Due to players aging out of the Under-20 tournament — or being Russian — there are going to be only five Wild prospects in Halifax this year, a big change from the nine youngsters that were playing in Edmonton last time around.
Most of them are making their triumphant return to the tournament, and one is coming in with a stellar story. Let’s find out who these players are.
Jack Peart, United States
Peart will be taking a significant jump when he laces it up for Team U.S.A. compared to last year’s tournament. With fellow Wild prospect Brock Faber no longer above him in the depth chart, the St. Cloud State blueliner should be getting more minutes and responsibility.
He is joining a star-studded group of American defensemen, with prospects like Luke Hughes, Sean Behrens, and Lane Hutson on the blue line; but Peart’s experience and playing in the majority of last year’s games, should put him a step above some others. His skating can be used at even-strength play and while Hughes most likely will be on the top power play unit, Peart can get a role on the second.
The 19-year-old is clearly enjoying his play right now, as in his sophomore season at St. Cloud, Peart has scored two goals and 15 points in just 18 games, earning him a top-20 spot in points-per-game among all NCAA defensemen. We should be getting a nice little showcase of his talent for the next couple weeks.
Caedan Bankier, Canada
Just a couple months ago, no one expected Bankier to be in this position. The 19-year-old forward has shone for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers this season and has rightfully earned him a spot on the selection camp roster, and then he did enough to impress coaches with his scoring ability and he was named to the final roster.
It would be just a little foolish to send a center home that has scored 20 goals in just 24 games this season. Now, he gets to be the perfect offensive threat in the bottom-six on a deep Team Canada. He won’t get the same opportunity as other high-level prospects, but this tournament is designed to boost the profile of someone like Bankier and since he is having one hell of a career year in juniors, maybe every Canadian will know his name by the time the tournament ends.
Liam Öhgren, Sweden
Öhgren is certainly the highest-profile Wild prospect that is going to be in Halifax. The 2022 first-round pick is most likely going to partner up with his Djurgården teammates in Noah Östlund and Jonathan Lekkerimäki on the Swedish second line, but the trio has not had the expected hot start to the season in the last few months.
Nevertheless, this is against their peers and not against men overseas, so they might just be able to run rampant over some competition. Öhgren is the perfect Wild prospect since he works hard as hell, but has a scoring touch around the net and has all those attributes that we know every Minnesotan will go crazy for. Hopefully, he will show some of that in the next week or so.
Servac Petrovsky, Slovakia
We fell in love with Petrovsky during the last tournament. In the very first game of the rescheduled tournament last August, the 18-year-old center scored the tournament’s first goal and finished with two points. It wasn’t just the production either but you noticed Petrovsky whenever he was on the ice and it was even more impressive that this young center was drafted by the Wild in the sixth round just a couple months earlier.
Now just a little bit older and scoring more than a point a game in the OHL, Petrovsky should be seeing even more ice for a Slovakian team that should have more firepower. Top prospects Simon Nemec and Filip Mesar did not want to mess up their summers by playing in a weird rescheduled tournament, so Petrovsky was just one of two drafted players on that team. Now, there’s five and some much better players. They can surprise and the Wild prospect will be at the top of the lineup.
David Spacek, Czechia
Spacek is going to be an important cog in the machine of Team Czechia. In Edmonton, he was playing well over 22 minutes a night and among the top minute-munchers in the whole tournament. Now, this team is returning and having some big-time young stars like David Jiricek, Jiri Kulich, and top 2023 prospect Eduard Sale on its roster.
The Wild defenseman prospect might not get the same opportunity as last time around, but he will be that all-situations blueliner that every team with gold medal aspirations needs.
The 2023 World Juniors start on Dec. 26 and will finish with the Gold Medal game will be on Jan. 5. We will have all the coverage you need of these five Wild prospects through the tournament here at Hockey Wilderness.