The 2023 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship is fast approaching, and this is something that can be rejoiced by hockey fans across the globe. The tournament, which is set to take place between Dec. 26 and Jan. 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, will feature the best U20 players from ten of the best hockey-playing countries in the world. One notable exception is Russia, which was banned alongside Belarus earlier in the year.
This is a blow to Columbus Blue Jackets fans, as prospects like Kirill Dolzhenkov and Sergei Ivanov will not be able to participate on the big stage. Other names, like Jordan Dumais, Corson Ceulemans, and Aidan Hreschuk, were not able to crack their respective rosters and will be left out of the action as well.
That does not mean that the tournament will be a wash for Columbus fans. Three players, one of whom has suited up for the Jackets this season, will be representing the organization in the tournament for Team Czechia.
The Czechia roster in this year’s tournament will utilize the talents of the Blue Jackets’ third-round selection from 2021. Stanislav Svozil, a 6-foot, 181-pound defenseman, has played 28 games for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2022-23 and has made a significant impact, contributing five goals and 37 total points.
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Svozil is also a multi-year veteran of this tournament, having participated with the 2020 and 2021 teams for Czechia. He served as an assistant captain with the previous team, so he should retain a leadership role with this edition as well.
Martin Rysavy, a seventh-round pick from 2021, enters his second stint with Czechia looking to build on his two-goal performance in the previous tournament. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound winger has contributed two goals and 11 total points for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL over the course of 21 games. This puts him on a pace to finish with similar totals to his previous season.
Rysavy will have a lot to prove if he wants to contribute in the tournament and make a bid for a roster spot with the Blue Jackets in the future, but his experience will be valuable for a Czechia team that is looking to improve upon this past summer’s performance.
The most recognizable face for Blue Jackets fans on this list is also probably the catalyst for the Czechia roster. David Jiricek, who was the sixth selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, has split time between the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Blue Jackets this season. He has been unable to register a point in his two games in the NHL, but has contributed four goals and 16 points across 17 games for the Monsters.
He was also a captain of this summer’s Czechia squad and made the team in 2021, too. The decision to allow Jiricek to play shows a desire from Columbus to develop leadership abilities in the young prospect who is slated to be a major player for the franchise in the coming seasons.
Related: Blue Jackets NCAA Prospect Report: December 2022
Overall, Czechia will be the team to watch for Blue Jackets fans, other than fans located in the U.S. who will be cheering on their home country. The prospects are in the difficult Group A, which includes Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Austria. See below for the full group play schedule of Czechia, which will take place at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
Game 1: Dec. 26 – Czechia vs. Canada 6:30 PM ET
Game 2: Dec. 27 – Austria vs. Czechia 6:30 PM ET
Game 3: Dec. 29 – Sweden vs Czechia 1:30 PM ET
Game 4: Dec. 31 – Czechia vs. Czechia 1:30 PM ET