The 2016 World Juniors ended in Helsinki, Finland in the best possible way from the host nation’s point of view. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Kasperi Kapanen clinched the championships for Suomi with a wrap-around goal in overtime of the gold medal game.
The Finns were in the spotlight throughout the tournament, as their first line, featuring top draft prospects Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujärvi and Carolina Hurricanes 2015 second round pick Sebastian Aho, dominated the scoring race with winger Puljujärvi winning the individual title.
The Finns beat their beloved neighbors, Team Russia, in the final. Team USA, led by the consensus top prospect for next summer’s draft, Auston Matthews, took home the bronze medal by defeating Team Sweden in the consolation match.
Hockey Prospectus 1st All Star Squad
Patrik Laine, Finland – Sebastian Aho, Finland – Jesse Puljujärvi, Finland
Zach Werenski, USA – Olli Juolevi, Finland
Linus Söderström, Sweden
The WJC’s first all star squad is packed with players from gold-medal winning Team Finland. Laine, Aho and Puljujärvi led the tournament in scoring with combined 44 points. Puljujärvi was also chosen as the MVP of the tournament.
Werenski, selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the eighth overall pick last summer, had a very solid tournament featuring a strong defensive game and picked up nine points in seven games. Juolevi, who is eligible for the 2016 draft, also racked up nine points and crashed the point record for under-18 defensemen in the WJC.
Söderström, a New York Islanders fourth round pick from 2014, nearly backstopped the Swedes to a medal allowing only seven goals in five games.
Hockey Prospectus 2nd All Star Squad
Matthew Tkachuk, USA – Auston Matthews, USA – Yegor Korshkov, Russia
Ivan Provorov, Russia – Brandon Carlo, USA
Alex Nedeljkovic, USA
Like the first team, the second All Star squad also features some highly coveted prospects for next summer’s draft. Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk ended up fourth and fifth respectively on the scoring table with 11 points each.
Korshkov had a stellar tournament with eight points in seven games, leading the silver-medal winning Team Russia.
Philadelphia Flyers’ first round pick from last summer, Ivan Provorov, proved once again why he is one of the most coveted blueline prospects in the world with eight points in the tournament. Carlo, a Boston Bruins pick, showed a very strong defensive game.
Team USA’s starting goalie Nedeljkovic (CAR) had the tournament’s second best save percentage after Söderström.
Often referred to as a 19 year olds tournament, this year’s spectacle featured a number of players that are eligible for next year’s NHL Entry Draft. The Finns, Puljujärvi and Laine, dominated the tournament offensively and made some NHL scouts even reconsider Auston Matthews’ spot at the top of the draft rankings.
The third first-time draft eligible player of note in Team Finland, Olli Juolevi, boosted his draft stock with a solid performance at both ends of the ice. Juolevi may well be the second best D-man in the upcoming draft after Jakob Chychrun, who was cut from Team Canada before the tournament. There are now some who consider him to be the most appealing blueliner for this summer.
Team USA’s top duo, Matthews and Tkachuk, also showed a very solid performance and fortified their spots around the top of the draft rankings. Alex DeBrincat’s tournament did not go that well as the diminutive forward scored only one goal in the tournament and missed some time with injury and rash penalties.
Canada’s lone draft eligible player, forward Julian Gauthier recorded only two assists but did not look at all out of place among the world’s top junior players.
Sweden’s Alexander Nylander finished sixth in tournament scoring and led his team in both goals and points often looking like their most dynamic skater. He has probably sealed his status as a top-10 pick through his play over the past few weeks.
One of the more surprising first-time draft eligible players in the tournament was Denmark’s Mathias From. The skilled winger created many good scoring chances against the hockey superpowers and probably earned himself a draft pick with his performance.
Yegor Korshkov, who was draft eligible already last summer but did not get picked, outscored his more renowned countrymen Vladislav Kamenev and Yevgeni Svechnikov and led Russia in scoring. At 6-3, Korshkov was very strong along the boards and also flashed his high hockey IQ.
Other second or third-time draft eligibles for next summer that impressed in the tournament include Russian forward Maxim Lazarev, Dane Alexander True and Finn Kasper Björkqvist.