After two extremely fun weeks in Vancouver and Victoria, the 2019 World Juniors have officially come to an end. There were a lot of disappointments and surprises this year as well as a lot of positives that made headway throughout the competition. Here is my review of the seven Canadiens prospects who played in this tournament and what their performances mean moving forward for the future and for their careers.
Nick Suzuki, Forward – Team Canada
When Marc Bergevin made the trade that sent Max Pacioretty to Vegas for a package that made Nick Suzuki the main piece, fans had high hopes for his OHL season as well as the 2019 World Juniors. Canada as a whole was arguably the biggest disappointment with most of the roster players being invisible or average at best. Suzuki wasn’t great but he was present.
In this tournament, he showcased his playmaking skills as he made some incredible passes to open players highlighted by his best to Morgan Frost on the power play when taking on the Czech Republic. For his last shot at winning gold, Suzuki was just okay through the entirety of this tournament. The next step for Suzuki is seeing whether he stays in Owen Sound or is dealt to a better team for the OHL playoffs. The Attack have already dealt key players such as Kevin Hancock and Markus Phillips. Is Nick Suzuki next? Future Knight? Soo Greyhound?
Josh Brook, Defensemen – Team Canada
Tim Hunter’s own top defensemen from the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, Brook played a lot throughout the tournament for Team Canada. He only finished with 2 assists but where he lacked in points, he made up in his great two-way play. Brook was key to the team’s zone exits and also played well on the penalty kill.
I would have liked to see him play more on the power play, but it’s not my decision to make as much as it was Hunter’s. His biggest asset was his mobility and versatility playing both sides of the defensive pair, making him multidimensional and valuable. He had a decent tournament.
His next step is where he goes from here on out with Moose Jaw. He returned to the WHL after almost two weeks away and did not skip a beat, not missing one step in his great season. Brook is arguably the best defensive prospect the Canadiens have.
Jacob Olofsson, Forward – Sweden
Olofsson’s play throughout the tournament wasn’t anything to go crazy about, but he was efficient at many things. His best play was the poke check to Joel Farabee’s stick that sprung a 2 on 1 which led to Adam Boqvist scoring in OT. He didn’t register any points according to the IIHF records, but that shouldn’t be anything to worry about in particular.
After all, Sweden was another disappointment in this tournament. His play was okay. Next up for Olofsson is going back to Timra and it is there that he will continue to both train as well as develop.
Alexander Romanov, Defensemen – Russia – Bronze Medalist
Are You Not Entertained? This is exactly what it felt like watching Romanov play. Nicknamed the “Tsar”, he really impressed on a talented Russian team with players such as Klim Kostin, Grigori Denisenko and Alexander Alexeyev. Romanov is not known for being an offensive defensemen, but finished the tournament with 1 goal to alongside 7 assists, making for 8 points registered in seven games, leading all defensemen.
His biggest asset was his smooth skating that allowed him to rush up the ice and make plays in enemy territory. He also played well when his coach put him on the ice late in games such as the game against Team Canada. He had an excellent tournament and is now heading back to CSKA Moscow where he will only continue to perfect his skills.
Cayden Primeau, Goaltender – The United States – Silver Medalist
Cayden Primeau took over for Kyle Keyser half way through the tournament. Head coach Mike Hastings kept Primeau in goal until the end of the tournament and it was the right move. He looked very sound out there and his calmness in net reminded me of Canadiens star Carey Price.
He could not have played any better and in the end was the reason the U.S. had a chance against a relentless Finnish squad. The first few games were a bit easier for him, but when the team needed him to shine, he most certainly did. Primeau Finished the tournament with a .936 save percentage as well as a 1.61 goals against average.
Now that the tournament is over, Primeau is heading back to Northeastern University and even though his season in the NCAA hasn’t been as good as last year, he will bring a lot of confidence to help the Huskies as they were without their star goalie.
Ryan Poehling, Forward – USA – Silver Medalist
Your 2019 MVP and All Star, American forward Ryan Poehling. Yes, that guy who finished the tournament with 5 goals, 3 assists and 8 points for the United States. After reading all this and watching his play, you would know that he was that good.
His biggest attribute was his puck control and vision. He is one of the better playmaking prospects the Canadiens have. His vision is off the chart. He was one of Hastings’ more used players in the competition.
He played on the power play and penalty kill late in games. If that doesn’t show how valuable he could be for a team in the future, then I don’t know what does. He had an excellent tournament. He’s going back to St. Cloud State to continue his great year.
Jesse Ylonen, Forward – Finland – Gold Medalist
Jesse Ylonen flowed under the radar for the most part of the tournament but was more noticeable when taking part in the gold medal game. He scored the opening goal on a one-timer to beat Cayden Primeau in the net which is something that he doesn’t get to do all that often. He finished with 3 goals to go alongside 3 assists, making for 6 points registered in 7 games throughout the tournament for Team Finland.
The skilled winger moved well on the ice and made some great individual plays throughout the two weeks in which he played for his home country in British Columbia. Even though he played behind star talents such as Eli Tolvanen, Aleksi Heponiemi and Kaapo Kakko, he still managed to produce some relatively solid numbers. Jesse Ylonen had a rather solid competition. He has progressed well and should go back to Lahti where he can continue to gain more ice time and experience.
Looking back now, I would have liked to have seen more from some of these Habs prospects, but in the end, the big winners are Trevor Timmins and his amateur scouting staff. The 2017 and 2018 drafts have yielded some tremendous talent who seem to be ahead of schedule for at least the most part. We can also agree that the players picked need to keep progressing in order to have success with the big league club one day.
In the end, the tournament is a sample for scouting and player evaluation, but should not be the only thing you look at when it comes to prospect rankings. Cautious optimism should turn into full optimism if everyone keeps their foot on the pedal from this point forward.