The rescheduled 2022 World Junior Championship has finally arrived. From August 9-20, many of the top prospects in the hockey world will compete against each other in Edmonton, Alberta. After the original iteration of this tournament was cancelled in late December of 2021 due to the failure of the bubble system designed to keep the players safe and healthy, fans were left waiting over seven months for the tournament to return.
This tournament is a fresh start, meaning that any of the games completed before the shutdown last Winter will not count toward this tournament. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has also decided to waive their usual age restrictions, instead opting to allow any player who was eligible for the original tournament to participate in this one as well.
It is well established that the Detroit Red Wings have one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, so it makes sense that a ton of prospects that they’ve drafted would be playing in this year’s tournament. As it stands right now, there are six prospects who have secured a spot on their nation’s roster when it begins on Tuesday and two more who have made their country’s 27-man roster which will be shortened to 25 following a few preliminary games.
Which Red Wings prospects are competing and what can we expect from them? Stick around to find out.
Honourable Mention: Marco Kasper – Team Austria
The Red Wings’ eighth overall pick from the recent 2022 Draft has opted out of the tournament this year so that he can better prepare for the upcoming Swedish Hockey League (SHL) season. He played 46 games in the SHL last year for Rögle BK, most of them as a 17-year-old, and he will be trying to earn himself a bigger role on the team as they lost their leading scorer from last year who split his time between the wing and center. If extra minutes higher up in the lineup become available, Kasper seems determined to make the most of such a possibility.
Kasper was named the captain for Team Austria in the cancelled 2022 WJC, and he surely would be again if he were to attend. I expect him to attend the next World Juniors in Dec. 2022, where he will likely captain the team once again. With the improvements he has made this offseason as well as increased responsibility, I expect him to approach the 20-point mark in the SHL next season, which would be considered a rousing success for him on his path to the NHL.
Simon Edvinsson – Team Sweden
Before training camp or the preseason even start, Red Wings fans will have the opportunity to watch Detroit’s top prospect on a big stage when Simon Edvinsson suits up for Team Sweden next week. He was an important player for Sweden before the tournament abruptly ended last year, scoring three points in two games, including this beautiful shorthanded breakaway goal against Team Russia.
I’d like to remind you that this is a defenseman with the size, speed, and skill to pull off a move like that. He was an alternate captain for Sweden last year, and though they haven’t announced the leadership group at this iteration of the tournament yet, it would be safe to assume that he will be a part of it once again.
After finding success in the Swedish junior leagues, but only marginal success in the top two tiers of Swedish professional hockey, Edvinsson took a massive leap forward last season in the SHL where he scored 19 points in 44 games while showing off improvements in his defensive capabilities and his skating.
Edvinsson is not a lock for making the Red Wings’ opening night lineup right out of training camp at this point, but he certainly has a realistic shot. The additions of free agents like Olli Määttä and Ben Chiarot to the left side of defense certainly increase his competition, but even if he begins the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL), I anticipate that he will earn a full-time spot in the NHL by the end of the season.
Edvinsson will likely be the most exciting Red Wings prospect to watch at this year’s WJC as his size and skill combo makes him an incredibly unique player. He will be a leader for Team Sweden and one of the most dominant defenders in the entire tournament.
Theodor Niederbach – Team Sweden
Another member of the cancelled tournament’s Team Sweden that is returning is Theodor Niederbach. He had scored two goals in two games before it ended, something that only nine other players did. He has the skill and two-way game to compete well in the SHL, and that translates to a lot more offensive results when he goes against his peers rather than grown men.
He will be switching SHL teams next season from Frölunda to Rögle where he will be joining fellow Red Wings prospects Kasper and William Wallinder. Niederbach should be one of Sweden’s top five most important forwards in this tournament behind top NHL prospects like the Vancouver Canucks’ Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Minnesota Wild’s Liam Ohgren. I expect him to be an exciting two-way player who plays minutes in Sweden’s top-six forward group.
William Wallinder – Team Sweden
During the 2021-22 season, perhaps no Red Wings prospect raised their value to the organization more than William Wallinder. The Swedish defender was already thought of quite highly as a big-bodied left-handed defender who could skate like the wind. What he hadn’t shown yet was whether or not his offensive skills would translate to professional hockey, but last year he showed that off in spades.
In 43 games with MODO Hockey in the Allsvenskan in 2020-21, the second tier of Swedish hockey, Wallinder only managed six points. In 47 SHL games with Rögle BK last year, he scored 19 points, tripling his point total while playing in a more competitive league. Now, a good amount of this gap was due to the very small role that he played for MODO compared to the increased responsibility with Rögle, but he still showed tremendous progress offensively.
Wallinder was not a member of Team Sweden at the last WJC, but he was a no-brainer this time around. He will likely play on Sweden’s second defensive pairing, right behind Edvinsson which will give the team a formidable look on the left side. Edvinsson is 6-foot-6 and Wallinder is 6-foot-4, and both have excellent offensive games. As such, Sweden will certainly be an exciting team to watch for Red Wings fans.
Eemil Viro – Team Finland
The Red Wings have quite a few prospects making the trip from Europe to North America for the upcoming season, and Eemil Viro is one of them. After playing two and a half seasons in Finland’s Liiga, the top professional league in the country, he will be heading to Grand Rapids for next season.
