It’s that magical time of year once again. Bracing against new-fallen snow, young hockey talents travel across the globe with holiday cheer to don their country’s apparel for the annual Wold Juniors tournament. This year, the Devils have five prospects sledding to Canada for the influential contest. In the spirit of the season, this posts looks at the ghosts of their tournaments past, present and opines about their futures.
SEAMUS CASEY — TEAM USA
Seamus Casey’s first foray into international hockey was a silver medal performance in the 2020 Youth Olympic Games is Lausanne, Switzerland. Though he played in all four games, Casey did not register a point. Casey fared better personally in the 2021 U18 Five Nations Tournament scoring 2 goals and 4 points in 4 games and a second-place finish for Team USA.
In 2022, Casey suited up for Team USA again in the IIHF World U18 Championship, where the United States finished again as the runner-up to champion Team Sweden. In the tournament, Casey had six points in six games with a three point performance against Latvia in the semifinals. The second-rounder finished second on the team in scoring amongst defensemen behind Lane Hutson, who registered eight assists. [USA Hockey]
Seamus Casey’s role in this tournament is yet to be determined, but early indications are that he will likely play a smaller or back-up role. Casey has often lined up with Luke Mittlestadt in what seems to be considered the extra or fourth pairing. As an 18 year-old in the tournament, the Ghost of Tournament Present hopes that Casey gets adequate playing time to showcase his skill, but even if he does not, the experience should be valuable to him.
As Casey is still very young and likely to remain in college for at least one more season, it is highly likely that he will return to TEAM USA next season in a much larger role. The Ghost of Tournaments Future expects to see big things for the young defender going forward.
LUKE HUGHES — TEAM USA
As one should expect, Luke Hughes already has a significant international resume dating back to 2019 when he skated for Team USA in both the World Under-17 Challenge and the Under 17 Five Nations Tournament. In the former, Team USA finished 2nd and Luke Hughes contributed with two goals and three assists in seven games. In the latter, Team USA won the tournament and Hughes pocketed two assists in three games.
In 2020, Luke Hughes participated again in the World Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Ufa, Russia. Team USA finished 2nd that year and Hughes had two assists in four games.
In 2022, Luke Hughes skated for Team USA in both the IIHF Men’s World Championship and the IIHF World Junior’s championship earning only a fourth and fifth place finish respectively. In the Men’s Championship, Hughes put up a respectable goal and three assists in ten games playing alongside and against many established NHLers. In the juniors championship against his peers, Hughes was far more dominant with six points in five games.
Luke Hughes will captain Team USA this year, so one should expect his role in the tournament to be a “Big Deal.” In the preliminary game against Sweden, Luke Hughes lined up on the top pair with Jack Peart. Watch for that pair to eat up a lot of minutes for Team USA.
While the Ghost of Tournaments Future may be saddened to lose Luke Hughes after this tournament, Devils fans should rejoice. Hughes should be a New Jersey Devil at the end of this season, so any future international tournaments would likely be limited to the Olympics should NHL players be permitted to participate in the future.
SIMON NEMEC - TEAM SLOVAKIA
Simon Nemec made his international debut in the 2019 Hlinka Cup, where he failed to score in four games.
In the 2021 World Juniors, Nemec proved to be far more valuable for Team Slovakia totaling four points in five games in the tournament. Nemec impressed enough to play for the senior club at the IIHF World Championships that year, where he had an assist in five games. Capping a busy international season, Nemec again suited up for Team Slovakia for the Hlinka Cup, where Nemec lead the defense for Team Slovakia to a silver medal finish with six points in five games and earned most valuable player honors for the tournament.
Although only tallying one assist in seven games, Nemec’s medal-winning way continued in 2022, when Team Slovakia won their first ever medal (bronze) for ice hockey the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Nemec was only one of three teenagers named to that team. Later that year, Nemec suited up again for the IIHF World Championships, leading the team’s backend with six points in eight games, a feat that impressed the Ghost of Tournaments Past.
No ghosts need to analyze this one. Nemec had four points in a 5-1 pre-tournament game win against Latvia. He is going to play - a lot.
As with Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec is likely be a New Jersey Devil next season and therefore will be unlikely to play in many more international tournaments unless the NHL permits players to participate in the Olympics. Somewhere, the Ghost of Tournaments Future weeps alone.
TOPIAS VILEN - TEAM FINLAND
Topias Vilen made his international debut in 2019 in the Quebec Esso Cup, scoring one goal in four games for 7th place Team Finland. in 2021, Finland finished fourth in the IIHF U18 World Championship with Vilen tallying four assists in seven games.
Per Elite Prospects, Topias Vilen will be an alternate captain for underdogs Team Finland this year. [Elite Prospects] In the preliminary games, Vilen has been skating on the top pair with Aleksi Heimosalmi. Amidst this break-out season, the young defender should feature very prominently on Finland’s blueline.
Still only 19 years-old, Vilen is likely to be a mainstay in international tournaments for Team Finland until he makes the transition to the NHL. The Ghost of Tournaments Future predicts good things and perhaps a captaincy role for him in the very near future.
PETR HAUSER - TEAM CZECHIA
Internationally, Petr Hauser is perhaps best known for his goal that helped upset Team USA in the World Juniors Quarterfinals in August. [NHL.COM] It’s number 8 on this list.
Hauser had a goal and an assist in seven games for an encouraging fourth place finish for Team Slovakia that year.
Though not having the depth of talent as many of the other teams in the tournament, keep an eye our for the team cohesiveness of Team Czechia. Despite not medaling since 2005, Czechia plays a very structured team game. Hauser should feature as a prominent cog in their system. That structure upset Team USA in the Quarterfinals last tournament. They will need to do that again and more if they are going to break their medal drought.
Hauser is still young and Czechia is not a very deep team. The Ghost of Tournaments Future predicts many international games ahead for the young power forward.
Who are you most excited to watch in the World Juniors this year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. I also highly suggest reading John’s article on how to watch the tournament.
Next week, the prospect update’s wintry break continues with a Year-End Review and a look at the New Jersey Devils All-Prospect Team.