World Junior Championship: Minnesota Wild Edition
The snow is falling all around us, while the children are playing and having fun. This year they will be having fun in the Czech Republic, as the season for love and understanding also means the start of the World Junior Championships. The best prospects going head to head, pursuing one of the most prestigious prizes in all of hockey. A glorious chance to watch your team’s future take centre stage, and add some hope for a bright new decade. It really doesn’t get much better than this does it?
Merry Christmas everyone and let the games begin!
That is unless you are a Minnesota Wild fan. While the Wild have tried to strengthen their prospect pool over the past few years, only Alexander Khovanov has made the cut for Russia. In this article, I will look at Khovanov and some of the reasons as to why he is all alone in representing the Wild at the World Juniors.
Minnesota and Russian mid-round picks. This seems to have become a winning recipe for the Wild in recent years. First, they landed Kirill Kaprizov, who needs no introduction at this point, being arguably the best players outside the NHL, and this season Khovanov has lit up the QMJHL. With 20 goals and 53 points in 26 games for the Moncton Wildcats, he has been fantastic this season. He has elevated his game to a whole new level, and he is one of the top players for a Russian team, looking to finally break their 9-year goldless drought in the Juniors. For this to happen they need Khovanov to perform and if he does, the Wild fans should be able to dream of a Kaprizov and Khovanov partnership in the upcoming decade.
Where Are the Rest?
With all the deserved praise to Alexander Khovanov, it’s time to address the elephant in the room. He is the only Wild prospect taking part in Ostrava and Trinec. Players like Matthew Boldy, Hunter Jones and Marshall Warren all missed out, and especially the former is concerning.
Boldy was taken 12th overall in the last draft with high hopes going into his NCAA career at Boston College. With a hardworking style and having been apart of the US development program, he should be a surefire player in the Juniors. Alas, he was snubbed due to a abysmal start in Boston, where he only managed 3 points in 15 games. When taken into account that Boldy was picked before Cole Caufield, worries are setting in amongst Wild fans. Was 2019 yet another failed draft year, where they skipped on a gem for a bust? It’s still far too early to tell, but with Caufield in the Czech Republic and Boldy at home, the fuel is slowly being added to the fire.
Another one missing out is Hunter Jones, despite Jones having a very good season in the OHL. With a .921 SV% and overall brilliant play, he is a huge part of the success that the Peterborough Petes has had this season. He has taken major strides and is making a good case for future Minnesota Wild starter. However, he was apart of the Canadian camp till the last cuts. Something that undoubtedly will be a bitter pill to swallow for the netminder.
Why Even Watch the Juniors?
With all this in mind, it could be argued that Wild fans shouldn’t get invested in the Juniors this year. Why bother when only one player is going? The answer to this is simple, draftees. Players like Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz for Sweden, or even the two top picks of many, Quinton Byfield and Alexis Lafreniére are all exciting, but due to the Wild’s surge in November, it’s becoming less likely that a top pick will land in Minnesota. However, it’s far from impossible to find gems in the Juniors that might even go in the later rounds. Players like Lukas Reichel from Germany or Tim Stützle could land in Minnesota. Combined with Khovanov’s participation, the Wild faithful have plenty of reasons to watch the Juniors come December 26th.
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