Viro doesn’t have the size or the electric offensive skills of an Edvinsson or a Wallinder, but what he does have is a quiet consistency that allows him to make smart, effective plays under pressure that leads to wins. He is not a flashy player, but he is a strong skater who defends well. He will likely be paired up with one of Team Finland’s more offensively minded defenders to help round out the pairing, someone like Topi Niemelä or Aleksi Heimosalmi.
Donovan Sebrango – Team Canada
Donovan Sebrango plays a similar game to Viro as a solid defensive defenseman who has begun proving himself at the professional level. After being drafted in the third round of the 2020 Draft, he immediately made the jump to the AHL from juniors. Even as a teenager, he didn’t look particularly out of place and has only looked better, now with 96 games under his belt.
I don’t expect Sebrango to take any significant steps forward offensively next season, as his game is best suited as a complementary defender alongside a more offensively minded defender. I could realistically see him working his way into a few NHL games next season, but even if he doesn’t, he is not far away from being an NHL-caliber defender.
Team Canada’s leadership group consists of the Anaheim Ducks’ Mason McTavish as captain, flanked by Kent Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Sebrango as alternate captains. I would love to see Sebrango playing alongside Ducks prospect Olen Zellweger who is one of the most gifted offensive defensemen in the entire tournament. I think they would play off each other well, creating a dynamic pairing that can both shut down opponents, and keep them on their heels at the same time.
Sebastian Cossa – Team Canada
Sebastian Cossa was a member of Team Canada at the cancelled WJC in December, but he didn’t get the chance to play in either of Canada’s two tournament games. He had a bit of a rollercoaster season in the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he won 33 of his 46 starts behind an incredibly talented Edmonton Oil Kings team. However, his play improved and became more reliable when it came time for the WHL Playoffs to begin, as he won 16 of his 19 playoff starts, earning five shutouts along the way.
Despite an excellent postseason showing, I don’t expect Cossa to be the starting goaltender for Team Canada, though he will almost certainly be given an opportunity to play in at least one of Canada’s preliminary games. Dylan Garand of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers earned the starter’s net at the last tournament and I expect him to do the same next week. He had a great regular season followed by a phenomenal postseason and was named Goalie of the Year in the WHL as well as the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) as a whole.
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Hopefully, Cossa can impress his coaches enough in the preliminary games that he is the official backup who can play in any game should Garand look shaky. Most goaltenders are quiet and cerebral, but Cossa is fiery and talkative. He hates being scored on which can be a bit of a double-edged sword as it keeps him competitive as he fights for loose pucks, but also seems like it can throw him off to the point where he lets in a few goals in a short period of time. Regardless, I just hope that he earns some starts next week.
Honourable Mention: Dylan James
The Red Wings’ first pick in the second round of the 2022 Draft was Dylan James. He was invited to Team Canada’s World Juniors training camp but was cut in the final round of roster trimming. He was one of the younger players at the camp, so it was a bit of a surprise to even see him invited. After a wildly successful season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) last season, it would have been a treat for Red Wings fans to get the chance to watch him at the World Juniors, but there’s always next year.
Carter Mazur – Team USA
Neither of the Red Wings prospects who attended Team USA’s training camp have been confirmed as members of their final 25-player roster yet, but Carter Mazur seems like a safe bet to make the team. They have narrowed their roster down to 27, with one extra defender and one extra forward still to be cut by the time round robin games begin on Tuesday.
I think that Mazur should be a no-brainer for the management group of Team USA. He plays a fast, physical game with an effort-level that few can match. His blend of skill and tenacity is what made him such a successful player in his freshman year with the University of Denver of the NCAA where he scored 38 points in 41 games. He was tied for fourth in NCAA scoring amongst U20 players which is incredibly impressive considering he was selected by Detroit in the third round of the 2020 Draft.
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Team USA has a lot of star power up front so it will be an uphill battle for Mazur to earn minutes in the top-six forward group, but the possibility is always there, especially if his coaches want to balance some of the more skilled guys with his sandpaper-type game. I expect him to put up a decent number of points while playing on the third line in a checking role.
Red Savage – Team USA
Redmond “Red” Savage is less likely to make Team USA after their final forward cut than Mazur in my opinion, but I think he still has a case over younger players like Chicago Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar or 2023 Draft eligible prospect Charlie Stramel. After being so successful with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), Savage had a mildly disappointing rookie outing in the NCAA last season, scoring 16 points in 35 games.
Savage plays a solid two-way game which could be valuable enough to his coaches that he lands a spot on the third or fourth line as a forechecker and penalty killer, but that remains to be seen. If he makes the team, I expect him to chip in offensively to a moderate degree while showing off his defensive skills on the penalty kill, earning him more ice time as the tournament goes on.
Plenty For Red Wings Fans to Watch
Red Wings fans should consider themselves lucky that they will get the chance to see seven or eight of the Red Wings’ top 15-20 prospects all in action next week. Some of them will serve as reminders of the talent that is nearing the NHL this year while others will be reminders of talent that still needs some time, but either way, the future is bright in Detroit, and several of the young prospects who will be important to that future will be competing in this year’s tournament.
Logan is a sports writer for the Detroit Red Wings as a member of The Hockey Writers team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing. Logan also writes about more general hockey topics on his blog https://www.crashthecrease.blog.