The World Juniors is supposed to be a tournament dominated by 19-year-old players. That couldn’t be further from what’s happening so far.
Four of the seven players on today’s standouts list are 2016 draft eligibles, two are 17.
All four of those players sit in the top seven, where five of those seven are 2016 draft eligible and three are 17. The first three games of the tournament (or four for Belarus and Switzerland) have been dominated by young players and some of those young players highlight today’s standouts.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Patrik Laine & Sebastian Aho, Team Finland
With the Finnish National Team retiring the numbers of each member of the Huey, Dewey, Louie line, it seems fitting that the Finns may have found the next in legendary Finnish lines.
On Wednesday this line led a comeback victory with Finland down 2-0, finishing the game in an 8-3 victory. Puljujarvi finished the game with a goal and three assists, Laine with a goal and two assists and Aho put up two goals and an assist.
So far on the tournament Puljujarvi leads all players with 10 points (3-7-10) in three games. Aho and Laine are tied for second with seven points (3-4-7).
ESPN’s Cory Pronman put a fine point on how good they’ve been (don’t forget Laine and Puljujarvi are just 17, eight and nine months younger than Auston Matthews, respectively), noting that Laine is tied for fourth all-time with Mikael Granlund and Aleksander Barkov for points by a U18 Finn. Puljujarvi’s 10 points is the second best mark by a U18 Finn, the most in 40 years and 12th overall all-time. Worth repeating that they’re just three games into the tournament.
Laine is also tied for second in the tournament with 14 shots in three games.
Auston Matthews & Matthew Tkachuk, Team USA
Yup, two more 2016 draft eligible forwards. Like Puljujarvi, Matthews had a four-point game on Wednesday and helped his team to light a fire early in the game. He finished with two goals and four points.
Tkachuk finished the game with two goals and an assist and showed that he’s got a bit of his Dad’s game in him, playing with an edge.
Kasperi Kapanen, Team Finland
Kapanen has been an unheralded part of the Finnish attack, buried by some bad luck and the incredible success of Aho’s line. Kapanen has played very well, showing off some incredible hockey sense, but he’s been snake bit.
He currently leads the tournament in shots with 15 and didn’t manage to get his first goal until the third period of Wednesday’s game, finding a nice bounce that wound up behind Slovakia’s Adam Huska, ending his night and putting Finland up 7-3.
The relief on Kapanen’s face after the goal was almost comical. He was well overdue for the reward.
David Pastrnak, Team Czech Republic
Pastrnak has had a huge impact on the Czech team since his arrival. He scored the game-winner in his first game, the Czech’s second.
Wednesday, he had the primary assist on the Czech team’s second goal, a tipped shot credited to Dominik Lakatos. He didn’t get a goal himself, but he took a team-leading 10 shots and led the Czech attack for long stretches. Despite playing one to two games less than everyone else in the top 20, he has taken the sixth most shots in the tournament. He’s delivering the kind of performance that was expected of him after he contributed a goal and seven points through five games in last year’s tournament.