The end of the 2019 calendar year is fast approaching and the time to enjoy the World Junior Championship to close out the holiday season. As always several Colorado Avalanche prospects are in the running to partake this prestigious event and represent their country. Each has a varying degree of probability and the following is an effort to handicap those chances.
A reminder that the 2020 version of this tournament will be held in the Czech Republic from Thursday, December 26th through Sunday, January 5th and only those players born in the year 2000 or later are eligible meaning Nikolai Kovalenko, Martin Kaut, Shane Bowers and the like are aged out.
G Justus Annunen – Finland 🇫🇮
As close to a sure thing as possible for a player who was not a member of the team last year but Annunen has been groomed to take the net at this 2020 version of the tournament for some time. He was the starter for Finland at the World Junior Summer Showcase and at the Four Nations without any real competition it was Annunen’s net to lose, which he did not. A strong start to his season with Kapat in the Liiga can only cement his status.
D Bowen Byram – Canada 🇨🇦
Another non-returnee but with fourth overall pedigree on Byram’s side and a dominant showing at the WJSS he’s been penciled into this team for a while and he could have a large role despite his age. A solid Hockey Canada resume which saw him as part of the leadership group of the gold medal winning Hlinka squad and selection to the Under-18 Championship team at 16-years old as an underage will only strengthen his case. Scoring a last second game tying goal on the way to help team WHL defeat the Russian squad at the recently completed Canada-Russia series leaves a good lasting impression.
LW Sampo Ranta – Finland 🇫🇮
As the last cut from Finland’s WJC gold medal winning team last year, Ranta was on the short list as an option now one year older and stronger in his last year of eligibility. Ranta then made a statement with his eye-opening WJSS performance and looks to be a player that Finland will count on for offense and on both special teams.
D Danila Zhuravlyov – Russia 🇷🇺
The only returning Avalanche prospect will have experience on his side both with Russia’s WJC team but also as now a full-time KHL player. Politics are always tough to handicap but Russia prefers as older squad of 19-year olds and Zhuravlyov has been a leader at events such as the Four Nations. He should have a big role on the backend for Russia’s WJC team.
Maybe a Chance
C Alex Newhook – Canada 🇨🇦
Perhaps the one Avalanche prospect who deserves the most debate as he’s truly on the bubble. A notorious slow starter for Hockey Canada he didn’t have the best WJSS showing but Newhook was a top player when he finally got his chance at the U-18. As an 18-year old Newhook will have eligibility next year when he makes his best push to join the team but considering a recent hot streak with Boston College in the NCAA could earn Newhook an invitation to the selection camp beginning on December 9th.
F Luka Burzan – Canada 🇨🇦
Although he has not been on a Hockey Canada squad in two years since his appearance at the Hlinka Gretzky tournament, Burzan has been an option since his inclusion at the WJSS and Canada Russia series. His versatility is an asset as he can fill any forward spot plus also add a punch of skill in a bottom six role. Burzan will have to push out several higher pedigree players and/or returnees but he has a chance to get that selection camp invite at least.
Other Eligibles 🇺🇸🇨🇦
It would be a surprise to see any other Avalanche prospect make their respective national teams but several are eligible. Forwards Tyler Weiss for USA and Matt Stienburg for Canada are those in their final year of eligibility but have not participated in any camp events this year.
Goaltender Trent Miner, forwards Sasha Mutala and Alex Beaucage will have a shot next year with Canada plus defenseman Drew Helleson for USA. Mutala was on the Hlinka Gretzky team, Beaucage played at the Canada Russia series and Helleson at the WJSS so they are all on the radar in some capacity.