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Montreal Canadiens World Junior Championship Prospect Review

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canadiens prospect JOshua Roy

The 2023 World Junior Championship featured an impressive seven Montreal Canadiens prospects, the vast majority of whom played a pivotal role for their respective countries.

Seeing as it’s a rather short tournament involving unique rosters, the overall performances should be taken with a grain of salt, at least regarding their NHL potential.

There is, however, value when it comes to judging their progress versus other top prospects.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the members of the Canadiens prospect pool fared in what can only be described as an entertaining, yet chaotic tournament.

Joshua Roy, Canada, 7 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 PTS, 20 SOG.

Roy finished the tournament tied for 4th overall in scoring, and he did so without the benefit of heavy power-play usage.

He mostly deferred to Logan Stankoven and Connor Bedard when it came to exiting Canada’s zone, playing as the defensively responsible forward on the team’s top line, which led to some relatively weak transition statistics.

But the moment Roy arrived in the offensive zone, very good things happened for Canada. He was a force on the forecheck, and despite not having much experience on the penalty kill, Roy played a pivotal role when the chips were down, thanks to his excellent forecheck and high-end anticipation.

Connor Bedard, who set several Canadian scoring records throughout the holidays, was also impressed by Roy’s complete game.

“He’s the player that’s kind of popped to me the most,” said Bedard. “I didn’t know too much about him before the summer and he’s unbelievable. You watch him in practice, and I don’t think he misses a shot. He’s so smart. He’s someone I love watching.”

At times, it almost seems like Roy is bored with the level of competition in the QMJHL, which gives the impression that he’s not giving a complete effort on a nightly basis.

The 2023 World Junior Championship was a healthy reminder that Roy tends to raise his level of intensity as required by the situation at hand, as evidenced by his fantastic pass that led to the gold-medal clinching goal for Canada.

Owen Beck, Canada, 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, 1 SOG.

Beck was used sparingly, owing to his late arrival to the tournament. But the mere fact that the 18-year-old centre was Canada’s first call-up option is worth celebrating.

It’s incredibly rare for a non-legacy, non-generational talent to earn a spot on Team Canada at just 18 years old.

When Beck did earn a rare shift, he played the classic, cerebral brand of hockey that earned him an entry-level contract with the Canadiens during training camp.

Overall, the tournament should serve as a confidence booster for the Mississauga Steelheads forward, not to mention it was also the realization of a golden dream.

If he’s available, Beck should be considered a lock for next year’s roster due to his versatility and affinity for always making the right decision.

Filip Mesar, Slovakia, 5 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS, 12 SOG.

Mesar’s excellent play was overshadowed by Juraj Slafkovsky’s absence from the tournament, an unfortunate yet predictable outcome.

But while Canadiens analysts and fans debated the value of sending Slafkovsky to the Maritimes, Mesar was focused on being a driving force for Slovakia.

He was instrumental in setting up several easy goals for his teammates, thanks to his hockey IQ and intensity.

The latter particularly stood out, as Mesar did not shy away from engaging in physical battles with much bigger opponents, something he’ll need to carry over as he returns to the OHL to play for the Kitchener Rangers.

Thanks to his excellent effort, Slovakia had their best finish at the World Junior Championship since their impressive bronze-medal winning performance in 2015.

 

Adam Engstrom, Sweden, 7 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 PTS, 12 SOG.

Watching Engstrom skate brings the same sense of serenity and calm as watching a swan gracefully land near a riverbed, or binging several hours’ worth of Bob Ross hosting The Joy of Painting.

He maintained a high level of play throughout the tournament, making very few, if any, mistakes along the way.

His play with Rogle BK this season has opened a lot of eyes around the hockey world, and his performance at the World Junior Championship was the perfect opportunity for Canadiens fans to familiarize themselves with one of the most underrated players in the team’s prospect pool.

Engstrom may just end up being the type of player the team was expecting when they drafted Mattias Norlinder and Nathan Beaulieu, or when they signed Otto Leskinen.

Vinzenz Rohrer, Austria, 5 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 10 SOG

The Austrian captain was one of the few players on his team that merited attention, and consequently, was closely shadowed throughout the majority of the tournament.

But he still managed to put three points on the board, mostly playing against teams with a plethora of NHL-drafted talent in the lineup.

He also served as a motivator, providing important leadership when his team needed it most.

Oliver Kapanen, Finland, 5 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 13 SOG.

It was a disappointing tournament for Finland, the silver-medal-winning team from the previous World Junior Championship.

Captained by Kapanen, the Finns finished fifth in the tournament standings, an underwhelming result given the strength of their roster.

A micro-analysis of Kapanen’s play reveals he wasn’t remotely close to being dominant but was probably a little unlucky when it came o his overall production, seeing as he hit several posts and was very solid in transition.

But at 19 years old, the expectations are a little higher in Kapanen’s case, and though his play this season in the Liiga has impressed, his performance at the 2023 World Junior Championship did not.

 

Lane Hutson, United States, 7 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS, 9 SOG

Hutson took a backseat to Luke Hughes throughout the tournament, but even if he did not produce the same type of numbers he enjoyed in the NCAA, his overall play was nothing short of excellent.

The only weakness in his game was his gap control, which led to relatively easy access into the United States defensive zone, but the Canadiens prospect quickly made up for it with top-notch playmaking, setting up his teammates with high-danger scoring chances as if he was hosting an all-you-can-eat playmaking buffet.

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