Eight months ago the first few games of the 2022 edition of the World Junior Championships were played. However, due to a rash of positive COVID tests, multiple teams were forced to forfeit. It became clear fairly quickly that the sanctity of the tournament was jeopardized by the forfeitures, so the IIHF quickly moved to postpone the tournament to a later date.
Because the event has an age limit on it, there weren’t a lot of options on when the hockey’s international governing body could reschedule the tournament. So, we find ourselves here in August preparing for a tournament that typically kicks off the day after Christmas.
All games that were played in December have been wiped from the record books and Russia has been banned from the tournament due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. That leaves the tournament with 10 participating nations, with all games to be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, from August 9th to the 20th.
Lukas Cormier (Canada), Matyas Sapovaliv (Czechia), Jakub Demek (Slovakia), and Carl Lindbom (Sweden) are the four Golden Knights who will participate in this summer’s event.
Cormier, the smooth-skating offensive-minded defenseman, will likely play a key role for a Canadian team with eight drafted defensemen including #1 overall pick in 2021, Owen Power. Cormier’s prowess on the power play should see him getting significant special teams time. The biggest question mark will be where he lands on the depth chart at even-strength. Is he a top-four guy or does he play a sheltered role on the third pair?
Sapovaliv came into camp with a cloud above his skating. It was clear on the ice that he’s not the fastest player, but overall the skating did not slow him down in the scrimmages. His forechecking was elite for the group on the ice and he made a lot more plays than the scouting reports suggested he would. He’ll probably be used in a defensive role in this tournament, likely playing 3rd or 4th line minutes with penalty killing duties.
Demek did not attend Dev Camp which was likely to make sure he was fully healthy for this tournament. He’s one of just seven drafted players on the Slovakian team, including Juraj Slafkovsky, this year’s #1 overall pick. Hopefully, Demek gets a chance to play with Slafkovsky either on a line or on the power play. If he does, it should give a bit more of a glimpse into where he is compared to a player who is probably going to make his NHL debut in October.
Lindbom was solid in the goal during Camp, which was an improvement over his performance in the rookie games in Phoenix. There are three goalies on Team Sweden, both of which were selected much earlier in the Draft than Lindbom. Jesper Wallstedt was picked 20th overall in 2021 while Calle Clang went 77th in 2020. If Lindbom plays over these two, it will be a strong statement. If he doesn’t, while disappointing, not much should be made of it at this point.