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Boldy impresses, others show potential in first World Junior games

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The 2021 World Junior Championships are here in full force and the Minnesota Wild were well represented.

United States v Austria: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Going into this year’s World Juniors, the Minnesota Wild must have felt hopeful to come out of it with a higher reputation of their prospect pool than going in. With a couple of Russian forwards in Marat Khusnutdinov and Vladislav Firstov, an Austrian phenom in Marco Rossi, a top-line Czech in Pavel Novak and the American savior Matt Boldy, we can just feel the potential blooming.

Now, after every team has played at least one match in the group stage, we can get a little bit of a clearer picture of how these players will do at this tenuous teenage tournament.

Matt Boldy

Boldy is definitively the star of this tournament when it comes to Minnesotan prospects, so far. He does get the benefit playing within a star-studded American squad, but he has been a constant shooting threat whenever he is on the ice in a top-six role.

After earning one assist in the 3-5 loss to Russia, Boldy continued his offensive production against the miniscule Austrian team with a hat trick. Heading into Sunday’s games, Boldy is tied for most goals in the tournament with teammate and Anaheim Ducks top prospect Trevor Zegras and Canadian forward, representing the Buffalo Sabres, Dylan Cozens.

Last night’s hat trick was beautiful though.

It was certainly an earned trio of goals as well. Throughout the two games, all he wanted was to shoot the puck from high-danger areas in front of the opposing netminder.

With the majority of his showcase coming against Austria, there’s no real necessity to take any analysis from his tournament so far, but he just seems to be everywhere on the ice and always open to contribute offensively. His next couple games are coming against a hard-working Czech Republic team (Dec. 29, 1:00pm CT) and a still-skillful Sweden squad (Dec. 31, 8:30pm CT), if Boldy is able to continue this level of play, then maybe a couple Player of the Game titles will be coming his way.

Marat Khusnutdinov

A player that has already faced-off against Boldy, Khusnutdinov wasn’t really anywhere to be seen. Other than a couple of major hiccups in preliminary action, he was just simply there on the ice.

As others have pointed out, the 18-year-old center sure can be a constant threat to be extremely annoying to opponents no matter where on the ice. Always applying pressure and trying to receive puck possession back as quickly as possible — something that Russia head coach Igor Larionov loves — has been Khusnutdinov’s main highlights so far in this tournament.

He was able to earn an assist on Russia’s empty net goal against the United States in the first match, and considering that he remains in between Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Rodion Amirov and Vancouver Canucks top prospect Vasili Podkolzin on the top line, points will come for the teenager. Russia’s remaining three matches are against the Czech Republic (Dec. 27, 8:30pm CT), Marco Rossi and Austria (Dec. 29, 8:30pm CT) and Sweden (Dec. 30, 8:30pm CT), so there will be some more opportunities.

Vladislav Firstov

The 2019 fifth-rounder and Khusnutdinov’s teammate hasn’t really been able to demonstrate anything so far. In Russia’s win against the United States, Firstov was acting as the extra forward on the bench and logged a total of 3:09 TOI. Now, that might change since the reigning silver medalists have a back-to-back coming up later next week, but he still is on the outside looking in.

Russia’s forward depth performance doesn’t help his case as well. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Vasili Ponomaryov scoring a brace and Igor Safonov notching another tally will keep them in the lineup. Let’s just see where this goes.

Marco Rossi

A one-man wrecking crew that was destroyed by Matt Boldy and his friends, Marco Rossi really stood no chance. On a team full of undrafted Austrians, Rossi stands alone as the key player that can play at the same level of other top prospects, but without any help, that task becomes increasingly difficult.

But what he was able to do throughout the game against the Americans, still provided some insight into his abilities.

The passes that he was able to make and scoring chances he created, earned him enough expected totals to be among his peers in that underlying metric.

Unlike the German team that is forced to play Ottawa Senators prospect Tim Stutzle for almost half the game. Rossi earned 18:43 TOI, the highest among Austrian forwards. Not an insane amount of hockey considering the talent level through the squad, but is definitively their leader.

Upcoming matches against Sweden (Dec. 28, 5:00pm CT), Russia (Dec. 29, 8:30pm CT) and Czech Republic (Dec. 31, 1:00pm CT), might not be the best option to see The Marco Rossi Show, but he might just be able to pull his team towards a couple of points.

Pavel Novak

The lone Czech player among the Wild prospects and one of the depth players on his squad, Novak has been able to show flashes of skill in his short time in Edmonton.

The 2020 fifth-rounder has not yet registered a point, but his tendency to shoot from anywhere might earn him a couple of tallies through the rest of the group stage.

When it comes to evaluating performances of Wild prospects in this winter tournament, Novak goes way under the radar in comparison to the others. He won’t get the same recognition as Boldy or Rossi — rightly so considering the skill level and notoriety — but he is still here and will hopefully score a goal in the next couple of games.