At the World Juniors — in a short tournament setting — team performance and individual awards often go hand in hand.
So when it comes to predicting the Top Forward, Top Defenceman, Top Goaltender, Top Scorer, Most Valuable Player and All-Stars, the team results have to be taken into account. That means referencing the medal predictions from my 10 Things to Watch article.
With the tournament starting today, I will highlight the potential contenders for those awards and also share insight on breakout candidates and sleeper prospects to watch over the next two weeks.
There are upwards of 30 candidates for this award — counting five from each of the big five nations — so the process of elimination can narrow the field by ranking them from most to least likely.
United States: Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, Oliver Wahlstrom, Nick Robertson, Arthur Kaliyev
Russia: Grigori Denisenko, Vasily Podkolzin, Kirill Marchenko, Ivan Morozov, Alexander Khovanov
Canada: Alexis Lafreniere, Barrett Hayton, Joe Veleno, Connor McMichael, Quinton Byfield
Finland: Rasmus Kupari, Matias Maccelli, Sampo Ranta, Patrik Puistola, Aatu Raty
Sweden: David Gustafsson, Nils Hoglander, Samuel Fagemo, Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz
The winner will almost certainly come from that list of 25 — most likely one of those leading names — but should one of the other five countries stage an upset and go on a run in the medal round, it would presumably be thanks to these forwards.
Czech Republic: Jakub Lauko, Jan Jenik
Germany: Tim Stutzle, Dominik Bokk
Slovakia: Maxim Cajkovic
Switzerland: Valentin Nussbaumer
So many quality candidates, but there can only be one winner . . .
PREDICTION: Cole Caufield, United States
There are a dozen realistic candidates — including last year’s award winner from the 2019 tournament — but these 21 defenders could all play their way into the conversation.
United States: Cam York, K’Andre Miller, Jordan Harris, Zac Jones
Russia: Alexander Romanov, Daniil Zhuravlyov
Canada: Ty Smith, Bowen Byram, Calen Addison, Jamie Drysdale, Jacob Bernard-Docker
Finland: Lassi Thomson, Ville Heinola, Santeri Hatakka, Anttoni Honka
Sweden: Rasmus Sandin, Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg, Tobias Bjornfot, Nils Lundkvist
Germany: Moritz Seider
Sure, there are other long-shots like Tim Berni from Switzerland and Martin Has from the host Czechs that deserve shout-outs, but the winner should come from that group.
PREDICTION: Alexander Romanov, Russia
The starting goaltenders have been declared for the most part, though that is always subject to change with one poor performance in this type of tournament.
The favourites for this award are also well known, but there are often surprises at this position, so here are 15 candidates from the outset.
United States: Spencer Knight
Russia: Yaroslav Askarov, Amir Miftakhov
Canada: Nico Daws, Joel Hofer
Finland: Justus Annunen
Sweden: Hugo Alnefelt, Erik Portillo, Jesper Eliasson
Czech Republic: Lukas Dostal
Slovakia: Samuel Hlavaj
Switzerland: Luca Hollenstein, Akira Schmid
Germany: Hendrik Hane
Kazakhstan: Vladislav Nurek
From that list, the top five prior to puck-drop are Knight, Askarov assuming he emerges as Russia’s starter, Annunen, Dostal and Alnefelt if he is able to secure the Swedish crease. Canada’s goaltending is a question mark right now, but Daws or Hofer could also rise to the occasion in contending for this award.
And the winner is . . .
PREDICTION: Spencer Knight, United States
This award goes to the top point-getter — not the top goal-scorer, with Caufield the leading candidate for that category — and it will be going to a forward as per usual.
Many of the candidates for the top forward will be in contention again here, but the winner will cement his status as the top draft prospect for 2020.
PREDICTION: Alexis Lafreniere, Canada
Most Valuable Player
The tournament MVP doesn’t always come from the champion team — Ryan Poehling won this award as a silver medallist in 2019 — but I foresee a coin flip between two players from my gold-medallist Americans in 2020. Those being Knight and Caufield.
Drum roll . . .
PREDICTION: Cole Caufield, United States
The WJC All-Star Team is typically comprised of players from the medal winners and the 2020 edition will be no exception — well, with one exception.
Goaltender: Spencer Knight, United States
Defencemen: Alexander Romanov, Russia; Moritz Seider, Germany
Forwards: Cole Caufield, United States; Grigori Denisenko, Russia; Alexis Lafreniere, Canada
That team features two players from my gold country (United States), two from my silver country (Russia) and one from my bronze country (Canada). Seider is the lone exception as a stud from an also-ran country (Germany).
Well, what do you think of my award predictions? Who do you foresee as the tournament all-stars?
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.