The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship (WJC) was set to be an exciting one, with loads of young NHL prospects and draft-eligible prospects alike lining up for their shot at impressing scouts from every NHL team on the world’s biggest stage. The The Buffalo Sabres had four members in attendanceFor the tournament: 2021 top-overall Pick Owen Power (Canada), Isak Rose (Sweden), Jakub Conecny, Czechia, and Nikita Nokov (Russia). Although each prospect impressed over a few games they were not able to compete in the final round, the IIHF announced that the World Juniors was canceled. This was due to a series postponements caused by positive COVID-19 results among players and staff.
Adam Mair, the Sabres’ director of player development, said that “For a lot of these players, this tournament is something that they’ve aspired to throughout their young careers.” It’s unfortunate that they were not able to showcase their talent and skill in full, or chase their dreams of winning World Juniors gold. (From ‘Prospects Update | Mair discusses Sabres at World Juniors,’ NHL.com, 12/23/2021)
Team Canada is proud to have made power a part of their history
Sabres general manager (GM), has used Power’s first overall pick in the 2021 draft last year. Kevyn Adams has been closely watching how Kevyn Adams, a 19-year old defenseman at the University of Michigan, has been doing in his second season. It’s safe to say he’s been coming along quite nicely. He’s scored three goals and has 20 assists in NCAA games for 23 points. That’s more than his 16 points from 26 games last year. He made history with a stunning performance at the international level, proving that his success at college was immediately transferable to the international stage.
In Team Canada’s opener against Czechia, Power squared off against fellow Sabres prospect Konecny. Power also gave a show of strength, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-3 Canada victory. He became the first Canadian defenseman in World Juniors history to record a hat trick – an incredible feat when thinking back on all of the great defensemen who have pulled the Canadian sweater over their heads.
Power’s offensive production didn’t stop there. He posted two assists in a 11-2 routing of Team Austria in Canada’s second game of the tournament, tying him for second in tournament scoring among all players with five points. Mair is most impressed by Power off the ice, even though his on-ice performance was impressive.
“He is a hardworking, driven player,” Mair said. “Very humble, comes from a good family. Many players of his calibre have these characteristics. But it’s his willingness to take feedback and strive to improve every day that sets him apart from others. [stand out].” It’s a shame that Power lost his chance to play in any more games for Canada in his first WJC appearance, but on the bright side, Sabres fans caught a brief glimpse of the special player that is closer to joining their roster than ever.
Rosen was Quiet in a Pair of Games
Power may have been the most prominent Sabres prospect in this tournament. However, he was only one out of four players representing Team Sweden in Red Deer and Edmonton (Alberta). Rosen, the Sabres’ second 2021 first-round pick, was skating for Team Sweden and had a chance to showcase his offensive talent, as well. He looked forward to continuing to be one of the top players in his age category after his impressive U-18 World Championship performance last May in which he scored seven goals over seven games.
Rosen only played two games just like Power and received one assist in those two games. He ended the tournament with a plus one plus-minus rating.
“He’s got offensive tools and offensive potential,” said Mair of Rosen. “That’s what our scouts saw in him when they drafted him, and that’s what our development staff sees in him now and we’re excited to work with him on kind of maximizing those abilities.” Rosen is still undersized at his young age, weighing just 157 pounds and standing at 5-foot-11. He’ll need a fair amount of time to develop and strengthen his body to play at the NHL level, but he still has plenty of time to do that. In fact, at 18-years-old, he’s going to be eligible to play in the World Juniors again in 2023.
Konecny & Novikov Impressed
Konecny was the lowest-drafted Sabres prospect to appear in this year’s World Juniors, taken in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. Since then, he’s jumped up to Czechia’s top professional hockey league, Czech Extraliga. He has seven points with HC Sparta Praha. In his 24 games, he’s had four goals and three assists. A smaller center at 5-foot-10, he relies on his speed and determination to influence the play when he’s on the ice. He scored zero points in the tournament’s 2 games.
“I think he’s got a great motor, first of all,” Mair said about Konecny. “He’s a competitive kid, his feet are always moving, and he plays with a quick mind. Yes, he is fast. He plays fast, and I think that’s important . . . But he is also quick in his brain and motor. That determination, I think, is something that sticks out for him.” That’s high praise from the Sabres’ director of player development. A “high motor” is a synonym for having what it takes to play in the NHL, and if he’s able to develop his body like Rosen will need to, too, Konecny could see the ice for the Sabres one day.
Novikov was the fourth Sabres prospect to participate in the tournament. He was the last of three Russians drafted in the 2021 draft (6th round, overall 188th). At 6’4″ and 207 lbs, he is tall for his age. He’s spent this season in the KHL – Russia’s top hockey league – with Dynamo Moscow, where he’s recorded one goal and three assists for four points, with a plus-two rating. Along with Rosen, his age allows him to return to next year’s World Juniors as well.
“He’s a defender, a big-body guy that is smart and efficient with the puck,” Mair said of Novikov. “Down in the corners and around the net-front, he has a little bit of heaviness and assertiveness there as that big body . . . We think there’s a lot of room for growth there.” Novikov had zero points and two penalty minutes in two games for Russia in the WJC.
Sabres’ Prospects Lost Opportunities With World Juniors Cancelation
Only a few short days remained before the 2022 World Junior Championship. The IIHF announced they had canceledThe tournament was cancelled for the remainder. The IIHF blamed the COVID-19 virus outbreak for the cause of the tournament cancellation. However, many hockey professionals attribute the cancellations to problems in tournament planning by the IIHF.
“We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work, the IIHF said in their press release announcing the tournament’s cancelation. “Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely.”
It’s unfortunate that the Sabres prospects in attendance, as well as every other player in attendance, was unable to live out their dreams of pursuing a gold medal at the World Juniors. We hope that those who are able to get the chance will again have that chance and that this tournament can continue as normal in 2022.
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. A podcaster and avid hockey writer, he has previous work experience in the OJHL NWHLHL and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15