In any normal year, we are cramming down the World Juniors during the holiday season. Trying to watch the next wave of young talent heading into the NHL and our favorite team’s prospects during off days of work and some family visiting. But because of a substantial COVID outbreak during the tournament at the beginning of this year, it was cancelled and re-scheduled to happen in the middle of the summer.
Now, we’re treated to some pre-NHL season action as the tournament is set to begin on Monday and last all the way up until the gold medals are handed out on Aug. 20. Boy, oh boy, and we have some Minnesota Wild prospects to watch in almost every matchup.
Let’s run down some of the names.
D Jack Peart
Starting with the hometown kids, the Wild are going to get some heavy representation on the American blue line. The Grand Rapids, Minn. native Jack Peart is certainly going to catch some attention during this mid-summer tournament.
He wasn’t selected as part of the original team back in Dec. 2021, but after finishing off his freshman season at St. Cloud State, the Wild’s 2021 second-round pick forced his way into the conversation and can provide a certain level of dynamism from the back-end. While Team U.S.A. will be headlined by future star defensemen like Luke Hughes and solid contributors like Sean Behrens, Peart will provide that depth necessary for this team to go far into the tournament. And he will have a fellow Minnesota prospect to potentially be paired with.
D Brock Faber
One of the newest Wild prospects might be able to steal the show in this tournament and can be in contention for the top defenseman award. While Peart doesn’t have that much experience representing his country, Faber was one of the key defensemen at the 2021 World Juniors, earning five points in seven games for the Americans.
Now, he’s doing it as a Wild prospect after being part of the return for Kevin Fiala, and with 18 more months of development. Hell, Faber has already represented the United States at the Winter Olympics — Matthew Knies is another prospect in this tournament that was on that Olympic team — so I think he’s got some more experience to depend on.
Faber will also be captaining this squad, before he also captains the University of Minnesota Gophers this upcoming season — clearly, there is just something about his leadership quality.
One little interesting tidbit for us to see would be the lefty Peart teaming up with the righty Faber in something of an incredibly strong top-four pairing. Could it be a little glimpse into the future of Minnesota? Two hometown lads already showing some chemistry a year or two before they appear in St. Paul? We can hope.
D Carson Lambos
Among all the defensemen that the Wild have playing for Team Canada this month, Lambos might have the highest ceiling and could see the highest responsibility. The 2021 first-round pick is coming off a strong campaign with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice — after a tumultuous 2020-21 season that saw him play in several different leagues — and now he is set to lead the blue line to as much success as they could have.
With star prospects like Owen Power and Kaiden Guhle missing the tournament to focus on their upcoming seasons — along with forwards like Shane Wright, Cole Perfetti, and Mavrik Bourque — some typical depth players on these Teams Of The Future have been lifted into mandatory top roles. Lambos was in competition to be on the top pairing regardless, but now he is set to be that all-situations blueliner no matter what.
He will be one to watch.
D Daemon Hunt
Joining Lambos on the Canadian blue line is Daemon Hunt. The 2020 third-round pick was on the outside looking in for the other Under-20 tournaments, always being one of the first cuts, but after an explosion of production for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors this season — 17 goals and 39 points in 46 games — he has become one of the hottest defensemen prospects. He worked his way onto this team because of some of the key absences, but no one should be shocked if he takes this opportunity and runs with it.
Hunt and Lambos will be firing pucks from the blue line like a pair of naval cannons with no care in the world. Both are incredible shooters as defensemen and can make up for the several forwards that are missing from this team.
D Ryan O’Rourke
O’Rourke will lay some bodies out, that is for sure. Not the most skilled, but still a good enough skater, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds captain will be that solid second-pair presence to intimidate his peers on the other end of the ice and being sturdy enough to throw out there in any defensive situation. He’s a nasty defender that can get some of the more traditional fans out of their seats with the massive body blows he loves to throw around on the ice.
