With World Junior Championship rosters being released yesterday, we can officially add three new members to the Flames World Junior alumni list with Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary, and Yan Kuznetsov making their tournament debuts, along with returnee Dustin Wolf. Let’s take a look at the Flames current roster and who has played in the yearly tournament.
Flames who did not attend
First let’s look at the current Flames who didn’t play in the World Juniors. The Flames currently have nine players on their projected roster that didn’t play in the tournament. Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, Milan Lucic, Derek Ryan, Andrew Mangiapane, Josh Leivo, Rasmus Andersson, Mark Giordano, and David Rittich did not represent their respective countries in the tournament.
Seeing players like Mark Giordano, David Rittich, and Derek Ryan on the list isn’t surprising considering they were relatively unknown at that point in their career. Mangiapane was undrafted and didn’t break out until his D+1 year so it’s not surprising he didn’t make Canada’s annually stacked roster.
Names like Milan Lucic and Rasmus Andersson are a little more surprising considering their statuses as top prospects during their junior careers. Sweden and Canada are always two of the harder teams to make though.
The two names that are the most surprising to see on this list are Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. Both were ranked as elite prospects in junior, and both were top 10 picks in the NHL draft. Some unfortunate circumstances as well as quick jumps to the NHL robbed them of a chance to represent Canada at the tournament.
Bennett was pretty much a lock to make team Canada for the 2015 tournament coming off a 91 point season in the OHL and being drafted fourth overall by the Flames. Unfortunately, he required major surgery that kept him out for most of the season. The following year he was already a regular on the Flames roster and wasn’t released by the team to play in the tournament.
Monahan had a very strong chance at making Team Canada in his draft year as he was the OHL’s top ranked prospect going into the 2013 tournament. Unfortunately, he was handed a 10-game suspension for elbowing early in the season and didn’t play for over a month before team Canada camp started. After not playing for so long, Monahan wasn’t in game shape which led to him being one of the first cuts in camp. The next year he was a regular with the Flames after being drafted sixth overall and despite some speculation wasn’t loaned to the team for the tournament. Tough to let the second leading scorer on your team leave to play a U-20 tournament.
Flames who played in the tournament
Over half of the Flames’ projected roster has played in the tournament. They currently have 12 World Junior alumni on their team.
The Flames love their Swedes; they have five current players who have represented Sweden at the World Juniors.
Mikael Backlund played in the tournament twice, in 2008 and 2009. In his first tournament he put up seven points in six games which tied him for first in team scoring and fourth in tournament scoring. He went on to win a silver medal with Tre Kronor. In his second tournament he once again had seven points in six games which put him second in team scoring behind Erik Karlsson. He also won another silver medal losing to Canada again and one of the best World Junior teams ever. His 14 total points in the tournament is the most of any current Flame.
Jacob Markstrom played at the tournament in 2009 with Backlund and again in 2010. In 2009 he was superb. He went 4-1 with a tournament leading .943 Sv% and second best GAA of 1.61 which earned him the IIHF award for goaltender of the tournament. His only loss came to the great Canadian team in the gold medal game leaving him with a silver medal. In 2010 he once again went 4-1, this time with a .927 Sv% and 2.21 GAA. Sweden went on to win bronze. His eight wins are tied for fifth all time at the tournament.
Joakim Nordstrom played for Sweden in the 2012 tournament. He had five points in six games on a ridiculous Swedish team that featured Mika Zibanejad, Rickard Rakell, Jonas Brodin, John Klingberg, William Karlsson, Filip Forsberg and Oscar Klefbom. Unsurprisingly, Sweden went on to win gold that year after beating Nikita Nesterov and team Russia in the final. Nordstrom is the only current Swedish Flame to win gold at the tournament.
Elias Lindholm represented Sweden twice, in 2013 and 2014. In 2013 he had four points in six games and won silver after losing to Johnny Gaudreau and team USA in the gold medal game. In 2014 he had nine points in six games finishing second in team scoring and tied for fifth in tournament scoring. He won another silver medal.
Oliver Kylington played for Sweden at the 2017 tournament and had four points in seven games. He was knocked out by Dillon Dube and team Canada in the semifinals. Sweden went on to finish fourth after losing in the bronze medal game.
Apart from Sweden, team USA holds the most alumni on the Flames roster.
Gaudreau had a great tournament racking up nine points in seven games to finish fifth in tournament scoring in 2013. The Americans went on to win gold defeating Lindholm and team Sweden in the final. Gaudreau was named to the tournaments All-Star team. This was arguably Gaudreau’s coming out party where he went from being viewed as an intriguing undersized prospect to a legitimate blue chip prospect.
Matthew Tkachuk also had a very impressive showing at the tournament. He represented team USA in 2016 and put up 11 points in seven games. This is the highest point total of any current Flame in one tournament and tied him with Auston Matthews for fifth in tournament scoring. Team USA went on to win bronze.
Noah Hanifin represented team USA in 2015 on a stacked American team that featured the likes of Zach Werenski, Dylan Larkin, Matthews, and Jack Eichel. Unfortunately, the team failed to live up to expectations and were eliminated in the quarter finals. Hanifin had two points in five games.
He was more of a depth player in 2017 getting three points in seven games and earning silver. However, in 2018 he was given the “C” and was a key piece on the eventual gold medal winning team, getting five points in seven games.
Team Czech Republic
Newly signed Dominik Simon represented Czech Republic during the 2014 tournament. Simon had a solid tournament putting up four points in five games. That total tied him for second in team scoring and ahead of fellow current NHLers David Pastrnak, Ondrej Kase, and Jakub Vrana who were also on the team. The Czechs were knocked out in the quarter finals by Finland who went on to win gold.
Nesterov, who was brought in this offseason, represented Russia at the World Juniors in both 2012 and 2013. He put up some really solid numbers as well. In 2012, he had five points in seven games, and went on to win silver after losing to Nordstrom and team Sweden in the gold medal game. In 2013, he had four points in seven games as the Russians went on to win Bronze after losing to Lindholm and the Swedes in the semifinals.
Juuso Valimaki played for Finland twice at the tournament, in 2017 and 2018. In 2017 he put up two points in six games as Finland had a disastrous tournament finishing dead last in their group and nearly being relegated. The 2018 tournament went much better, however, as he was named the team’s captain and put up four points in five games. Finland ended up getting eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The Flames have quite the stockpile of prospects who have represented their country at the World Juniors, but are not on the NHL roster.
Eetu Tuulola represented Finland in 2017; Adam Ruzicka represented Slovakia in 2016, 2017, and 2018 Martin Posposil represented Slovakia in 2019; Lucas Feuk represented Sweden in 2018, Tyler Parsons represented USA in 2016; and technically still in the Flames’ system, Rushan Rafikov and Pavel Karnaukhov represented Russia in 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Best of luck to Pelletier, Zary, Kuznetsov, and Wolf in this year’s tournament!
Photo Credits: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images