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Montreal Canadiens prospect daily performances at the 2021 World Juniors

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Daily updates on how the Habs prospects are faring in the Edmonton bubble.

2019 NHL Scouting Combine Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens have three prospects representing their countries at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship. Their performances will be updated daily in this article.

Tournament statistics

Player Draft year Country Pos GP TOI/GP G A P SOG
Player Draft year Country Pos GP TOI/GP G A P SOG
Cole Caufield 2019 USA RW 7 17:12 2 3 5 24
Kaiden Guhle 2020 Canada LD 7 15:53 2 1 3 12
Jan Mysak 2020 Czech Republic C 5 18:32 2 1 3 9

Cole Caufield

Dec. 25: USA vs. Russia

Caufield wasn’t given much ice time in the opening period versus Russia, clocking in at under 3:00. Despite being forgotten by the coaching staff, he still managed to make an impact, notching the primary assist on Cam York’s tying goal.

As the U.S. fell well behind in the second, Caufield began to get more shifts, some of which he extended longer than the coach probably would have liked. He was doing all he could to generate some offence for his club, finishing with a team-high five shots on goal, while also ending up third in ice time among the forwards at 17:53.

It wasn’t a performance that played to his strengths as a seeker of quiet ice, as he tried to create the plays rather than finish them (as he had on two occasions in the pre-tournament match). But it was an understandable mindset to take while trailing by multiple goals. In closer games as the tournament goes on, perhaps we’ll see more of the sniper we’ve come to expect.

Dec. 26: USA vs. Austria

There weren’t many players who ended up with zero points in the Americans’ 11-0 win over Austria, but Caufield was one of them. Nevertheless, he was one of the top shooters on the team, with six of the 73 USA threw at the opposing goaltenders (the first of whom left with cramps after facing so much work). Caufield’s workload remained high as well, getting the most ice time among forwards at 17:39.

For the second straight day, Caufield was one of the most dangerous players in the tournament, ranking third on the list of expected primary points among a bevy of U.S. players.

He’s getting his chances, and notably it’s not just from hanging around looking for shots, but setting his linemates up well, with good expected assist numbers. It should just be a matter of time before the offence begins to flow from his stick.

Dec. 29: USA vs. Czech Republic

The game was a lot tighter to start than many probably expected. With either team still having a chance to take control in the second period, a great defensive play from Caufield may have prevented a quality scoring chance for the Czechs. He raced back after a change in possession in what was shaping up to be a three-on-two, and showed off the incredible hands have been knocking down pucks all tournament long to stop the rush in its tracks and send the play the opposite way.

Caufield continues to play in the bumper spot in front of the net on the power play; a questionable coaching decision in general, and especially so versus a team that has an established defensive strategy of collapsing everyone to the slot. Even if a puck did come his way, there was little chance he was going to be able to get a shot off. In the end, his teammates rarely even tried to make that connection.

However, it was in that spot that Caufield helped to set up a goal. Facing the blue line, he swung the puck back to the point to start a relay around the perimeter. The puck touched three more sticks after his pass, however, so he didn’t get a point.

On a less-structured setup at the start of a power play late in the game, he finally got some room to work with. He ripped a shot through the five-hole before the goalie could drop into the butterfly for his first goal.

A minute later, on another power play, he added a secondary assist to bring his event total to three points.

As EOTP member Habs62 noted in the game thread, he could have had another goal or two in the game, but he was so eager to score that he fired the puck just high or wide.

On a team with so many skilled forwards, there’s plenty of offence to go around — and that has been shown over three games. Hopefully now that he’s potted a goal, he can start to relax and use his more natural shooting motion.

Dec. 31: USA vs. Sweden

Caufield wasn’t having much fun in the game versus Sweden. On several occasions he tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone to set up some offence, but was met by a big Swedish defender each time, and the play went nowhere. Outside of a few swipes at the puck in close on rebounds, and a late three-on-two with Matthew Beniers and Matthew Boldy, he wasn’t particularly close to scoring any points.

He does still stay in constant motion in the offensive zone, trying to get into position for a pass around the goal, but few pucks are getting to him in open space.

He was very noticeable when hounding pucks. His incredible hand-eye coordination saw him break up several attempts by Sweden to exit their own zone, and he made an exceptional knockdown of a waist-high pass that immediately settled at his feet.

Given those skills, you wonder if he would be a great candidate for the penalty kill, patrolling a passing lane and intercepting pucks to launch counter-attacks. It’s an area he could thrive in, and it would be a way for him to have more impact in these games.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #4 — USA vs. Slovakia

On his 20th birthday, it was obvious from his first shift that Caufield was going to have an impactful game. He was noticeable on each shift, involved in getting the puck in and around the offensive zone where he would have been stopped cold on New Year’s Eve.

