2022 World Juniors: Award Contenders

Months after it was originally scheduled to occur, the 2022 World Junior Championship is upon us. The rosters may be a bit different than before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19, but there is still a ton of talent that will be taking the ice. Aside from teams winning medals, individual players will also earn some hardware following the tournament.

Mason McTavish, Luke Hughes and Jesper Wallstedt 2022 WJC Award Contenders
2022 WJC Award Contenders: Luke Hughes, Jesper Wallstedt and Mason McTavish (The Hockey Writers)

While it’s safe to say we don’t want to rush to the end and see who wins the gold, it’s always fun to take a look at who could be taking home some of these individual honors. Here are some potential award contenders to keep your eyes on during the tournament.

Top Forward

United States: Logan Cooley, Brett Berard, Matt Coronato, Matthew Knies, Sasha Pastujov

Canada: Connor Bedard, Mason McTavish, Kent Johnson, Brennan Othmann, Logan Stankoven

Sweden: Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, Liam Ohgren, Jonathan Lekkerimaki

Finland: Aatu Raty, Kasper Simontaival, Roni Hirvonen, Joakim Kemell, Brad Lambert

Czechia: Jan Mysak, Jiri Kulich, Matyas Sapovaliv, Ivan Ivan

The top forward at this year’s tournament is likely going to come from one of these 23 players. There are some names to look out for on other teams, but none that will likely have the overall impact as those listed.

Related: 2022 Guide To the World Junior Championship

Of the 22 players on the list, the winner is going to be…

PREDICTION: Mason McTavish, Canada

Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes
Mason McTavish of the Peterborough Petes (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

McTavish was taken third overall for a reason. In his nine-game NHL stint, he scored two goals and three points. He’s played in four leagues over the past two seasons: the NHL, American Hockey League (AHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Swiss League (Swiss-Sw). His time in the OHL this past season also included a playoff run that saw him contribute 16 goals and 29 points in 19 games. All the different kinds of experience, along with the team around him and his natural ability, should lift him above the other players on this list. 

Top Defenseman

United States: Luke Hughes, Brock Faber, Sean Behrens

Canada: Olen Zellweger, Carson Lambos, Lukas Cormier

Sweden: Simon Edvinsson, Emil Andrae, Leo Lööf

Finland: Topi Niemela, Eemil Viro

Czechia: David Jiricek, Stanislav Svozil

The winner for Top Defenseman will likely come from one of the baker’s dozen of players listed from these five nations. Czechia’s David Jiricek and Sweden’s Simon Edvinsson will be very strong contenders if their team makes a run. If not, the winner will be…

PREDICTION: Luke Hughes, United States 

Luke Hughes USDP
Luke Hughes of the USDP (Photo: Rena Laverty)

While this is Hughes’ first full World Junior Championship appearance, he’ll have his offensive prowess complemented by returning gold medal-winner Brock Faber and help up front in Cooley and Berard, among others. His brother Quinn scored five assists in 14 games between the 2018 and 2019 World Junior Championships, respectively. Now, it’s Luke’s time to shine.

Top Goaltender

United States: Kaidan Mbereko

Canada: Sebastian Cossa, Dylan Garand

Sweden: Jesper Wallstedt

Finland: Leevi Merilainen

Czechia: Jan Bednar

Germany: Florian Bugl

There’s a bit more room for discussion regarding Top Goaltender than the previous two titles. If any team is really going to go on a run, it would be on the back of their netminder; especially for one of the “non-powerhouse” teams. The Canadians have two goaltenders who could shine for them and lead them into the medal round with force. However, the winner will not be from Canada…

PREDICTION: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

Jesper Wallstedt Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Wallstedt gets the nod due to his performance for Luleå HC, as he finished the season with a 1.98 goals-against average (GAA) and a .917 save percentage (SV%). He has few weaknesses and is a very strong skater with a good glove and lateral quickness. As a result, he could put his nation on his back. Sweden should have a good shot at medalling, let alone going for the gold, and his play is going to be the No. 1 reason why.

Top Scorer

Canada has a fantastic chance at gold this year, and it will be thanks to the production of this player. He scored five goals and 11 points as captain of Canada’s U18 World Championship team, and he’ll be adding his experience from his brief stint with the Anaheim Ducks – prior to being assigned to the Peterborough Petes – to the mix as well as from playing for Team Canada in the Olympics. If Team Canada were a bus, he’d be the driver.

PREDICTION: Mason McTavish, Canada

Most Valuable Player

The MVP shouldn’t always go to the player who’s produced the most offensively, that’s why there are two awards. Though sometimes, a single player can win both. Spoiler: this isn’t one of those times. 

The 2013-14 WJC was the last time a Swede won MVP when Filip Forsberg took it home. 2014-15 was the last time a goalie won it, Denis Godla from Czechia. If the Swedes are going to win gold, this player will have stood on his head, winning not just the Top Goalie, but MVP. 

PREDICTION: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

All-Star Team

Forwards: Aatu Raty, Finland; Logan Cooley, United States; Mason McTavish Canada

Related: 6 Predictions for the 2022 World Junior Championship

Defensemen: Simon Edvinsson, Sweden; Luke Hughes, United States

Goaltender: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

Logan Cooley USNTDP
Logan Cooley, USNTDP (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The All-Star Team is already half-filled, as the aforementioned award winners naturally all earned slots. It’s composed solely of players on teams that could very well end up as the final four. Cooley will be the go-to guy for Team USA, while the Finns will be a tough-out and Raty will be a key factor behind that. Edvinsson may fly under the radar relative to some of the other defenders he’ll be facing, but if the Swedes are going to go deep, he will be leading the way from the blue line.

Team CanadaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team USAPlayers to WatchRoster
Team AustriaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team CzechiaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team FinlandPlayers to WatchRoster
Team GermanyPlayers to WatchRoster
Team LatviaRoster
Team SlovakiaRoster
Team SwedenPlayers to WatchRoster
Team SwitzerlandPlayers to WatchRoster

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