Canadiens Well Represented at World Junior Championship

Canadiens Alexander Romanov Team Russia

(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

 

As Christmas approaches, so does the excitement for youth hockey, more specifically, the World Junior Championship.

Last year’s tournament showed just how superior the Canadiens’ pipeline was with notable performances from Ryan Poehling (tournament MVP), Alexander Romanov (defencemen MVP) and Nick Suzuki just to name a few. While spectators won’t have as many (seven) Canadiens prospects to watch compared to last year, Montreal still finds themselves well represented this year and have many prospects playing key roles for their countries.

United States – Cole Caufield (University of Wisconsin/NCAA)

Cole Caufield, Montreal’s most prolific goal scoring prospect in the last decade, has been turning heads for all the right reasons. Canadiens’ brass found themselves in a very lucky position when the best goal scorer in the draft fell to number 15.

Image result for cole caufield draft

Caufield is coming off a strong draft year with the U.S National Team Development Program. With 126 goals in total, he shattered scoring records held by players such as Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, and Jack Hughes. He was also named MVP of the tournament at the U-18 World Championship, tying the single tournament goal scoring record held by none other than Alexander Ovechkin. While the expectations were for Caufield to play alongside Alex Turcotte, another freshman in the NCAA who posseses elite playmaking and skill, Caufield found himself on the right side of Bobby Brink, which worked out to benefit the scorer as well. In the pre-tournament game, Caufield tallied four goals and added another assist in USA’s 7-1 win over Germany. This is just a taste of what Caufield will bring in this years tournament as he is undoubtedly expected to contend for the scoring title this year.

USA – Jordan Harris (Northeastern University/NCAA)

Jordan Harris is a prospect who tends to fly under the radar. Montreal’s 71st overall pick in the 2018 draft, Harris is an excellent skater who moves the puck extremely well. He plays a possession game and makes a good first pass. His “high risk” play seldom puts him out of position. While not being a dominant offensive force by any means with Northeastern, he is one of USA’s more reliable defensemen.

In 18 games with Northeastern University, Harris has three goals and 10 assists in 18 games.

Harris has moved up and down the lineup for USA throughout camp, but in pre-tournament action, he was paired with Ty Emberson (Arizona) and didn’t look out of place.

Russia – Alexander Romanov (CSKA Moscow)

The only Canadiens’ prospect from last year who will return again this year is defensemen Alexander Romanov.

Russia is coming into this tournament with a stable blue line. The expectation is for Montreal’s former 38th overall draft pick to be a pivotal force on Russia’s blue line. Last year, Romanov tallied one goal and added eight assists in seven games, and was a consistent stalwart for the Russians throughout the tournament. It was his consistent performance that led him to being named the tournament’s best defensemen. Russia will obviously lean on Romanov once again to handle the play in all situations, and with his development in the men’s league in Moscow, Romanov will have the edge physically over his opponents.

In pre-tournament action in a game against Slovakia, his playmaking ability was on full display as he tallied one goal and added two helpers.

Montreal or CSKA in 2020?

Marc Bergevin has made a couple trips to Russia to meet with Romanov, his father, and his agent to discuss Romanov’s future with either team. In his press conference in Vancouver, Bergevin didn’t hold back in his praise for the 19 year old:

Bergevin said, “I watched two games, I liked what I saw. He’s not a player that’s going to run huge numbers, but he’s a player that’s going to close his gap, good first pass, I see that translating at the NHL level in time, it shouldn’t be that long. But I see him being in Montreal next year.”

In contrast, when the play of Romanov came up in a press conference for CSKA’ Moscow, head coach Igor Nikitin expressed his optimism for Romanov to return and continue his development in Russia.

“We hope his progress will be with CSKA next year,” said Nikitin.

Clearly, Bergevin might face some competition with regards to where Montreal’s top defensemen may end up next season.

Sweden – Mattias Norlinder (Modo – Allsvenskan)

The deal that sent Nick Suzuki and Tomas Tatar to the Canadiens also included a 3rd round draft choice, and he appears to be a hidden gem for the Canadiens. Mattias Norlinder, who wasn’t picked in his first year, ended up being taken 64th overall by the Canadiens. Picking an overager had a lot of people questioning Bergevin, especially when there were other players ranked higher still on the draft board.

Regardless, this negative reaction eventually died down as Norlinder has been receiving more attention from the Swedish media.

Harald Lückner, colour commentator for the Modo Hockey Club had high praise for Norlinder.

” Norlinder is one of the best, if not the best in regards to skating players that have ever come out of Modo, and with Modo’s history, that’s saying a lot”

Despite making such tremendous strides, it might be difficult for Norlinder to crack the starting roster for Sweden as, once again, Sweden’s elite defense reigns supreme. With the likes of Rasmus Sandin, Philip Broberg, Tobias Bjornfot, and Victor Söderström, it would not come as a surprise if Norlinder is on the outside looking in, at least to start the tournament. Regardless, for Norlinder to be among this elite group shows how much his game has improved since his draft year. His flawless skating, playmaking and edge work should benefit Sweden greatly in this tournament.

Of course, the focus will undoubtedly be on Cole Caufield; however, it is important to not rule out how the other Canadiens’ recruits will perform for their team and the impact they will have on their club.

What prospects should we keep an eye on?

 

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One Response to Canadiens Well Represented at World Junior Championship

  1. will Romanov move to Montreal or remain in KHL…we will not know till it happens but we should already have Sergechev but we traded him for the next great French Canadien Player according to Bergevin…granted Drouin started this year looking good but now he is injured and we do not know which Drouin will show up when he is cleared to play….Suzuki was not even on the roster at seasons start is now the number 1 center in Montreal..go figure..we still need that #1LD which has been missing for over 5 years and we do need a power forward and a real game changer…

    Bay_Bye December 24, 2019 at 4:43 pm Reply

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