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Recapping The World Juniors
By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks sent four prospects to the 2018 World Junior Tournament and all four came home with a medal. Max Jones and Team USA received the bronze medal, Olle Eriksson Ek and Team Sweden captured the silver medal, and Sam Steel, Maxime Comtois, and Team Canada won gold.
Jones played in all seven games for the US and scored one goal and two points. Both of his points came in the first game of the tournament, a 9-0 win over Denmark. Jones bounced around the lineup, sometimes playing on a scoring line, sometimes on a checking line. It’s a little disappointing that he was only able to score those two points, especially since those came in the same game and he was scoreless in the other six games of the tournament. Jones was also involved in one of the scarier moments of the tournament when he took a headshot playing against Russia in the Quarterfinals. Thankfully, he seems fine and was able to keep playing in the rest of the tournament. This was Jones’ one and only appearance at the World Junior Tournament. He’ll be 20 in February and will be too old for the tournament next year.
Eriksson Ek ended up being Sweden’s third goaltender in this tournament and didn’t play in any games as a result. I was hoping that he would serve as the backup to Filip Gustavsson, but Filip Larsson filled that role instead. Still, it’s a good a sign that he was named to the tournament as an 18-year-old. If he can continue to play well, he’ll have an excellent chance of making Sweden’s roster a year from now and get some playing time.
Steel had an excellent tournament, scoring four goals and nine points in seven games, good for fifth overall in tournament scoring and second on Team Canada. His four goals were also second on team Canada, and he also had a game-winning goal. After not making the roster a year ago, Steel was expected to be one of Canada’s offensive leaders in this tournament, and he didn’t disappoint. This was Steel’s only appearance at the World Junior Tournament, as he will also be 20 in February.
This tournament was the first time that I really had a chance to watch Comtois play, and he really impressed me. He scored three goals and six points in seven games, but, more importantly, he was a key part of Canada’s penalty kill unit, which was the best in the tournament. Canada found itself shorthanded 25 times in the World Juniors, and the team allowed only three powerplay goals against. Comtois is only 18 and will have a chance to represent Canada at the World Juniors next year. Given the strong tournament that he had, he should have an excellent chance to be there again.
With the tournament now over, all four players are returning to their respective leagues. However, Jones has been traded from the London Knights to the Kingston Frontenacs. London has had a poor season and this move will give Jones a better chance to go deep in the OHL playoffs. Steel has returned to Regina, who is gearing up to host the Memorial Cup this spring. This will be the final season of juniors for both Steel and Jones; both will be either in Anaheim or San Diego next season. Comtois is heading back to Victoriaville, and he will have another year left in juniors before turning pro. Eriksson Ek is headed back to Sweden, likely back to the SuperElit league. I’m unsure of how long he’ll be in Sweden, but I think he’ll be there for at least one more season before coming to North America.
Having four players come home with medals from this tournament is a good sign of how strong Anaheim’s prospect system is. Anaheim has a number of solid prospects coming up over the next few years, and these four represent some of the more exciting ones.
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January 8th, 2018