It’s that great time of the hockey calendar — where we get to watch all the prospects that NHL teams have drafted represent their countries in a very short tournament and try to form our own opinion about the players. It’s the 2023 World Junior Championships and this year it is in Halifax and Moncton.
The Minnesota Wild have five prospects this year, a steep cut from the nine that they had at last year’s event, and some are having stellar starts to the whole thing. Let’s take a look at how the first two days have gone for the handful of young dudes.
Jack Peart, United States vs. Latvia
The Minnesotan defenseman from Grand Rapids is getting to represent the U.S.A. for just the second time and is getting more opportunity than last year. Already, in the Americans’ first game against Latvia on Monday, Peart had 16:31 TOI and was even able to get involved offensively with one assist on a goal from Luke Hughes.
5-2, Luke Hughes from the blue line pic.twitter.com/i8Wywu6HJb— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) December 26, 2022
Peart might not be getting top-pairing minutes, but he is already having more ice-time than Montreal Canadiens super prospect Lane Hutson on this team’s blue line and played just two and a half less minutes than Hughes himself. A pretty dang good chance that he finishes the tournament with more of a reputation around the national prospect circles and we can think of him as part of a future Wild blue line.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but Peart had a great game and demonstrated his mobility just as well.
David Spacek, Czechia vs. Canada, Austria
David Spacek was able to put his name out there last year as Czechia’s top defenseman not drafted in the top-10. He was playing more than almost anyone in the entire tournament and played pretty damn well transitionally. So this year, he was able to start his campaign by beating the reigning gold medalists and scored a goal and an assist.
And guess who led his team in ice-time? Yeah, Spacek earned 22:01 TOI and helped Czechia stave off the top-tier Canada attack. He simply put on a clinic on how to still get outshot, but play well enough for his goalie to clean up the mess.
To just hit home even further how well Spacek is playing in this tournament, he followed up his two-point venture on Monday with another goal and assist performance on Tuesday against Austria.
While gliding backwards through the faceoff circle, Spacek was able to take a one-timer and rocket it past the Austrian netminder like a bullet. An absolute laser and now the 19-year-old defenseman has two goals and two assists through just two games. An incredible start to a tournament that should put Spacek’s name out there.
Servac Petrovsky, Slovakia vs. Finland
On Tuesday, for Slovakia and Petrovsky’s first game of the tournament, they had to face the mighty Finns. Luckily, the Wild prospect’s efforts last year earned him the top center spot on the underdog nation’s lineup, playing alongside top prospect Filip Mesar.
Unfortunately, in 19:42 TOI, Petrovsky was unable to make a dent against the Finnish defense and simply had four shots on goal with a minus-1 rating. Not all that bad of a stat line in a 5-2 loss.
Slovakia will eventually have an all-out scoring affair against a lesser team, with top prospects like Simon Nemec and the names we already mentioned part of this roster, so we’ll see the production and the numbers that make us happy, just later on.
Liam Öhgren, Sweden vs. Austria, Germany
Sweden came into this tournament with something to prove and they were able to have the first blowout victory of the year as they beatdown on Austria by a score of 11-0. Maybe it is fortunate or unfortunate, but one of our favorite Wild prospects in Liam Öhgren finished the game with just one goal scored as his only point.
Liam Öhgren rips one as Sweden dominates Austria pic.twitter.com/ywFhJ1ykFv— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) December 26, 2022
It looked perfectly pretty, though.
Öhgren earned some of the most minutes along Swedish forwards with 18:06 TOI against Austria, and because of that, in the second game in the same number of days — a game against Germany on Tuesday — the 18-year-old winger was knocked down about 90 seconds of ice-time.
The second game was just a narrow 1-0 victory over the Germans, so nothing too exciting to write about, Öhgren did get three shots on goal. More production should come as he is getting a whole lot of chances on a team that should contend for the gold.
Caedan Bankier, Canada vs. Czechia
Well, we already know how this game went for Canada and how David Spacek was able to shine against them. Unfortunately, Caedan Bankier wasn’t going to play a significant role on this deep Canadian team to begin with, so as the team was trailing, his minutes were limited even more.
In 9:48 TOI, Bankier put up the Tony Snell stat line with the ice-time counter as the only number other than zero. Just a whole lot of skating around and not a whole lot else. And it’s not like Bankier could do it all himself and whim Canada back into the game. He’s a good story that is along for the ride, I guess.
On Day 3 of the 2023 World Juniors, Petrovsky and Peart will be facing off as the United States play against Slovakia. Then, Bankier will be looking for his first statistical contribution against Germany.