This year promises to be an intriguing World Junior Championship tournament for fans of the Vancouver Canucks.
With three, maybe four, players in this year’s tournament in Buffalo – including one player on Team Canada – it should a lot of fun.
Because last year wasn’t much fun at all.
With just two players in the tournament, both Olli Juolevi and Lukas Jasek failed to record a goal. Their teams were a disappointment too with Finland, captained by Juolevi, having to play relegation games.
Jasek (Czech Republic) meanwhile, had a very nondescript tournament as his team was bounced in the quarter-final.
But, cross your fingers, because we could see some exceptional performances from Canucks draft picks this time around.
1. Elias Pettersson (Sweden)
Size: 6-foot-2, 165 pounds
When it comes to looking to the future of the franchise, no other prospect excites Canucks fans like Elias Pettersson.
Picked fifth overall, there were some that maligned the Pettersson pick back in June. Those critics are harder to find this season, as the skinny Swede is piling up points at an incredible rate in the Swedish Hockey League.
Playing against men, he is second in the SHL in points with 35 in 26 games.
#Canucks prospect Elias Pettersson with a ridiculous assist – just dances the defender.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) November 23, 2017
Pettersson played on Sweden’s team at last year’s World Junior tournament, but in a lesser role, scoring just one point in six games. This year, as a 19-year-old, he’s ready to excel.
“I want to dominate every game,” said Pettersson, boldly, on Sportsnet 650 radio this week. “I want to be the best player on the ice and create many chances and help the team to win. And the long goal of this tournament is of course to win. To win gold.”
If Pettersson does dominate, he could find himself on Team Sweden again. At the Olympics in February.
2. Olli Juolevi (Finland)
Size: 6-foot-2, 182 pounds
This will be Olli Juolevi’s third go-around with the World Junior tournament, having two very different experiences under his belt.
At the 2016 tournament, a 17-year-old Juolevi burst onto the scene with nine points (all assists) in seven games. His team, armed with Patrik Laine, won gold.
Last year was a different story for the Canucks’ fifth overall pick in 2016. Without many of their stars from the gold medal winning team, the Finns were a huge disappointment. They actually had to play relegation games.
Juolevi, who captained last year’s team, produced two assists in six games.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 26, 2017
Finland is expected to have a bounce-back tournament and Juolevi should be a big part of that. The puck-moving defenceman is playing pro hockey in Finland this year, with a great deal of success. He has 14 points (5-9-14) in 20 games with TPS Turku so far.
3. Jonah Gadjovich (Canada)
Position: Left Wing
Size: 6-foot-2, 209 pounds
“I make a living in front of the net,” was what Jonah Gadjovich told the media upon being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks.
The youngster certainly has a role with Team Canada, and it’s well defined. Expect him to be wreaking havoc on opponents with his size and physicality.
He had two points (1-1-2) in Canada’s first pre-tournament game against the Czechs, picking up his goal in typical fashion.
— Grady Sas (@GradySas) December 21, 2017
The Canucks’ second round (55th overall) from the draft in June has 26 points (15-11-26) with Owen Sound in 21 OHL games.
4. Will Lockwood* (USA)
Position: Right Wing
Size: 5-foot-11, 172 pounds
A third round pick by the Canucks in 2016, Will Lockwood isn’t a lock to make Team USA. The two-way winger was banged up in a pre-tournament game on Wednesday, which could hurt his chances too.
— Greg Vorse (@GregVorse) December 21, 2017
Lockwood is competing for a spot on a deep American team that could win gold on home ice. Playing for the University of Michigan, Lockwood has 11 points (4-7-11) in 16 NCAA games this season.
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) November 12, 2017
USA will announce their final roster on Saturday, just three days before the tournament kicks off on Boxing Day.
*UPDATE: Lockwood has been named to Team USA.