The 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) starts in just under a week, and nearly every country has finalized their roster. For Flames fans, this will be a quieter tournament, with only Matthew Coronato suiting up for Team USA this year. Jack Beck had a very good shot of making the team, but ended up being on the outside looking in this year. Yan Kuznetsov had a shot of representing Team Russia this year, they will not be allowed to partake due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
While there won’t be as many Flames prospects representing their nations, the team has historically been very well represented at the tournament. 21 players in the organization played in the WJC as prospects with two more prospects playing in the Div 1A tournament. Let’s take a look at the full list by country.
The Flames’ team is known very much as Little Sweden, and not only do the Flames have a lot of players from the Nordic nation, but some exceptional talents. Five current members of the team have played for Tre Kronor, starting in 2007–08 with first-round pick Mikael Backlund. He finished the tournament tied for the team lead in scoring with seven points in six games as Sweden narrowly lost the tournament in a 3–2 overtime loss to Canada in Czechia.
The following season in the tournament in Canada, Team Sweden was carried by another current Flame in Jacob Markstrom. The netminder started five games including the final, and finished the tournament with a 1.61 GAA and a 0.943 save percentage. Unfortunately, Sweden was yet again bested by Canada, this time in a penalty-filled 5–1 loss. Markstrom allowed three goals against and made 39 saves in the finale while also picking up a two minute roughing penalty. At the conclusion of the tournament, he picked up the Best Goaltender Award.
He was back for Sweden the following tournament, again featuring in five games and putting up a 0.929 save percentage and a 1.79 GAA. The Tre Kronor went on to finish third in the tournament, spanking Switzerland 11–4 in the bronze medal game.
The first time that two current Flames played together for Sweden was in 2012–13 when Elias Lindholm played with Oscar Dansk in the tournament. Unfortunately Dansk did not feature in a game that year, but Lindholm finished with four points in six games as Sweden went on to finish second to Russia in the finale.
The following season, both Lindholm and Dansk played for Sweden, and both played a more substantial role. Dansk appeared in six games, finishing with a 0.929 save percentage and a 1.79 GAA. Lindholm was exceptional, finishing second on the team in points with nine points in six games, but Tre Kronor finished second in the tournament losing to Finland in overtime.
More recently Oliver Kylington represented team Sweden in the 2017 tournament. The offensively gifted blueliner managed four assists in seven games for the Tre Kronor as they finished fourth overall, losing a heartbreaker to Russia in overtime of the bronze medal game.
Despite the number of Canadians in the organization, only four have suited up for Team Canada at this tournament, but of the four, three were incredibly impactful in their time.
Jonathan Huberdeau played two tournaments for the team, starting in the 2012 tournament, where he had nine points in six games. Despite finishing ninth in tournament scoring, Huberdeau and Canada were unable to beat Russia in the semis, but took home the bronze by beating Finland.
He was back the following season for Team Canada, and represented as the team’s alternate captain. Huberdeau again had nine points in six games, good for eighth among all skaters and second on the team. Unfortunately, Canada had an abysmal tournament, losing 5–1 to the US in the semis then losing in overtime to Russia in the bronze medal game. Brett Ritchie had the goal which tied it up for Canada to send it to overtime.
Dillon Dube also represented Team Canada twice in the 2017 and 2018 tournaments. In 2017, Canada only lost one game in the round robin, which was to the US, but made it to the finals against their rivals to the south. Despite being up 4–2 in the third period, they managed to let the US back into the game and lost it in a shootout. Dube had three points in seven games.
The following year, Dube was back as the team’s captain. This year would be much better, both for Dube, who recorded five points in seven games, but for the team who managed to take home the gold. Dube had the first goal in the final as Canada went on to beat Sweden 3–1. It is worth noting that members of this team are under investigation for sexually abusing a young woman at a Hockey Canada gala, making the gold medal victory a dark point in Team Canada history.
The only two current Flames who played together in the tournament were Jakob Pelletier and Connor Zary in the 2021 tournament. Canada went undefeated that tournament right up to the finals, where they lost 2–0 to Team USA. Zary played a depth role for the team, but had two points in seven games. Pelletier meanwhile was a standout, and had seven points in the seven games, good for fourth on the team. He received high praise both for his production, as well as for his two-way game.
