The World Juniors are a wonderful time to look and see what the prospects for your favorite team actually look like playing the sport of hockey. The Minnesota Wild have six players representing five different countries and in the first day of action, a lot of them were on the ice.
Let’s see what they did.
Pavel Novak, Czechia vs. Canada
Heading into the tournament, Pavel Novak was certainly at the bottom when it came to the level of excitement surrounding any of the six Minnesota prospects, but after this wicked one-timer he unleashed to give Czechia their second goal of the crazy first period against Canada that ended 3-3.
Pavel Novák with a rocket from the point. Novák was drafted by the #mnwild 146th overall in the 2020 #NHLdraft.— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) December 27, 2021
If the 19-year-old can somehow give us more of that goalscoring this tournament, maybe there will be some better hype around him as he hopes to make his professional debut next year.
Marat Khusnutdinov, Russia vs. Sweden
Khusnutdinov played a quiet-but-effective game, as he always does. He was centering the top line with young phenom Matvei Michkov on his wing, so you just know he’s going to try to get him the puck as much as he can.
And while he technically was only given one assist after the 60 minutes in the 6-3 defeat to Sweden, he played well enough to certainly get some coaching brownie points. Just such a smooth skater and his game appears so effortless and it was fully on display against a very strong team to start Russia’s tournament as an underdog.
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden vs. Russia
On the other side of Khusnutdinov, arguably the Wild prospect with the highest ceiling was in between the pipes. Jesper Wallstedt was able to save 27 of 30 shots on net, being his sturdy self and not looking desperate on any of his stops.
Active start to the third period from Michkov. Lays a huge hit and gets a chance on the doorstep. Great save by Wallstedt (MIN) #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/NhpfedTHZ9— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) December 26, 2021
Hell, he was feeling good enough to go for an empty-net goal of his own at the end of it.
Jesper Wallstedt (MIN) went for it. pic.twitter.com/0e8zATND6a— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) December 27, 2021
Wallstedt has been slotted as the overall favorite to walk away as the tournament’s top goaltender and even potentially the overall MVP; and he certainly has started his campaign off well. This Sweden team doesn’t have any high-flyers outside of the obvious forwards like William Eklund and the two-way monster defenseman Simon Edvinsson. It’s a scrappy team that can work their way into the medal round, especially if Wallstedt keeps on stealing goals away from the opponent.
Carson Lambos, Canada vs. Czechia
Lambos was the only Wild skater prospect that did not finish their first game of the tournament with a point. Considering that the blue line was doing all the scoring anyway — Owen Power with a hat trick and Olen Zellweger with a goal of his own to heap on for the 6-3 win over Czechia — Lambos wasn’t getting the production credit.
And also in the Team Canada camp, Ryan O’Rourke did not play and was a healthy scratch. Not a great start for the pair of Canadian blueliners representing Minnesota in Edmonton, but there are still games to play and it’s not like they can really attempt to outshine the defensemen on their team that are top prospects for most of their organizations.
Jack Peart, United States vs. Slovakia
Peart was a late addition to this United States team and he was still able to get on the board, earning the secondary assist on his team’s first goal of the tournament.
Matthew Knies (#LeafsForever ) sends a rocket past Simon Latkoczy to put the USA up 1-0. #WorldJuniors— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) December 27, 2021
Knies is in the midst of a fantastic season at the University of Minnesota where he has 16 points in 18 games.
He didn’t do much besides keeping the puck in the zone while on the blue line, after the weird faceoff win; and then lay it off to a forward. But that still counts for a point and Peart is such a feel-good story so we’ll let it happen.
The home team earned a 3-2 win over Slovakia in the end.
Tomorrow there are a few matchups to keep your eye out for. Times are in CST:
Russia (Khusnutdinov) vs. Switzerland - 3:30 PM
Germany vs. Czechia (Novak) - 6:00 PM
Sweden (Wallstedt) vs. Slovakia - 8:30 PM