Three Montreal Canadiens prospects were in action on Tuesday as the 2024 World Junior Championship got underway in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Owen Beck (Canada), Filip Mesar (Slovakia), and Lane Hutson (USA) were all victorious in the opening salvo of the tournament, however, there was one Habs prospect that stood out from the crowd.
Mesar is serving as Slovakia’s alternate captain, providing much-needed leadership for a team with medal hopes despite several of the country’s top players being unavailable due to their prior NHL commitments.
Having players like Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils) and Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) in the lineup would have certainly bolstered expectations for the burgeoning hockey nation, but even without some key players, Slovakia is not a team without talent.
In addition to Mesar, Slovakia can count on strong contributions from NHL-drafted players such as Dalibor Dvorsky (St-Louis Blues), Adam Sykora (New York Rangers), Samuel Honzek (Calgary Flames), Maxim Strbak (Buffalo Sabres), and goaltender Adam Gajan (Chicago Blackhawks).
Mesar got off to a great start to the tournament as Slovakia faced Czechia, though his two assists probably don’t tell the full story when it comes to his play.
He was tasked with driving the play for Slovakia, a challenge he met with aplomb. Mesar’s playmaking led to a bevy of chances for his linemates, including Servac Petrovsky’s first goal of the tournament.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 26, 2023
He would have had more points if his linemates had finished even a quarter of the chances he created. Nonetheless, it was a perfect start for Mesar’s third World Junior Championship, as his strong play powered Slovakia to a well-deserved 6-2 win.
Filip Mešár (#GoHabsGo) strips a Czech player and sets up Martin Misiak, who can't convert.
— Hadi Kalakeche (@HadiK_Scouting) December 26, 2023
Owen Beck was held off the scoresheet during Canada’s 5-2 win over Finland, but it’s also fair to point out that his line was perhaps Canada’s most dominant trio.
As per usual, Beck was excellent at the faceoff dot, a skill that could lead to a significant increase in ice time as the tournament unfolds.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) December 26, 2023
And finally, Lane Hutson had a quiet game by his standards. Of course, he still earned an assist, helping set up Team USA’s fourth goal of the game, but you’d be hard-pressed to say that Hutson, along with the rest of the American squad, had a dominant performance. The story of the game was Norway’s resilience, which pushed the Americans to the edge several times in the first and second periods.
As for Montreal Canadiens prospect Jacob Fowler, he did not play in the USA’s 4-1 win over Norway, though he’s expected to be named the starter when his team faces Switzerland on Friday. His counterpart, Trey Augustine, looked very good in the opening game of the tournament. He did allow a shorthanded goal, but overall, his performance was probably enough to build a strong case as the right choice to guard the net when medal rounds begin. Fowler will have to match his excellent outing if he’s to convince the coaching staff otherwise.