The Flames have had four of their current players represent the red white and blue of Team USA over the years. This started with Trevor Lewis back in the 2007 tournament. A 2006 first-round selection, Lewis had two points in seven games, including a goal in the quarterfinal game against Finland. They would go on to pick up the bronze medal in the tournament.
Noah Hanifin also represented Team USA, this time in the 2015 tournament. The blueliner had two points for the team in what was a year to forget. The US crashed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals in a stunning loss to Russia.
Goaltending prospect Dustin Wolf also represented Team USA in 2020 and 2021, playing in one game per tournament. In 2020, he allowed three goals in a 6–3 win over Team Germany, then in 2021 he recorded a shutout win over Austria. He did not feature again in either tournament, losing the role to Spencer Knight. The US would go on to win the 2021 tournament.
Matt Coronato will represent team USA in this year’s tournament. He will likely play a big role for the team as one of the older players on the squad. Expect him to have a huge year but he will be the only Flames’ prospect in this year’s tournament.
While Team Russia will not feature in this year’s World Juniors due to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, two current Flames had a stint with the team. Nikita Zadorov, once a highly touted first-round selection, played for the team in 2013–14, putting up four goals and an assist in this time. Russia defeated Canada 2–1 to take home the bronze this year, and Zadorov finished the tournament as the second-highest scoring defenceman after Matt Grzelcyk.
Prospect Yan Kuznetsov also featured for team Russia in the tournament, but this time in 2021 in the Edmonton bubble. He played on the team’s second pairing alongside Shakir Mukhamadullin, a New Jersey Devils prospect. While Kuznetsov did not pick up any points in seven games, he was highly effective defensively and was the first Russian prospect not playing in Russia at the time to be named to the team. Notably, he was left off the roster in their initial squad last Winter, but he has since gone on to win the Memorial Cup and will be with the Calgary Wranglers in the fall and will need to prepare for that transition.
And lastly, a player who will probably never play for the Flames (but they technically still own the signing rights), Pavel Karnaukhov played in the 2017 tournament.
Two Flames players have played for Slovakia over the years. Adam Ruzicka, who is on the bubble for an NHL roster spot this year, played for the national junior team three times. First in 2017, where he had one point in five games, then in 2018 when he had two in the same time, then finally in 2019, when he had three in the same time. He was joined in 2019 by Martin Pospisil, who had two points in five games. Slovakia finished fourth in their group each of the three years.
The Flames also had two prospects play for Team Finland in their younger years. Juuso Valimaki started for the Finns in 2017, putting up two goals in six games that year. Both goals came in the second relegation game to keep Finland in the top junior tournament.
He would go on to captain the team the following year, putting up four points in five games as Finland would close the round robin third in their group, and dropping two close games to Canada and the United States. Unfortunately, they would lose a heartbreaker in the quarterfinals, dropping a shootout decision to the Czech Republic 4–3.
Prospect Eetu Tuulola would also play in that tournament for Finland, appearing in three games but not adding any points.
Netminder Daniel Vladar suited up for Czechia (then called the Czech Republic) in the 2016 and 2017 tournaments. He did not appear at all in 2016, but played two games in 2017. It was a pretty forgettable tournament. Vladar allowed eight goals in two games, finishing with a 3.97 GAA and 0.864 save percentage. The Czechs lost both games he appeared in, once in regulation and once in overtime.
Div 1A Tournament
Two current Flames prospects have played for their national teams in the Div 1A Tournament, the next tier down from the World Juniors. Norwegian prospect Mathias Emilio Pettersen played in the 2019 tournament, finishing with six points in four games. This was good for sixth in scoring and tied for the team lead.
Belarussian defenceman Ilya Solovyov also featured in the Div 1A tournament, once in 2019 where he did not log any points, but then again in 2020, where he had three points in five games. This was good for sixth among blueliners that year.
What to look for in the WJC this year
While the Flames only have Coronato in the tournament this year, that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to watch for. If all goes according to plan, Coronato should have a huge role to play for the Americans in this year’s tournament. Expect him to start on the team’s top line and likely their top power play.
There is even a chance he plays some heavy penalty kill minutes, a role he played a lot of for Harvard this past season. With this many minutes, he could challenge for the scoring lead in the tournament, and as an elite sniper, expect a number of those points to be goals. Definitely worth getting excited about.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire