With the 2022 World Junior Championships taking place in August (very out of the ordinary); the Blue Jackets will be represented by four prospects in the tournament. After pausing in January due to a COVID scare, the tournament will take place from August 9th through the 20th in Edmonton.
Leading the way is 2021 first round selection and top prospect Kent Johnson, who will rejoin team Canada after posting one goal in the tournament’s brief January start. Johnson is named one of the alternate captains for Canada and will be leaned on heavily, particularly in offensive situations. As one of the most talented players in the tournament, Johnson has the opportunity to not only make his mark – but perhaps steal the show.
A successful tournament for Canada usually only happens when they bring home gold. A successful tournament for Johnson, in my opinion, would mean proving that he can be not only a dominant offensive player – but also a leader in his age group. This should be an exciting tournament for Kent, and hopefully a successful one that propels his confidence coming into his first NHL season.
Team Czechia boasts a trio of Blue Jackets prospects – and a goaltender recently signed by the Cleveland Monsters. The most notable player for Czechia? Another Blue Jackets prospect: David Jiricek. Taken sixth overall at last month’s draft, Jiricek will be heavily relied upon in all situations and could be one of the standout defensemen in the entire tournament. I expect him to eat up minutes and lead the way at both ends of the ice, if Czechia is to compete for a medal.
High end prospects like Jiricek are often counted upon to dominate this tournament. He’s capable of doing that, but if he does not, I still think he can take home some positives for this tournament. The most important thing for him may be remaining healthy – it was at this tournament in January where he injured his knee. It’s too bad; at the time, he looked like he was ready to take over. He gets another chance starting tomorrow.
Joining Jiricek are two other Blue Jackets prospects: Stanislav Svozil and Martin Rysavy. Svozil is another defenseman that should eat up big minutes for the Czechs. He dazzled in January’s brief tournament, and improved his game throughout the year with the Regina Pats (WHL). Look for Svozil to see power play time for Czechia (though, he may be relegated to the second unit behind Jiricek); and perhaps throw the occasional big hit.
Rysavy will be relied upon to provide some size and skill to the forward group for Czechia. Though he probably won’t be amongst the tournament’s scoring leaders, he has finishing ability and should make the team tougher to play against. Look for Rysavy to play consistently in all three zones – especially along the boards.
Goaltender Pavel Cajan was recently signed by the Cleveland Monsters to a two-year contract in the AHL. He’ll join Jiricek, Svozil and Rysavy on team Czechia. Teams carry three goalies at this tournament so it will be interesting to see if Cajan sees significant action. Keep an eye on him if he gets into the net, he could be a quietly strong depth addition for the club moving forward.
Just missing the tournament is prospect Aidan Hreschuk – who was one of team USA’s final cuts last week. Still, the Blue Jackets have a handful of players at the tournament who will play huge roles for their teams. In my opinion, it’s better to have a few guys in big roles; as opposed to a lot of guys in depth roles. I’m excited to see how these prospects match up against the best in the world. Read: Blue Jackets Top Prospects