It’s that time of the year again as the 2019 World Junior Championships are nearly upon us. According to Julie Robenhymer of the Devils’ official website, four Devils prospects have been invited to their respective countries’ selection camps for the tournament which starts the day after Christmas. The 2019 World Junior tournament eminates from Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Robenhymer wrote yesterday at the Devils’ site that Ty Smith will go for Canada, Fabian Zetterlund will report for Sweden, Aarne Talivite for Finland and Akira Schmid for Switzerland. One player who will inexplicably not be reporting to a camp this week is Harvard University defenseman Reilly Walsh for Team USA. Walsh was a final cut from last year’s team and was not invited to this year’s camp.
Walsh, a Devils prospect and a sophomore at Harvard, has five goals and seven assists in 11 games so far for the Crimson according to Robenhymer. She said that Walsh could have “potentially play(ed) a big role on their blueline, especially on the power play.”
But instead, the Devils will only possibly have four players representing them at the World Juniors. Smith is one of the biggest names of the group. He “was captain of Canada’s U18 squad this past spring as was mentioned by most – if not all – of his teammates as the player they’d want to bring back to play for their club team” according to Robenhymer. The defenseman is second on the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL in scoring right now with three goals and 36 assists. He also serves as the team’s captain. Robenhymer talked about his other international experience: “he scored two goals in four games” at the Summer Showcase in August and had “a goal in two games” at the CIBC Canada-Russia Series played in November for Team WHL.
She also mentioned Smith’s “smooth skating, a great first pass to support the transition game, creative vision from the blueline and a high hockey IQ to know when to jump into the play and when to stay back.”
For Team Sweden, Zetterlund (who plays for Farjestad in Sweden) “suffered an injury in late October and his availability for he WJC was in doubt.” He recovered from the injury in six weeks according to Robenhymer (she did not specify what the injury was) and was back in Farjestad’s lineup the next game after those six weeks – after only a few on-ice practices.
Zetterlund played for Team Sweden at the 2018 WJC, an “unexpected addition” according to Robenhymer, and, as she said, has a “gritty net front presence, especially on the power play.” He had two goals in last year’s tournament as Sweden won the silver. Robenhymer compared Smith and Zetterlund saying that both were in the Summer Showcase (Zetterlund had two goals there) and both have “extensive international experience” and that Zetterlund should also “step into a leadership position” for Sweden.
Talivite is another good leader for his squad. He was captain of the Finnish U18 “team two years ago” and “their captain at the showcase in August.” Much like Walsh, he has been overlooked, not making Finland’s team last year. But the Penn State freshman, who has five goals and 11 assists in 17 games for the Nittany Lions this season should be ready to make his squad this year. Robenhymer described him as “a mucker, grinder and loose puck finder with a heck of a wrist shot, who’s already adjusted to the smaller NHL-sized sheet of ice and the quicker pace and physical nature of the North American game.” She also said that “(h)e brings a tremendous work ethic to the ice and a magnetic personality to the locker room.” His coach at Penn State, Guy Gadowsky, called him “the Pied Piper” – leading “by example on and off the ice.” Robenhymer said that it is a good possiblity that Talivite is named Finnish captain at the WJC.
Schmid has bounced around the junior leagues so far this season. Robenhymer said that he was waived by the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL because the team had too many non-Canadian players. He eventually settled in with the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League.
Robenhymer said that Schmid was on Team Switzerland for last year’s tournament but did not play in any games. She said that he has represented the Swiss twice in the U18s and that all three Swiss goalies in this year’s WJC are 18 years old. She said that “the starting position is still very much up for grabs” and that Schmid is the only returning goalie to this year’s squad.
Final rosters for the 2019 World Junior Championship are to be submitted by teams on December 24. Exhibition games begin next week and the tournament proper starts on the 26th. The tournament will be televised in the United States on the NHL Network.