The NHL’s Western Conference will be well represented at the World Junior Championships, an international tournament that begins today. The event will feature some of the very best U20 players in the entire world, and will include several that have already made their NHL debuts. One of those players is Max Comtois, who started the year with the Anaheim Ducks and has now been named captain of Team Canada. Comtois is the lone returning player from last year’s gold medal-winning squad, and will be helped by Evan Bouchard (EDM), Ian Mitchell (CHI) and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (LAK) who have all been named alternates.
The young Ducks forward got off to a great start, recording seven points in his first ten NHL games and even added another goal during a four-game conditioning stint with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. Comtois is now back with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, a team that is expected to compete for the Memorial Cup after making several high profile trades.
The United States meanwhile will be captained by University of Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Michael Anderson, a Los Angeles Kings prospect. Selected in the fourth round during the 2017 draft, Anderson is a rock solid defenseman capable of shutting down the opponent’s best forwards while contributing offensively from time to time. The 19-year old has seven points in 16 games this season, but will be relied on to stop some of the most potent forwards from around the world while Quinn Hughes—named an alternate for the team—carries the offensive load from the blue line. Josh Norris, another returning player and an Ottawa Senators prospect, rounds out the leadership group.
For Russia, the captain role is often given to a veteran player from their development system who hasn’t reached North America yet. Not so this time around, as St. Louis Blues prospect Klim Kostin will serve as the team’s leader in the upcoming tournament. Kostin played all of last season in the AHL, and has 11 points in 28 games for the San Antonio Rampage this year. He’ll be assisted by Vitaly Kravtsov and Dmitry Samorukov, prospects of the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers respectively.
Finland’s entry looked young and inexperienced until they got some late-December additions, and several will play a big part in the leadership group this time around. Urho Vaakanainen (BOS) and Henri Jokiharju (CHI) have both been named alternates, but will leave the captain duties to Aarne Talvitie who served in the same role at the Summer Showcase. Talvitie, a New Jersey Devils sixth-round pick, currently plays for Penn State U and has 16 points in 17 games as a freshman.