The wild, bubbled ride that was the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship came to a close last night. USA defeated those awful Canadians handily in the gold medal game 2-0, giving USA their first gold medal finish in the annual tournament since 2017. USA’s Trevor Zegras, drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2019 draft, walked away with the tournament MVP award.
There were plenty of other NHL draftees at the tournament, but let’s dive in to the performance of the Wild’s prospects at the competition.
Matthew Boldy, F (USA)
Outside of Trevor Zegras and goaltender Spencer Knight, Boldy was the standout for the Americans. Averaging over 18 minutes per game, including 20:21 in the gold medal game, Boldy was leaned on by the coaching staff. Using his size and hands, he dominated around the net on offense and even pulled off some truly impressive plays;
Matthew Boldy with the slick no-look pass to Arthur Kaliyev for the opening goal. So good. pic.twitter.com/UMEr2E4zyj— Ryan Quigley (@TheRyanQuigley) January 3, 2021
Boldy with a between-the-legs goal pic.twitter.com/D61iohcU0W— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) December 29, 2020
He was a force on the forecheck and an absolute demon along the boards. I cannot overstate how impressed I was with his play, particularly because of how stacked the US roster was. Here is Boldy impressing his teammates with a late game block in their game against the Finnish:
Matthew Boldy with the clutch block late in the game. What a play. pic.twitter.com/gefisFZYBf— Ryan Quigley (@TheRyanQuigley) January 5, 2021
Maybe it’s just the glow of finally being able to watch live hockey, but give him a shot to make the roster (they won’t/shouldn’t, he is one hundred percent heading back to Boston College).
Vladislav Firstov, F (RUS)
Now to come down from the highs of Boldy’s play.
This is going to be a tournament that Vladislav is going to try and forget. He only averaged around four minutes of ice time, including being a healthy scratch multiple times.
Worse than that, this is going to be one of the more memorable clips from this years tournament:
Firstov will still be eligible for the tournament next year, so maybe he will get another shot.
Marat Khusnutdinov, F (RUS)
Firstov’s teammate on Russia, Khusnutdinov had a much better tournament. While the team struggled to score throughout the tournament, ranking behind Canada, Finland and the US in that category, so did Marat. With 11 shots on goal through seven games, the 18-year-old was strong on the puck, using his speed to create chances for the team;
Marat Khusnutdinov scored this GWG in OT and added an assist in Russia's 4-3 win. He continues to get better as the tourney goes on. He now has 5 points (2+3) in 4 GP in the 2021 World Juniors. #mnwild pic.twitter.com/0K88Qlk8Q3— Wild Prospects & Young Players (@mnwprospects) December 31, 2020
Khusnutdinov finished the tournament with a 61 percent face-off percentage, eighth-best. Overall, a very nice showing for the 2020 2nd-round pick.
Pavel Novak, F (CZE)
It was a feisty tournament for the feisty Czech. While the team itself had a lackluster showing, losing 3-0 to Canada in the quarter finals, Novak was effective in limited ice time. Showing his penchant to simply put pucks on net, Novak had good results;
Pavel Novák (@MnWild/@Kelowna_Rockets) gets his first of the tournament to make it 5-0 for the Czechs.— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) December 31, 2020
Assists to Adam Raška (@SanJoseSharks/@oceanicrimouski) and David Jiricek (2021)
( : @TSN_Sports)#WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/Ro8dupPTjz
...and questionable ones:
Marco Rossi, F (AUS)
This is a tough pill to swallow and a difficult tournament to analyze for Rossi.
He was clearly the best player on Austria. At times it felt like he was dragging the rest of the team up and down the ice. The rest of the time it didn’t feel like there was anyone else on the ice with him.
He was held pointless through the whole tournament, but he did manage 10 shots on goal. Doesn’t seem like a bucket load of pucks, but Austria only got 49 shots on net all tournament. Truly shocking.
Absolutely zero reason to think the performance of Austria was reflective of Rossi. He’s a special player and looked the part on the ice.
Nice effort here from Marco Rossi. Builds up speed and darts through the neutral zone to get one last shot off before the power play expired. He's got some wheels on him. pic.twitter.com/RaToJ3wPxi— Ryan Quigley (@TheRyanQuigley) December 30, 2020
Overall the Wild prospects were often standouts on their teams. It was great to see them in high-leverage situations and served as a welcome warm-up to the real NHL hockey that we get to watch shortly.
It’s approaching quickly, but not soon enough.