Accepting a perfect pass in the first period to earn a breakaway, his first shot was stopped, then he double-hit his follow-up attempt to deny himself on the rebound.

His first contribution on the scoresheet was acting as a decoy on the power play, which, frustratingly, has become his main role while playing in the bumper spot. He occupied the attention of three Slovak defenders and left an acre of space for Arthur Kaliyev on the left side for an easy goal off a Matthew Boldy pass.

He got his shot in the second period on a five-on-three, allowed to play more of a rover role and show some creativity. After working the puck around, he got into an open spot near the slot, accepted a Trevor Zegras pass, and ripped a shot over the shoulder of the netminder and off the crossbar for USA’s third goal, his second of the tournament.

He just about had a second before the power play ended, getting in alone on the goaltender, but Simon Latkoczy made a great glove save to deny him once more.

Just as the power play was coming to an end, a broken play created a two-on-one for the Czechs, but Caufield raced back to take the puck-carrier. It was only a temporary intervention as a third player followed up and took a pass to get the Czechs on the board. His back-checking is becoming a feature of his games, often the first forward to recover into a defensive position, and not just for show; he’s hustling as fast as he can to take a man or intercept the puck. It’s a great thing to see for a player some had originally pegged as a one-dimensional goal-scorer.

Jan. 4: Semifinal #2 — USA vs. Finland

The game opened with a good chance for Caufield right off the bat. Matthew Beniers intercepted a breakout attempt, and found Caufield still deep in the zone for a quick chance on the Finnish netminder. He didn’t score, but he had clearly come to play in his first World Juniors semifinal.

Despite once more being noticeable on most of his shifts, it wasn’t until late in the second period that he got his name on the scoresheet. Needing to play along the boards to help win a puck battle on the power play, he collected the puck from Arthur Kaliyev and whipped it to Trevor Zegras, who tossed a perfect shot-pass off the stick of Matt Boldy for what was a two-goal lead.

The next time his name got recorded in the ledger it was for a delay of game penalty as he got a bit too much lift on a puck he was trying to clear, sending it into the empty stands. Fortunately for him, no harm was done on the ensuing power play, leaving the lead intact when his sentence was over.

He watched as Finland’s constant pressure in the third period pulled the game back to even, but was out in the final minutes trying to earn his team another lead. His strong defensive acumen was on display as he stayed well within his backchecking range, and even defended a lob transition pass like a defensive back, turning and leaping to get his hand on the puck and prevent an offensive rush.

Other than the dents he left on posts and crossbars (one more in the opening seconds of the third period), the defensive abilities will serve as the lasting impression from his performance at this tournament. He was often the first forward back when the puck changed hands, and that will also come in handy when playing a quick Canadian side in the final.

Jan. 5: Gold Medal Game — USA vs. Canada

Caufield had his share of chances in the final game of the World Juniors, taking advantage of the waterbug style of Matthew Beniers to get some quick shots off. Facing a well-positioned goaltender in Devon Levi, he needed to make his shots perfect, and was always an inch or two away from doing so.

It was another game in which his zone-entry game wasn’t working well against a large-bodied defence, and Kaiden Guhle stapled him along the boards on two occasions as he tried to do so. That will be something he’ll try to improve upon to get the most out of his offensive attack.

With just two goals scored, some will see this as a poor tournament for a sniper like Caufield. It’s true that he wasn’t able to perform up to his offensive capabilities, but he showed throughout that he can be more than a one-trick pony. In fact, late in the third period when the U.S. was trying to secure a 2-0 lead, he was sent on the ice for his defensive skill, never overextending himself and having good positioning when he was in his own zone without the puck.

He answered some of the questions about his ability to play in the NHL, and he played an important part, if not a critical one, in getting his team to victory. He was very excited to win gold, and can be proud of his play over the two weeks of the tournament.

Tournament complete: Won gold medal

Kaiden Guhle

Dec. 26: Canada vs. Germany

As had been the case in the first match of the day, a Canadiens prospect opened the scoring in the first period of the second contest on the schedule. Kaiden Guhle jumped up into some open space, and may have tried to rip a shot to the short-side top corner, but it sort of wobbled its way over the pad of the German netminder and in. No matter the plan, the result was the first of many goals Canada would score.

In what ended up being a 16-2 victory over a team with 14 skaters, Guhle was a +4 with one minor penalty. He played 18:00 minutes, which ranked sixth among Canadian defencemen. As the games ramp up in difficulty, his shutdown defensive style may be called upon more by the coaching staff.

Dec. 27: Canada vs. Slovakia

Guhle was once more jumping up to attack the net when a safe opportunity presented itself. This time, he didn’t get one to go in the net.

At the other end of the ice, the stifling defensive game that made him a top draft pick was more obvious than in the first match. Slovakia is proving to be a tough opponent in this tournament, but Guhle didn’t offer their forwards much of anything in a game that remained 1-0 late into the third. His reputation is as a defender who can match speedy forwards stride-for-stride, and that’s precisely what was on display on Sunday evening.