Half of the Canadian blue line will be representing the Wild. So realistically, for the full 60 minutes of the game, there could be a Minnesota prospect on the ice for Team Canada. At least we’ll be tuning in for that, and to see them lose.
G Jesper Wallstedt
Jesper Wallstedt will steal the show. I will not listen to any logic or whatever, but coming in as the top Wild prospect in this tournament, the Swedish netminder and has the potential to win every trophy he possibly can. While putting up historic numbers for his age group in the SHL for the past two seasons, Wallstedt is now about to turn pro and debut for AHL Iowa a couple months from now. This handful of games representing his country could prove to be a little bit of a preview to see what he can do before he makes that significant change in his path.
And he should be comfortable doing so. Wallstedt has been the first name on the roster sheet when whatever age-appropriate Team Sweden played in any international tournament. Since appearing in an Under-16 tournament back in 2017, the 19-year-old netminder will continue on his journey to eventually representing the top international team.
With the older Hugo Alnefelt being on the team in the last full World Juniors tournament that started in 2020, Wallstedt made just two appearances as a 17-year-old and was still able to earn a .923 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average. Now, he’s going to be the assumed starter with some potential competition in Anaheim Ducks prospect Calle Clang for control of the crease. Hopefully, Wallstedt will be able to lead them the whole way and only allow goals from other Wild prospects.
LW Liam Ohgren
Ohgren might be one of the more intriguing prospects to watch in this tournament. We’re almost accustomed to Wallstedt’s dominance; we know what Hunt, Lambos, and O’Rourke can do on a blue line; the two swift American defenders will provide countless highlights for us to feast over — but for the Wild’s top pick in the most recent draft, there is still some unique mystery.
We know that he can shoot the dang puck and has set historic offensive records in the Sweden junior league last season, but we would be lying if we said we have watched an entire game of his. Seeing a full 20 or so minutes of Ohgren’s ability will be something to see and maybe we can learn just a little bit more of what kind of player he is beyond the numbers and highlights. I don’t doubt that this will make us even more excited.
D David Spacek
Okay, enough with the heavy hitters. Not saying that we won’t schedule our day around watching David Spacek play for Czechia — it’s hockey in August after all, we’re hungry for it — but all three of Canada, United States, and Sweden will be top-loaded with Minnesota prospects. Now, we’re getting into the gritty stuff and 2022 fifth-rounder Spacek is up there.
He was taken as an over-ager so he has already had his 19th birthday and after putting up 50 points for the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix last season, he might be a solid offensive contributor down the lineup for Czechia. This team already has the likes of Stanislav Svozil, David Jiricek, and Jiri Tichacek to be at the top of the blue line in an all-situations role, but Spacek might be the name next on that list and have a top-four role on this gutsy European team.
C Servac Petrovsky
Petrovsky, the Wild’s 2022 sixth-round pick and their last selection in the most recent draft, has already put some people on notice for what he can do in Slovakian colors. During some pre-tournament action he scored two late-game goals to lead a comeback over Germany and on a team with just two other drafted prospects — key players like Simon Nemec are also opting out to prepare for their upcoming seasons — they will need all the skill they can get.
Looking down the lineup of unfamiliar names, we might be biased penciling in Petrovsky as the top-line center, but he might just end up being there and playing against the toughest young talent in the hockey world. We might see some dazzling highlights, or we can see his team get completely shelled by the powerhouses (like Marco Rossi’s Austria not too long ago) and not really discover anything about the player. Regardless, we get to see what he looks like on the ice.
It’s going to be a hell of a tournament even if some of the brightest stars would rather spend their August in the gym than in Edmonton. No one can blame them for that, to be honest. It all starts on Tuesday!
And just in case you aren’t aware, Russia has been banned from the tournament, and therefore no Danila Yurov or Marat Khusnutdinov for the World Juniors. They might have even stayed overseas to play in the KHL pre-season anyways.