2022 World Juniors: Award Contenders

There has been a ton of uncertainty surrounding the professional hockey world; NHL players have withdrawn from Olympic participation, and the league started its Christmas break early due to the recent COVID-19 surge. One of the bright spots for hockey fans is junior hockey, and rapidly approaching World Junior Championship, which looks like it’ll be played as scheduled, even with limited attendance

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 individual hardware. Here are some potential award contenders to keep your eyes on during the tournament.

Top Forward

United States: Matty Beniers, Brett Berard, Matt Coronato, Chaz Lucius, Sasha Pastujov

Canada: Jake Neighbours, Mason McTavish, Shane Wright, Cole Perfetti, Dylan Guenther

Russia: Marat Khusnutdinov, Vasily Ponomaryov, Matvei Michkov

Sweden: William Eklund, Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, Alexander Holtz

Finland: Aatu Raty, Kasper Simontaival, Roni Hirvonen

The top forward at this year’s tournament is likely going to come from one of these 20 players. Czechia’s Jan Mysak, Germany’s Florian Elias and Slovakia’s Juraj Slafkovsky are forwards that look to be the top performers on their respective teams, but whose performances won’t surpass those of this group.

Related: 2022 Guide To the World Junior Championship

Of the 20 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 three leagues the past two seasons: the NHL, Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Swiss League (Swiss-Sw). 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, Jake Sanderson

Russia: Shakir Mukhamadullin, Kirill Kirsanov

Canada: Owen Power, Kaiden Guhle, 

Finland: Topi Niemela, Eemil Viro

Sweden: Simon Edvinsson, Emil Andrae, Leo Lööf

The winner for Top Defenseman will likely come from one of the dozen players listed from these five nations. Czechia’s David Jiricek and Slovakia’s Simon Nemec could take a stab at it if their team makes a run, but it will likely be one from this group. The winner being…

PREDICTION: Luke Hughes, United States 

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

While this is Hughes’s first World Junior Championship appearance, he’ll have his offensive prowess complemented by returning gold medal-winners Brock Faber and Jake Sanderson. He has chemistry with Matty Beniers and Mackie Samoskevich from playing collegiately, and could see that translate over in a big way. His brother Quinn scored five assists in 14 games between the 2018 and 2019 World Junior Championships, respectively. Now, it’s his time to shine.

Top Goaltender

United States: Drew Commesso

Russia: Yaroslav Askarov

Canada: Sebastian Cossa, Dylan Garand

Finland: Joel Blomqvist

Sweden: Jesper Wallstedt

Germany: Florian Bugl

Slovakia: Nick Malik

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 goaltender; especially for one of the “non-powerhouse” teams. Gut-instinct originally had Askarov winning this award. However, the winner will be…

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 recent performances for Luleå HC. Over his past four games, he’s given up eight goals on 118 shots, a .932 save percentage (SV%). 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 production from this player. He scored five goals and 11 points as captain of Canada’s U18 World Championship team. 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. 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’s two awards. Though sometimes, a single player can win both awards. 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 playerr will have stood on his head, winning not just Top Goalie, but MVP. 

PREDICTION: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

All-Star Team

Forwards: Aatu Raty, Finland; Matty Beniers, United States; Mason McTavish Canada

Related: 2022 WJC Team USA Player Profile: Matty Beniers

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

Goaltender: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

Matthew Beniers, Michigan Wolverines
Matthew Beniers, Michigan Wolverines (Photo Credit Michigan Photography)

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. Beniers will be the go-to guy for Team USA, while the Fins will be a hard-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 deep, he’s leading the way from the blue line.

Team CanadaPreviewRoster
Team USAPreviewRoster
Team AustriaPreviewRoster
Team CzechiaPreviewRoster
Team FinlandPreviewRoster
Team GermanyPreviewRoster
Team RussiaPreviewRoster
Team SlovakiaPreviewRoster
Team SwedenPreviewRoster
Team SwitzerlandPreviewRoster

Guide to the 2022 World Junior Championship

Draft Eligible Players to Watch

One Player to Watch From Each Team

10 Things to Watch For

Breakout Candidates & Sleeper Prospects

Predictions for the 2022 World Junior Championship

Award Contenders and Predictions

Roster Breakdown by NHL Team

Selection Camp Invites by NHL Team

All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage

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