Canadiens fans can come away encouraged with the play of their team’s prospects at this year’s World Junior Championship in Edmonton. All three of them reached the knockout stage of the tournament with two of them coming away with medals.
While all three graded similarly, expectations may affect the mood over their grading. At the end of the day, it’s all about how they do in a Canadiens uniform. An amazing, or sub-par, performance at the World Juniors doesn’t make a career.
Cole Caufield, USA
He wasn’t the tournament’s best forward — let alone his own team (hello, Trevor Zegras) — as some may have originally hoped. The production might not even be as high as some may have expected. But it shouldn’t take away from his performance which was a step up from his time last year (statistically speaking and in terms of hardware and medal colour).
Caufield stood out as an impact player for Team USA on some key moments, while his goals had many fans salivating over his finishing skills.
Absolute RIP from Cole Caufield pic.twitter.com/qdD5G1GN0o— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 3, 2021
Caufield’s ability to score is unquestionable, but what about the rest of his game? He may have been a bit quiet when it came to his goals and assists (2G, 3A in 7GP). But he tried to create plays with the puck on his stick and even tried to play defensively with some backchecking. Of course, Caufield draws the most attention when he’s doing the thing that attracted eyeballs to him in the first place: score goals. And he’s likely to do that when he’s given the space on the ice to do so.
His play at the World Juniors, and with Wisconsin at the NCAA level, has earned a thumbs-up from Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
Claude Julien has been watching the WJC and he’s really liking what he’s seeing from Kaiden Guhle and Cole Caufield. Note, his comments about Caufield are also about Caufield’s season @BadgerMHockey pic.twitter.com/wftHDgUm38— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) January 5, 2021
Just remember: scoring a lot at the World Juniors doesn’t always equate to a high-level NHL career. And we’d have to consider that same reality if Caufield lit up the tournament. He was just okay this year, which was still better than his first go-round at the tournament last year.
Jan Myšák, Czech Republic
Myšák was heralded enough by the Czechs that they made him team captain prior to the tournament’s start.
His work ethic, mostly mistake-free play, and production led to him being named one of his team’s three best players following their elimination at the hands of Team Canada in the quarterfinals.
Our very own Patrik Bexell spoke with Mysak during his time in the bubble, where he mentioned a desire to improve his defensive play.
Kaiden Guhle, Canada
If you were a fan mystified at why the Canadiens chose Guhle instead of a forward like Dawson Mercer or Hendrix Lapierre in the most recent NHL Entry Draft, perhaps Guhle’s play has assuaged your worries somewhat.
Guhle’s solid play has shone at different points for the Canadians throughout the tournament. Whether it’s through his shot, which some have already likened to Shea Weber, or his imposing, physical presence — again drawing likeness to Weber. He even threw his body around on Caufield (making for some Habs prospect-on-Habs prospect violence) in the gold-medal game.
His skating and mobility have also drawn rave reviews at the tournament, an asset that some feel is better than the fellow former Western Hockey League defenceman he’s trying to emulate. But he looked overwhelmed at times, much like the rest of the Canadian defence, in the gold-medal game against the quicker, more determined Americans. He isn’t the fastest player but he’s still quite mobile for his build.