It’s a tradition unlike any other to watch young hockey hopefuls play for a gold medal and national pride throughout the Christmas holidays, but this year’s edition comes at the end of a trying year.
This year’s World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton will have an added storyline, one that’s played a role in just about every event that’s taken place in 2020: playing through a global pandemic. Barring any more outbreaks, the world’s best prospects under the age of 20 will battle for Junior hockey supremacy. But they’ll do it without fans.
The Montreal Canadiens will be represented by a trio of prospects at this year’s tournament. What they lack in quantity could be made up in quality.
Cole Caufield, RW
The expectations for Caufield as a Canadiens player are currently sky-high. Depending on how he plays at the World Juniors, those expectations could rocket into the stratosphere. It doesn’t take much when you’re hyped as a generational goal-scorer.
The 19-year-old will make his second appearance at the World Juniors, hoping to improve on a sixth-place finish with Team USA last year when he only scored one goal and added an assist in five games played.
Caufield is also in the midst of a solid start to his NCAA sophomore campaign at the University of Wisconsin with six goals and 12 points in 10 games, giving him a leg up on other players who haven’t played meaningful games in junior leagues due to the pandemic.
Don’t be surprised if he’s leaned on for his goal-scoring abilities as a top-six forward at the tournament. And don’t be surprised if he emerges as the most impressive-looking Habs prospect when the dust settles.
Kaiden Guhle, D
The Habs’ most recent first-round pick is regarded as an imposing player on the back end while displaying amazing skating ability. And he’ll get to show it off wearing the red and white for Team Canada.
For the uninitiated who haven’t yet seen him in the Western Hockey League with the Prince Albert Raiders, the World Juniors will serve as his introduction. The primer from our recent Top 25 Under 25 may also provide some insight.
At the early onset, Guhle looks to be paired with Justin Barron on Team Canada’s third pairing. It isn’t a surprise to see him at that spot considering his style of play.
Coach Andre Tourigny seems to have already taken a liking to the Habs’ first-rounder.
Team Canada WJC head coach Andre Tourigny on @TSN690 this morning discussing #Habs prospect Kaiden Guhle: "He's mean, he skates really well, he reads the play well and he makes good plays with the puck. He's not flashy, but he's a really efficient, tough to play against d-man"— HabsLinks (@HabsLinks) December 17, 2020
Team Czech Republic
Jan Myšák, C
Myšák might not garner the same attention as Caufield or Guhle, but that doesn’t make him any less impressive nor less worthy to watch.
He is now part of the Canadiens’ growing depth at centre and will be leaned on heavily for the Czech Republic’s World Juniors squad. At last year’s tournament, he got a goal and an assist in five games.
Some have considered Myšák’s selection by the Canadiens to be a steal after he was taken in the second round despite being seen as a potential first-round prospect. His offensive abilities are needed for the Czechs if they want to advance to the knockout rounds.