The 2022 World Juniors have come and gone. For Minnesota Wild prospects, it was certainly a tournament that filled us with some disappointment, but also just some confirmation in how good we think some others are. That is a convoluted way to say that some guys stunk, while others played well.
We already remarked about the final games of the United States’ Brock Faber and Jack Peart, and how Servac Petrovsky shined above his Slovakian teammates; but what about the prospects that were able to play on the final day? Well here are some impressions.
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden vs. Czechia
Wallstedt’s entire tournament will be summarized by the word damn. The 19-year-old netminder just put on a full display of dominance for the majority of his time in between the pipes. With him playing, Sweden gave up just one even-strength goal and for that, he was named as one of the team’s top players and was crowned the goaltender of the entire damn thing.
There is only so much you can say about a goaltender that managed to earn a .940 save percentage in a short tournament — whether you want to take that number as something concrete or less predictable because the small sample — but he just gives off this calmness that is so highly regarded in goaltender prospects. There’s no Tim Thomas-esque saves for Wallstedt, he is just always in position, making his own job easy by having incredible vision, and just being that dependable goalie.
He earned Sweden the bronze medal by stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced against the Czechs. There’s just nothing else to say except he’s so damn good.
Liam Ohgren, Sweden vs. Czechia
Maybe it was Ohgren being selected by the Wild just a month before he laced up his skates for Team Sweden that carried some high expectations and hype, but I would be wrong if I say that I didn’t expect him to do a little bit more. During the whole tournament, Ohgren played in a depth role for Sweden and didn’t really manage to put up any points on the scoreboard. In his checking role, he certainly got the better of some defenders with possession and forced turnovers by going hard after anyone not wearing blue and yellow. So it was generally the little things that made us impressed by Ohgren, not setting the world on fire by racking up points, but just the stable look to his game.
In the bronze medal matchup, he played just 9:21 TOI, got no points but was a plus-1. So, I mean, he just did his job.
David Spacek, Sweden vs. Czechia
David Spacek kept up his role as minute-muncher for Czechia. He was heavily relied upon by his team to even reach the final day of the World Juniors and it didn’t stop against Sweden on Saturday. The Wild 2022 fifth-rounder played an astonishing 23:12 TOI — only Sweden’s Simon Edvinsson was out on the ice more during this game.
The 19-year-old blueliner — in a familiar fashion to other Wild prospects this month — played a very standard game that didn’t make a splash or have his name in headlines, but was just simply good and earned enough trust in his coaching staff to be played in all situations. He might not drop jaws with his offense, but Spacek can just be a solid skater that moves the puck up the ice and is a complimentary piece on a pairing. No multi-year projections will be made, but it at least jolts our interest in the prospect when we see that he was given so much opportunity on a team with top prospects like David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil.
Ryan O’Rourke, Canada vs. Finland
Ah, the Wild prospects for Team Canada. We should have known as soon as Daemon Hunt picked up a pre-tournament injury — for the second time in a row — that kicked him off the roster, that this trio of Minnesota defenseman prospects were cursed from the start. After Hunt was forced out, Carson Lambos played a horrific first game and was then a healthy scratch for the remainder of the team’s time in Edmonton. So, it was all up to Ryan O’Rourke as the lone Wild prospect actually getting on the ice for us to watch — and he kind of stunk.
He played in the seventh defenseman role and just barely got any chance to do anything. Not really his fault that there were better players above him in the lineup, but let’s just say that he is extremely lucky that Owen Power decided not to play or he would be in the press box with Lambos.
In the gold medal game on Saturday, O’Rourke played an astonishing two minutes and 53 seconds of hockey. But, in the end, all three of them earned a gold medal as Canada beat Finland in overtime and other players got to shine.
I’m going to decide that the World Juniors are bad for analyzing players because of how little they play, purely because I want Lambos and O’Rourke to be better than they showed for the last few weeks.
It was a mixed bag of a tournament for Wild prospects, some stars but not a whole lot else to go off on. Whether you agree or disagree with Russia not being able to play in the tournament, we can all agree that seeing Danila Yurov and Marat Khusnutdinov at the top of a highly-skilled lineup would have made us much more excited. Those two players probably had the potential to knock Mason McTavish off of his MVP throne, but that’s a purely hypothetical argument now.