good use. Fans tuning into Sweden games for the World Junior Hockey Championship should be prepared for Holtz to score some goals on very impressive shots.

Switzerland

Switzerland is the only country in the World Junior Hockey Championship without a player affiliated with an NHL franchise. This does not mean they will not be competitive. Switzerland is one of the youngest teams in the tournament and will be dangerous in the future. For this upcoming tournament, Switzerland will lean on 19-year-old Gaétan Jobin. Jobin will make his second appearance for the Switzerland under-20 team. 

In his first campaign for the Switzerland under-20 team, Jobin played 5 games and had 3 total points. He had two goals and one assist. In this tournament as one of the older players on the roster, Jobin will be expected to step up his production and help lead the team to a better record in the World Junior Hockey Championship.

United States

Cole Caulfield from the University of Wisconsin was drafted in 2019. Since being drafted, Caufield has played one full year of college hockey and competed in one World Junior Hockey Championship for Team USA. This season, Caufield is in the middle of his sophomore year at Wisconsin.

During the 2019-20 season, Caufield was an important part of the Badgers hockey team. He showed off his impressive scoring ability by netting 19 goals and 17 assists in 36 games. Freshman succeeding at the level Caufield did is rare but it just shows how talented this kid is. During the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship, Caufield played in five games for the United States. He had one goal and one assist in his brief time. 

In his sophomore year for Wisconsin, Caufield has only improved his production. He has only played in ten games for the Badgers but he has six goals and six assists. Scoring over a point per game is very impressive and Caufield will look to take his success in the NCAA and translate it onto the global stage. This year’s team from the United States is loaded with talent and will be entertaining and competitive this tournament.

2021 World Junior Hockey Championship Final Thoughts

This year’s World Junior Hockey Championship is loaded with lots of talent. Fans will be treated to a fantastic tournament. Players not listed in this article hopefully step and be a hero for their country. Make sure to tune into the World Junior Hockey Championship as they start on December 25th, 2020.

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Clancy Golden is one of the biggest hockey fans in the world. He loves writing and watching the beautiful sport of hockey.