The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship came to a close in Vancouver on the weekend. Team Finland captured the gold medal by defeating the United States 3-2 at the Rogers arena. Potential top two pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Kappo Kakko, scored the game-winner with just 1:26 left in the contest.
Team Russia claimed the bronze medal with a 5-2 victory over the pesky Swiss squad. Sweden and Canada finished 5th and 6th in the tournament respectively.
“The future of the Canadiens is very bright.”
On Monday afternoon, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin spoke with pride about Canadiens prospects appearing at the World Juniors. “Based on what I saw in Vancouver, the future of the Canadiens is very bright,” said Bergevin. “If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”
Canadiens prospect Ryan Poehling, was named the tournament’s top forward and most valuable player. The 20-year-old centre scored five goals and added three assists for eight points for the United States.
“He’s a centre, a young centre. We were lucky to pick him at No. 25 (2017 NHL Draft.) Last year, he had a good championship in Buffalo, but this year he took it to another level. He’s closer and closer to turning pro,” said Bergevin.
Poehling earned a silver medal in the World Juniors along with Team USA teammate Cayden Primeau. The 19-year-old Habs prospect grabbed the starting netminder position finishing the tournament with a 4-1 record, a 1.61 goals against average, and .937 save percentage.
Jesse Ylonen has returned to the Lahti Pelicans with a gold medal earned by the Team Finland win. Ylonen was a second round pick by the Canadiens (35th overall) at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Ylonen scored Finland’s opening goal in the gold medal, finishing the tournament with three goals, three assists in seven games.
“When you like a player, you just step up and take them.”
Bronze medal winner, Alexander Romanov was named the tournament’s best defenceman patrolling the blue line for Russia. The 19-year-old recorded eight points in seven games.
“I know last summer when we stepped up and drafted Romanov at 38, we got criticized. But I remember, at the table, I said to Trevor (Timmins), ‘If we do like him, let’s just not wait because if a pick before somebody grabs him and he’s gone, we’ll wish [he was there],’” said Bergevin. “So, when you like a player, you just step up and take them.”
Josh Brook had a strong World Juniors, playing mostly a shutdown role for Team Canada. Brook picked up two assists and a plus-7 rating. Brook was selected 56th overall by the Canadiens in the 2017 draft.
The offensively-minded Nick Suzuki was overshadowed at the tournament recording just three assists. Suzuki was acquired by the Habs from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Max Pacioretty trade.
Jacob Olofsson played a third line role for Team Sweden at this year’s tournament. The 18-year-old, selected 56th overall by the Canadiens in the 2018 draft, was held off the scoresheet.
With a good showing for Canadiens prospects at the World Juniors, Marc Bergevin is aware that his phone may start ringing. “I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think,” said Bergevin.
with notes from Elias Laradi, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine