It’s finally here!
The Super Bowl of junior hockey: The World Junior Championships.
The tournament gets underway today at 4 pm Eastern Time with the Czech Republic taking on Switzerland.
The Blue Jackets have been well represented at this event in years past. Currently, 16 of the 22 players on the teams active NHL rosters participated in this event when they were eligible. The Blue Jackets will be well represented once again as they will have four prospects in Victoria and Vancouver, where the tournament is being held, some of whom will be playing big roles for their teams.
Here is everything you need to know to keep tabs on the Blue Jackets prospects.
Dec. 26, 10:30pm vs. Finland, Dec. 27, 6:30pm vs. Slovakia, Dec. 29, 10:30 pm vs. the USA, Dec. 31, 6:30 pm, vs. Kazakhstan
Emil Bemstrom will be representing Sweden. The Blue Jackets 4th round pick in 2017 is one of those players who can make a name for himself with a strong tournament. Sweden as they typically are, have an extremely strong defense unit. They have four first rounders, two-second rounders and the draft-eligible Philip Broberg who is expected to go in the first round.
Up front they have talent, all but two of their forwards have been drafted, including six players picked in the first three rounds, but it’s not of the same level that their defense group is. Sweden only has one first rounder in Isac Lunderstrom, and he will be the go-to player offensively. Bemstrom is going to start on the second line, but with his goal-scoring abilities, we may very well see him on the top line at some point. Bemstrom’s 12 goals this season rank third among all Swedish players on the team, behind Samuel Fagemo, whose split time between the SHL and Super Elit and Rickard Hugg who has played in the Ontario Hockey League. Bemstrom has scored all 12 against professionals in the SHL.
Sweden is again one of the favorites and will be making a deep run. The opportunity is there for a player like Bemstrom to score some big goals and really elevate his prospect status.
Dec. 26, 4 pm vs. the Czech Republic, Dec. 27, 8 pm vs. Canada, Dec. 29, 4 pm vs. Denmark, Dec. 30, 8 pm vs. Russia
Tim Berni, Blue Jackets 6th round pick last season will be representing Switzerland. He is one of just five players on the roster who have been drafted by NHL teams, so he will be relied on heavily. Including Berni three of those drafted players are on defense, and all of them are returning from last year’s team. That added experience will be big for them as they look to get past the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.
Berni is the lowest drafted of the defencemen, but I would imagine he starts on the top pair. Berni has played 23 professional games in the NLA this season, and that to me gives him the edge over Nico Gross. Regardless of where he starts Berni is looking at 25+ minutes a night in all situations.
Dec. 27, 4 pm vs. Denmark, Dec. 28, 8 pm vs. the Czech Republic, Dec. 30, 8 pm vs. Switzerland, Dec. 31, 8 pm vs. Canada
Outside of Team USA, this should be the team Blue Jacket fans will want to follow the closest. Russia has two Jacket prospects on the roster in goaltender Daniil Tarasov and forward Kirill Marchenko. Russia traditionally brings an older team filled with 19-year-olds to the tournament, so for a player like Marchenko who is only 18, he isn’t going to be given a large role on the team. He’s going to be a bottom six player, who may see a couple of shifts with the second power-play unit. His size and speed, however, will be an asset in that role especially in the game against the Canadians who are filled with big, speedy players.
Tarasov, on the other hand, has the opportunity to play a huge part in how Russia does. He is expected to be the starting goalie, and with Russia expected to be a medal contender, Tarasov’s play in those games will go a long way to determining how far they can go. Tarasov like Bemstrom, has an opportunity to re-establish himself as one of the better goalie prospects outside of the NHL. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he’s had success internationally before. The big thing for Tarasov is will he be able to adjust to the smaller ice surface in North America. He had some difficulties in the Canada-Russia Series, only posting a .915 save percentage in three games. Hopefully, he can learn from those games and have a strong tournament for the Russians.
Just for fun, I'll take Sweden over Canada in the Gold Medal game, redeeming themselves from last years defeat, and the USA taking home Bronze.
Follow 1st Ohio Battery