His ice time still remains quite low among what is a strong group of blue-liners, ranking fourth on the roster in the game, but he was right near the top in minutes played in the third period as Canada was trying to make a one-goal lead stand up. Head coach Andre Tourigny tapped his defensive abilities for 7:12 of the final frame.

Dec. 29: Canada vs. Switzerland

Guhle’s defensive game wasn’t required much in a 15-shot performance from the Swiss. Other than this nonchalant destruction of an opponent, that is:

Head coach Andre Tourigny is falling in love with the defenceman’s overall game, expanding his view beyond just that of the shutdown defender he thought he had at the start of the evaluation camp.

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Guhle was third in ice time among the defence once more, behind Bowen Byram and Thomas Harley, but ahead of Jamie Drysdale. In that time he was a +3 and had two shots, one a perfect low slapshot from the point that went off the far post and in.

To this point Canada hasn’t faced an opponent of equal stature, and the main challenge for the players has been generating their own energy. That will change on Thursday night when they take on Finland, in what could well be a battle of undefeated teams for the top seed in Group A. With the likes of Anton Lundell and Aku Räty to contend with, a proper three-zone performance will be needed from Canada, and Guhle could see even more minutes, on both sides of the puck.

Dec. 31: Canada vs. Finland

In what was supposed to be a tough game for both sides, Finland looked unprepared to face Canada in the showdown for top seed in Group A. Canada hit the ground running and didn’t slow to a jog until the start of the third period.

With the way the team was playing, the Canadian coaching staff kept sending out the offensive defencemen to keep the pressure on, and that strategy proved very effective as Finland was suffocated in its own zone. It was good news for Canada’s odds of winning, but not for shutdown defenceman’s Kaiden Guhle’s participation.

He finished the game playing just 14 minutes with one shot on goal, his services not as necessary as expected. He had been playing big minutes early, so he can treat this game as added rest to go with his day off tomorrow. The ice time should be more even on Saturday when the team plays in the quarter-final against the Czechs.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #3 — Canada vs. Czech Republic

Facing a defensive team that was limiting offence, Guhle made it his mission to play a solid defensive game versus the Czechs in the quarter-final. He was often just out of frame when the puck was in the offensive zone, in good position in case any breaks went the opposite way. He played a poised 15:19, careful to make good decisions when he had the puck.

He wasn’t afraid to join in on the attack however, ending with three shots and also firing a puck off the side of the post. He’s playing a complete game that may be getting overshadowed by bigger names on the blue line, but he’s been a key player on the back end.

Trusted to lock down the game when the Czechs pulled the goaltender, his bank of the puck off the boards (and the hand of a Czech player trying to hold the line) set up Connor McMichael’s unimpeded breakaway that sealed the win for Canada, sending them off to the semis.

Jan. 4: Semifinal #1 — Canada vs. Russia

It was another solid, unspectacular game from Kaiden Guhle on Monday — two words the shutdown defenceman would take as compliments.

He got a lot of time in the first period as the coaches kept all the units rolling keeping on the pressure Canada has been famous for in the tournament so far. With the result all but secured early in the second, the top pair of Byram and Drysdale were given the lion’s share of the shifts to see the game out.

Russian forwards were having little success beating Canadian defender in one-on-one situations, and Guhle featured in a few of those footraces, sticking with his man and keeping him to the outside. Good positioning allowed him to intercept a few pass attempts in his own zone, and start the play in the opposite direction.

With gold on the line, the top pairing is probably going to be leaned on once again for the brunt of the action, but Guhle will be doing all the right things on his shifts to keep American defenders to the perimeter, make good decisions in moving the puck, and working to help steer his team to victory.

Jan. 5: Gold Medal Game — Canada vs. USA

When Canada came out of the gate on fire to start the game, Kaiden Guhle was perhaps Canada’s most noticeable player. He jumped up low in the offensive zone on his first shift trying to continue his team’s run of fast starts, and he was also his composed self in the defensive end to break up an offensive chance with a good backcheck and keep his man along the boards.

In hindsight, perhaps it was a bad sign for Canada that Guhle was the most noticeable player when he’s more known for a simple, reliable game, but he was definitely one of the most prepared players for the high-tempo game that was to be played.

Unfortunately, he did get caught out for a long shift in his end starting at about the midpoint of the first period. Clearly sapped of energy and unable to change, he was slow to react to a fresher player getting to the slot in front of him, and Alex Turcotte got his stick on the puck before Guhle responded to open the scoring with what eventually turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Nevertheless, he continued his usual solid play for the remaining 47 minutes, laying out fellow Habs prospect Cole Caufield on a couple of occasions as he refused to be on the ice for a second goal against. In the third period when Canada was desperate for some offence, Guhle began to take some of the minutes away from Thomas Harley, usually just giving Bowen Byram a short rest before he came out to play another shift.

