While there may not be any NHL hockey left to look forward to for the next few days, the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships are just around the corner. Pre-tournament play is imminent, while the round-robin slate of games begins on December 26. With the tournament approaching, the Russian, Finnish, Czech, Slovak, and German contingents have all named their captains for their teams, supplementing the announcements for Canada (Kaiden Guhle) and the United States (Jake Sanderson). Their captains are as follows:
This is Khusnutdinov’s second World Juniors appearance for Russia. Drafted in the second round by Minnesota in 2020, he impressed last year with five points in seven games. Now, in his last year of eligibility, Khusnutdinov is tasked with leading the team in hopes of a medal. The skilled two-way center has four goals and seven assists in 29 KHL games this season with SKA St. Petersburg, impressive numbers for a young player on such a deep team. He’s medalled once before internationally for Russia, winning a silver medal at the 2019 U-18 World Juniors.
Another good defensive center finds his way onto this list with Hirvonen. Also a product of the 2020 Draft’s second round, it’s also Hirvonen’s second and final chance at a World Juniors medal. He had six points in seven games last year as Finland took home the bronze medal. He’s also performing well in his home country’s top league this season, posting six goals and 10 assists in 28 games with HIFK in the Liiga.
Mysak, playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL, is the third second-round draft pick in 2020 on this list. Unlike Khusnutdinov and Hirvonen, though, he made the U-20 team as a 17-year-old, meaning this is his third chance at a medal. It’s his second straight year serving as the captain, with three goals and two assists in 10 games combined. He has 17 goals and 14 assists through 25 OHL games this year.
Knazko breaks the chain, as Columbus drafted him in the third round in 2020. Like Mysak, though, it’s Knazko’s third WJC and his second as the captain. The mobile two-way defenseman has two assists in nine games at the tournament. Now with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, he has a goal and two assists through five games.
Playing with Adler Mannheim in the DEL, Elias was passed over in last year’s draft. Playing with Ottawa’s Tim Stützle at last year’s World Juniors, though, he exploded for four goals and five assists through five games. He’s got four points through 21 games in the DEL this year, and now it’s his turn to lead the German squad.