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World Juniors Recap 2022
By Thomas Harrington
The Anaheim Ducks sent six prospects to the World Juniors and four of them came home with a medal. Mason McTavish, Olen Zellweger, and Nathan Gaucher all won gold with Team Canada. Calle Clang won the bronze as Team Sweden’s backup. Sasha Pastujov and Ian Moore were the only two who did not medal, since Team USA lost in the quarterfinals to Czechia.
Overall, it was a good showing from Anaheim’s prospects, especially McTavish and Zellweger, as both were named to the tournament All-Star Team and were named two of Canada’s three best players. McTavish was also named the tournament’s top forward and was named the tournament MVP. McTavish is the second straight Anaheim prospect to be named the World Juniors MVP; Trevor Zegras was the MVP of the 2021 tournament. John Gibson was also named MVP of the 2013 tournament. Anaheim is the only NHL team with three different prospects to be named tournament MVP.
McTavish had just a phenomenal tournament. He led the tournament with eight goals and 17 points, and was tied for the tournament lead with nine assists in just seven games. His 17 points are tied with Wayne Gretzky and Eric Lindros for third all time in scoring by a Canadian player. McTavish was Canada’s captain and their top center in every single game. Offensively, his best game came against Switzerland, when he scored four goals and six points, tying Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagne, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Max Comtois, and Connor Bedard for most goals in a game by a Canadian player. However, despite his offensive contributions, McTavish’s best play of the tournament was a defensive one. In overtime of the gold medal game, Finland was about to score and he knocked the puck down out of midair to save the game. Moments later Canada won the game. McTavish is eligible to play for Canada at the 2023 World Juniors, but I expect him in Anaheim this season, so he likely will not play for them again.
While McTavish was dominating things at forward, Zellweger was dominating things on the defensive end of the ice. He was tied for the tournament lead in assists with nine, and his 11 points in seven games were third in the tournament and led all defensemen. Zellweger’s 11 points were one short of Canada’s record for points by a defenseman, a mark held by Alex Pietrangelo and Bryan McCabe. He also led the tournament with a +14 rating. Zellweger played on Canada’s top pairing throughout the entire tournament. He’s naturally a left defenseman, but played on the right side for much of the tournament. Zellweger is eligible to return for the 2023 tournament, and assuming he doesn’t make Anaheim’s roster this season, he should be back on the team and one of their top defensemen again.
In international hockey, teams actually dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen. At the start of the tournament, Gaucher was either on the fourth line or Canada’s extra forward. However, Ridly Greig was injured in the tournament and Gaucher was given a lot of Greig’s minutes. He played primarily as the team’s third line center after that, lining up next to the young phenom Bedard often. He finished with a goal and an assist in seven games. Gaucher is eligible to play for Team Canada at the 2023 tournament and I expect him to be back and hopefully with a bigger role.
Clang was Team Sweden’s backup and played well in two games. He shutout Austria in his first game, making 14 saves. He played against Germany in his second game, allowing only two goals on 22 shots. Overall, he went 2-0 with a 1.00 goals against average, a .944 save percentage, and one shutout. Clang is ineligible to return to the World Juniors next year. This is actually his second tournament but he didn’t play in any games at the 2020 tournament. Despite being the backup, he played very well for Sweden in his two appearances and he can be very happy with helping his team win bronze.
Pastujov played well for Team USA, but wasn’t used a ton. He played primarily on the fourth line, but finished the tournament with a goal and four points in five games. In game one against Germany, he picked up two assists as Team USA won 5-1. He was scoreless in the tournament’s second game as the US beat Switzerland 7-1, but he played probably his best game of the tournament against Austria, as he had a goal and an assist, and had seven shots on goal in just over 11 minutes of ice time. The goal came from an almost impossible angle, as he was on the goal line and still beat the goaltender. In game four against Sweden, the US won 3-2. After Pastujov’s performance against Austria, he saw some time on Team USA’s top powerplay unit but was scoreless in the game. In the quarterfinal loss to Czechia, Pastujov was scoreless. He saw limited playing time in this game, as the US played their big guns a ton, but it wasn’t enough. Pastujov is eligible to return for the 2023 tournament and I expect him to be back on Team USA in December. Hopefully he’ll be given a bigger role and can really show what he can do.
Moore was used primarily as Team USA’s extra defenseman, but played well in limited action. He played in all five games and had one assist. He picked up his lone assist against Austria. I thought his best game was probably against Sweden. Moore is ineligible to return for the 2023 tournament. This was his only trip to the World Juniors and it’s unfortunate that it ended in the quarterfinals, but it’s still a huge compliment to him that he’s considered the seventh best American defenseman who is 20 or younger.
Overall, Anaheim’s prospects can be very happy with the 2022 tournament. McTavish and Zellweger were the stars, but even though Moore and Pastujov didn’t play a ton, I liked what I saw out of them in their five games. This was one of the weirdest World Juniors that I’ve ever watched because it was played in August after the pandemic paused the tournament back in December. The 2023 tournament is just a few months away and hopefully Anaheim will be well represented again.
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August 21st, 2022