There was nothing speactacular to his game during the seven games he played, but he did show some aptitude for play in all types of situations, and displayed a bit more offensive upside than some expected with his two goals and smart pinches. He’ll be a good prospect to track over the next year, and he should be back in Edmonton in 2022 as he looks to improve upon a second-place finish.

Tournament complete: Won silver medal

Jan Mysak

Dec. 26: Czech Republic vs. Sweden

Heading into the game versus Sweden as the underdog, the Czechs offered a glimmer of intrigue when they opened the scoring. It was a goal from captain Jan Mysak midway through the first period that put the team up 1-0. On a power play, Mysak found himself all alone on the right side of the ice, and was able to shove the puck behind netminder Hugo Alnefelt.

It was one of several great plays he made in the opening frame as Sweden was trying to get up to speed. When the opponent finally did find its footing, however, there seemed to be not enough possession to go around to the Czechs, as Sweden scored seven unanswered goals for the convincing 7-1 victory.

Rivaling some of the defenceman in ice time, at 19:22, Mysak was named the best player for the Czechs at the end of the game as the team’s only goal-scorer.

Dec. 27: Czech Republic vs. Russia

Mysak didn’t get a point in the upset victory over Russia, but he was the only Czech player on the ice for both goals in the 2-0 win. As the captain and top-line centre, he was called upon to take many of the faceoffs, though he only had a 6-9 record in those battles.

He played a lot of minutes while the game was in a 0-0 deadlock, but once his team got out to a 1-0 lead, the defensive formation went into full lockdown mode, and other forwards were tagged for that job — one the team played perfectly the rest of the way.

With the sole focus on defence, and therefore few power-play opportunities, Mysak didn’t get a chance to add much offence. We’ll see if the same defensive game plan is used on Tuesday night when his team takes on another Group B powerhouse, Team USA.

Dec. 29: Czech Republic vs. USA

Mysak had a few looks early as the Czechs were outshooting Team USA to start (they ultimately finished ahead in that category, 25-22). He was in tight for a few looks, but had plays thwarted by goaltender Spencer Knight, the U.S. defence, or teammates who couldn’t connect on the other end. Most of the shots from his line were taken by Michal Teply, who had six to Mysak’s one.

Overall it was a rather quiet afternoon from the captain in his 23 shifts. He’ll probably make a lot more noise on New Year’s Eve versus an Austrian club that hasn’t achieved much in the tournament so far, though did grow in confidence with a decent outing — and a first goal — against Russia. A quarterfinal appearance will be Mysak’s so long as Austria doesn’t win in regulation.

Dec. 31: Czech Republic vs. Austria

The Czechs gave Sebastian Wraneschitz one final workout at the World Juniors, sending 61 shots toward him and converting seven of them for goals. Mysak had an assist on linemate Martin Lang’s second goal of the middle frame, working from a spot on the half-wall to set up the shot from the point.

In the dying seconds of the third period, Mysak put the 61st and final shot on target, a good release to the top corner to add his second goal of the event.

It was an expected result versus the weakest team in the tournament; the Austrians managed just a single goal through four games. Once again, Mysak was the most used forward, though he himself only had two of the 61 shots on goal. He is trying to work around the net at both five-on-five and during power plays, but just isn’t quite getting the connections he’s hoping for to grow his offensive totals.

The Czechs will be big underdogs on Saturday when they take on Canada in the quarter-finals, so his line will have to have a major impact to keep the game close.

Jan. 2: Quarter-final #3 — Czech Republic vs. Canada

As they had versus Russia, the Czechs played a strong defensive game versus Canada on Saturday. Unfortunately, their goaltender couldn’t stop two early shots, and that proved too big a hole for the Czech Republic to climb out of.

Mysak was doing his part to help generate some offence, operating from his usual spot on the right half-wall looking for lanes, but also leading a few rushes. He was setting up plenty of plays, with good passes and give-and-gos, but wasn’t rewarded with any points.

The Czechs had a difficult time pulling out of the defensive formation that had got them to the quarter-finals, and it wasn’t really until late in the third period when the goaltender was pulled that they had any sustained pressure, despite actually leading Canada in shots. Of course, it was Mysak at the centre of the action, doing his best to create a goal, but unable to in the end.

With his net empty and the puck drifting toward his end, he raced back to his blue line to intercept the puck before a Canadian could get it, and turned the play up ice one last time. It was one final impression left on those watching him, and a good summary of his play as the best forward on the team without talent of equal quality to complement him.

His coaches agreed with that assessment, and selected him as one of the top three players on the team during the course of the Czech Republic’s World Juniors run.

Tournament complete