The 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships came to an end last night with a 3-1 Canada win over Sweden. Tyler Steenbergen was the unlikely hero, the only Canadian forward without a goal in the tournament to that point broke the tie with under two minutes left in the game. It was the perfect way to close out a memorable World Juniors, complete with the tournament’s first ever outdoor game, the most goals ever scored by an American player (Kieffer Bellows’ 7), and the first player to ever toss his medal away into the stands (Sweden’s Lias Andersson). While the bulk of the WJC coverage is generally just the results of the games, let’s take a closer look at the standouts of the tournament:
Canada – Gold
Top Performers: While Jordan Kyrou (STL) led the Canadians with ten points and had a fantastic tournament, the undisputed top player was the fourth overall pick this past June, defenseman Cale Makar (COL). The UMass product posted three goals and five assists to finish third in scoring for Canada. Tied for first among all defenseman in points at the WJC, Makar showed his next-level offensive ability for the first time on the international stage. Sam Steel (ANA) impressed as well with nine points and the second-best face-off percentage in the tournament. Victor Mete (MTL) showed his NHL experience has already had an impact on his defensive game; he finished +11 without a single goal scored while he was on the ice. Carter Hart (PHI) finished with the best save percentage, .930, and goals against average, 1.81, in the tournament.
Biggest Surprise: Probably the surprise of the whole tournament was Drake Batherson (OTT), a fourth-round pick who was not even invited to Canada’s camp, who led Canada in goal-scoring with seven tallies. Canada had faced criticism of including Batherson on the roster over several recent top picks who were skipped over, but decision paid off in a major way.
Sweden – Silver
Top Performers: If Rasmus Dahlin (2018) wasn’t the presumptive #1 overall pick in 2018 already, he is after the WJC. With a team-high six assists and +7 rating in major ice time, Dahlin proved that his draft stock is legitimate. While polarizing during the medal ceremony, the only opinion of Lias Andersson’s (NYR) play was that it was strong. The Swedish captain tied for the team lead with seven points, six of which were his team-high six goals. Elias Petterson (VAN) and Alexander Nylander (BUF) were also impressive with seven points apiece. Filip Gustavsson (PIT) was rivaled only by Canada’s Hart in terms of the tourney’s top goaltender.
Biggest Surprise: The Swedes were top-heavy in terms of scoring, with the aforementioned four standouts contributing much of the offense, but that didn’t stop Axel Jonsson Fjallby (WAS) from making his presence felt. The 2016 fifth-rounder had four points, including two shorthanded goals, and was third on the team in shots.
United States – Bronze
Top Performers: Kieffer Bellows (NYI) led the WJC with nine goals and his teammate, Casey Mittelstadt (BUF), shared the tournament lead in points with eleven. So, while the U.S. fell short of their goal of being repeat champions, they arguably showcased the two best players of the World Juniors. Bellows passed up Jeremy Roenick as the highest goal-scoring American player in WJC history and finished one point behind Mittelstadt for the total points lead in a strong effort, while Mittelstadt was not only a top scorer, but a top a well-rounded presence as well, with a +8 rating. Mittelstadt’s rating was only bested on the team by defenseman Dylan Samberg (WPG), whose +10 was third-best at the WJC. The nine points for Brady Tkachuk (2018) will only serve to help his draft stock this June.
Biggest Surprise: Despite being assigned a crucial two-way, defensive role for the U.S., Trent Frederic (BOS) still managed to pot five goals, second-most on the team behind Bellows and tied for fifth in the tournament. He was also the only American player to score goals at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.
Czech Republic – 4th
Top Performers: Perhaps the player that helped his draft stock the most at the World Juniors was Filip Zadina (2018), who tied for second in the tournament with seven goals and helped lead his team to a semifinal appearance. The man assisting on many of Zadina’s goals was Martin Necas (CAR), who tied the U.S.’ Mittelstadt as the WJC’s points leader and led the tournament with eight assists. Necas looked like the most pro-ready prospect in the entire tournament. On the back end, Libor Hajek (TBL) tied only Canada’s Makar for the most points by a defenseman.
Biggest Surprise: The Czech’s scored more goals, 22, than any other team in the tournament. While Necas and Zadina, arguably the tournament’s most dynamic duo, had a lot of input, the whole roster stepped up and helped the team finish higher than other teams considered to be contenders, such as Finland and Russia.
Finland – 5th
Top Performer: Eeli Tolvanen (NSH) – 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points. Led team in assists, points, shots, and +/-.
Biggest Surprise: Joona Koppanen (BOS, 5th-round in 2016) – 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points. Second on team in goals.
Russia – 6th
Top Performer: Klim Kostin (STL) – 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points. Led team in goals, points, and +/-.
Biggest Surprise: Artur Kayumov (undrafted) – 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points. Second on team in goals and points.