Later today, the rescheduled 2022 World Junior Championships (WJC) will start in Edmonton. The original tournament was scheduled to play between December 26, 2021, and January 5, 2022. However, COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the tournament causing it to be canceled on December 29, 2021. Besides the tournament now being played in August, the big change is that Latvia has replaced Russia, which has been disqualified from international competition following the invasion of Ukraine.
Players eligible for that tournament can play in the rescheduled tournament but it has been a unique challenge and opportunity for teams to put together their rosters. From a New Jersey Devils’ point of view, the team will only be represented by two prospects. Defenseman Luke Hughes is back for the United States and figures to play a large role for the team. Right wing Petr Hauser will make his WJC debut for Czechia in a support role. The original run of the tournament saw the Devils with 4 prospects in defenseman Luke Hughes (USA) and Shakir Mukhamadullin (Russia), right wing Alexander Holtz (Sweden), and goaltender Jakub Malek (Czechia). 2022 1st round draft pick, defenseman Simon Nemec (Slovakia) was also a participant in the tournament. Of course, Russia’s ban means Mukhamadullin isn’t back, Holtz and Nemec have both decided to focus on being prepared for the Devils training camp next month, and Malek is settling into his new club in Finland.
The tournament will take place in Edmonton from August 9, 2022, to August 20, 2022. It will feature 10 teams broken up into 2 groups of 5. Group A consists of Canada, Finland, Czechia, Slovakia, and Latvia. Group B consists of the United States, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Each team plays each group member once, and the top 4 teams from each group will advance to the Quarterfinals. Games will be televised in the United States on the NHL Network and in Canada on TSN as well as RDS. A full schedule can be found on the NHL website.
It is worth noting that there is no relegation in this version of the tournament. That means all 10 of these teams will be eligible to play in the 2023 WJC which will take place in Halifax and Moncton from December 26, 2022, to January 5, 2023.
The Devils Prospects
Luke Hughes is back as a key player for the USA. The 1st round pick from 2021, is one of the most electrifying prospects to watch in the game due to his skating, speed, and skill. The 6’2”, 190 lbs. left-handed shot is capable of playing on either side of the ice. He’s coming off of an impressive freshman season for the University of Michigan where he had 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points in 41 games. No doubt we should see some nice coast-to-coast transitions from Hughes as he looks to be a creator from the blueline for the US. He is among a group of returning defensemen for this team and it will be interesting to see how he can step his defensive game up against the better teams in this competition. Though his offensive skillset is his greatest asset and why he’s there, he will want to show that he can play in all situations at this level. This is a great opportunity for him to continue to show why he’s one of the top prospects in hockey.
Petr Hauser is making his WJC debut for Czechia. The 18-year-old right-handed shot is listed at 6’4”, 205 lbs. He’s played throughout the lineup in their pre-tournament games but I would expect him to play a supporting role in the bottom 6 for Czechia. He’s been excellent at the U20 level in Czechia with 25 goals and 34 assists for 59 points in 41 games last season for HC Sparta Praha’s U20 team. His frame allows him to play against men and he’s made 15 appearances in the Czech 2nd division with HC Stadion Litomerice where he had a goal and an assist. He’ll likely be utilized in this tournament to provide a physical edge against the smaller competition.
Three Devils prospects that were in camp with their respective countries but missed the cut include Canada’s Chase Stillman and Tyler Brennan as well as the USA’s Seamus Casey. RW Stillman, a 2021 1st round pick, is coming off of a disappointing season in his draft+1 year in the OHL. It’s not surprising to see him left off. G Tyler Brennan, a 4th round pick in 2022, is still 18 years old, so his omission isn’t surprising either. D Casey, a 2nd round pick in 2022, has a lot of potential in his game but lacked the development of some of the more senior members of the USA’s blueline. He figures to have an outside chance of making the team for 2023’s tournament.
Draft Eligible Prospects to Watch
According to Elite Prospects, 10 prospects eligible for the 2023 draft will play in this tournament. Three prospects to keep a close eye on include center Connor Bedard (Canada), center Dalibor Dvorsky (Slovakia), and forward Charlie Stramel (USA). Bedard is a 5’9”, 181 lbs. right-handed center that plays for the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Last season as a 16-year-old, he posted 51 goals and 49 assists for 100 points in 62 games. Bedard is familiar with this tournament having posted 4 goals and an assist in 2 games in the first run of this competition. He’s also won a Gold Medal from the 2021 U18 WJC. He’s the consensus top prospect for the 2023 draft class. He doesn’t turn 18 years old until July 17, 2023.
Dalibor Dvorsky is a 6’1”, 190 lbs. left-handed center that plays for AIK in the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd tier). Last season he had 2 goals and an assist in 17 Allsvenskan games for AIK. At the J20 level, he had 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points in 33 games. Dvorsky already has a wealth of experience at the junior level in international hockey, earning a Silver Medal in the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and a Gold Medal in the 2022 U18 WJC Division 1A. Some outlets have Dvorsky as high as 5th on their initial rankings. He doesn’t turn 18 years old until June 15, 2023.
Charlie Stramel is a 6’3”, 216 lbs. right-handed forward. He has developed for the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and is set to play for the University of Wisconsin this season. Last year with the USNTDP, he had 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points in 26 USDP games with the U18 team. He recently won a Silver Medal at the 2022 U18 WJC where he posted 2 goals and 3 assists in 6 games. He is an early candidate to be a top 10 prospect for this draft according to some outlets. He will turn 18 years old on October 15, 2022.
Are you excited about the rescheduled 2022 WJC Tournament? What are your expectations for Luke Hughes and Petr Hauser? Which teams do you expect to medal in this tournament? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!