With a total of six Colorado Avalanche prospects participating in the World Junior Summer Showcase for three of the four countries represented highlights were expected — and there were many. First, those highlights then some thoughts.
Sat 7/27: Finland over USA White 3-2
Justus Annunen started for Finland and made 36 saves. Sampo Ranta scored a goal and an assist. Drew Helleson dressed for the Americans as well.
— Finnish Jr Hockey (@FINjrhockey) July 27, 2019
Sun 7/28: 7-1 USA Blue over Finland 7-1
Justus Annunen manned the back up position in this contest. Sampo Ranta was a bright spot for Finland with three shots on goal plus scored the only goal of the game for the Finns.
— Finnish Jr Hockey (@FINjrhockey) July 28, 2019
Tue 7/30: Canada over USA 4-1
First game for the Canadian squad saw Bowen Byram quarterbacking the first power play unit and paired with top 2020 draft eligible Justin Barron. Alex Newhook was on the left wing on a line with Ryan Suzuki and Aidan Dudas plus the second unit power play. Newhook produced a pair of shots plus some dangerous rushes.
Dangerous two-on-one for Canada. Alex Newhook takes the first shot and Nolan Foote puts the rebound on net, but neither can solve Dustin Wolf. #WJSS #Flames #LetsGoAvs #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/41aNBdj6KL
— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) July 30, 2019
Wed 7/31: Finland over Canada 8-3
Bowen Byram sat out this contest. Alex Newhook and Luka Burzan were both in bottom six roles and had two shots on goal each. For the Finns Justus Annunen made 23 saves but Finland was up 7-0 before he conceded a goal. Sampo Ranta kept filling the net with again a goal and assist plus one other that didn’t count when he circled offensive zone and rang puck off the post.
A look at Alex Newhook's speed. That's right, Colorado will be EVEN FASTER in the near future. #WJSS
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) July 31, 2019
Fri 8/2: Canada over Sweden 5-2
This was the dominant performance Bowen Byram is known for with two assists, two shots on goal and controlled all aspects of the play. Luka Burzan and Alex Newhook we also back in the bottom six roles.
Fri 8/2: Finland over USA 6-5
Sampo Ranta again first goal of the game and two shots on goal. Justus Annunen backed up again as well.
Sat 8/3: Sweden over Finland 6-3
Justus Annunen looked fatigued to start the game but so was the rest of the team as most of the Finns had played in all five games over the week. Annunen ended up with 15 saves on 20 shots. Sampo Ranta couldn’t quite make it five straight games with a goal but had two shots on goal.
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) August 3, 2019
Sampo Ranta had a breakout at this showcase with goals in four straight contests and finished tied for second in tournament scoring with six points including four goals in five games and all at even strength. His play was consistent through the week as he played determined, dangerous and with an edge. Ranta was also on both special teams units and showed a more responsible overall defensive game. If he brings this level of play with him to Minnesota he is in line for a massive year.
As far as the World Junior Championship is concerned Ranta was regularly slotted in at third line left wing with Antti Saarela and Aku Raty. Although Ranta was considered a safe bet to make the roster this time around after being the last cut on the gold medal winning Finnish 2019 squad, his performance over the week solidified those chances.
Another certainty is Bowen Byram who played in just two contests, coincidentally the only two Canada won. In the game versus Sweden he was dominant in controlling all aspects on the game including on the power play. He got an assist on the first goal just seconds into the game and only improved from there. He sat out the final contest against the US usually reserved for the short list but is such a lock that Hockey Canada’s only concern is his availability.
Alex Newhook showed both the talent but the rawness in his game. He needs to gain strength and experience playing at a higher pace to execute the plays he wants to make. Some nice rushes for dangerous scoring chances showed promise for more in the future and Newhook has two years of WJC eligibility to get there. Also the trust to play higher in the lineup would benefit Newhook more as well.
Luka Burzan routinely played on the fourth line or as the 13th forward for Canada with no special teams time so it is clear he was considered an extra player at the tournament. When he did play Burzan brought some forechecking in an energy type role and didn’t hurt his chances but wasn’t able to show off much skill either.
Drew Helleson is another who has two years eligibility remaining so he was far from guaranteed a spot on the American squad. However it was a mild surprise he ended up becoming an early cut when USA consolidated their roster after his USA White team failed to win a game. He got a trial run in one game paired with returning USA defenseman K’Andre Miller so the coaches were interested in experimenting with Helleson. Also like Newhook, Helleson will benefit from gaining strength in the NCAA.
Finally, Justus Annunen had an overall good showing despite an uneven start in the finale against Sweden. He’s the presumed starter for Finland and was not given much competition at this tournament and played only one minute less than US stud and presumed starter Spencer Knight. Consistency is something Annunen is working through with a .881 save percentage at the event but it’s clear the Finns are comfortable leaning on him on the world stage.
Credit to Leijonat for the photo