Thursday was the final day of the Christmas break, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any games of note in the hockey world. The 2020 World Junior Championships kicked off yesterday, which showcases the very best hockey prospects.
Players who excel in this tournament aren’t guaranteed to have NHL success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If nothing else, it gives undrafted prospects a chance to showcase what they can do against a higher level of competition and on a world stage while also giving drafted prospects who haven’t cemented NHL roles yet a chance to gain some much needed experience.
With that in mind, let’s look at the standout players from the opening day of the tournament.
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SWITZERLAND 5 KAZAKHSTAN 3
The Swiss were led by Matthew Verboon, who scored a pair of goals yesterday. That’s one more goal than he’s had in 16 NCAA games with Colgate University this season. David Aebischer also registered two assists. He has four goals and 13 points in 18 contests with the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques in 2019-20.
As for Kazakhstan, Maxim Musorov scored two of the team’s three goals. The 18-year-old has an assist in 12 KHL contests this season. Ruslan Demin accounted for their other goal. He has two goals and seven points in 30 games in Kazakhstan’s league this season.
CZECH REPUBLIC 4 RUSSIA 3
Michal Teply chipped in three assists for the Czechs. He entered this tournament with 13 goals and 30 points in 29 WHL contests. Chicago took him with the 105th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Jan Jenik also came up big for the Czech Republic with a goal and an assist. The Arizona Coyotes prospect has excelled in the OHL with 22 goals and 56 points in 27 contests.
Egor Zamula scored a pair of goals for Team Russia. He has seven markers and 28 points in 28 WHL contests in 2019-20. He was never drafted, but the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract, so they control his NHL rights. Vasili Podkolzin scored the Russian’s other goal. He was selected by Vancouver with the 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft. He’s played in 14 KHL contests this season, but doesn’t have a point over that span.
SWEDEN 3 FINLAND 2 (OT)
Samuel Fagemo and Nils Hoglander each had a goal and an assist for Sweden. Fagemo has six goals and 11 points in 20 Swedish league games this season. Los Angeles took him with the 50th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Hoglander was taken 40th overall by Vancouver in the same draft. He has six goals and nine points in 19 Swedish league contests.
Kristian Tanus scored a goal and registered an assist for the Finnish squad. He has two goals and eight points in 20 Finnish league games this season. Patrik Puistola also had a goal and an assist for Team Finland. He has three goals and six points in 22 Finnish league games in 2019-20. Carolina took him with the 73rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
CANADA 6 UNITED STATES 4
The standout player of this game and Day 1 of the tournament was Alexis Lafreniere, who scored a goal and four points for Team Canada. He’s dominated in the QMJHL this season with 23 goals and 70 points in 32 contests. Lafreniere is regarded as the frontrunner to go first overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and a strong showing in this tournament would certainly help cement that spot. Barrett Hayton scored twice for Canada. He was taken by Arizona with the fifth pick in 2018. He’s been with the Arizona Coyotes this season, but has been used sparingly, scoring a goal and four points in 14 contests. The Coyotes decided to loan him to Canada for this tournament in the interest of giving him more playing time.
On the United States’ side, Shane Pinto shined with two goals and an assist. He entered the tournament with eight goals and 14 points in 17 games with the University of North Dakota. The freshman was selected by Ottawa with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft. Nick Robertson had a goal and an assist for Team USA. He has 23 goals and 35 points in 22 OHL contests this season. The Maple Leafs drafted him at 53rd overall in 2019.