The Montreal Canadiens have six prospects playing in this year’s World Junior Championship (WJC), the most of any NHL team. These prospects are spread out between six different countries, and four play on teams that are expected to medal or come close to winning one. With each having already played their first game, here is a look at how well they have done so far in this year’s tournament.
Oliver Kapanen – Finland
Finland played Switzerland in their first game and was shocked with a 3-2 overtime (OT) loss to a surprisingly good Swiss team. Finland is one of the teams expected to finish near the top of Group B and eventually battle for a medal once those rounds begin. The Swiss were predicted to finish near the bottom of the group and miss out on the medal rounds, but with the OT win, it looks like they could be in the thick of things when the tournament winds down. The Canadiens have a prospect playing for the Finnish team, and that’s center Oliver Kapanen who was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Kapanen was named captain of the Finnish team and was pencilled in as the first-line center before the start of the tournament. Against the Swiss, he didn’t register a point, but won 11 of the 17 faceoffs (FO) he took for a 64.71 percent success rate; he had one shot and was minus one for the game with 14:02 of ice time (TOI). Not a great start for the Habs prospect but he bounced back in game two against Slovakia, where he had a goal and an assist in the team’s 5-2 win. He also won eight of his 15 FOs for 53.33 percent in the FO circle with three shots and was a plus-2 in 16:25 of TOI. Kapanen is quietly having a pretty good season in the Finnish Hockey League (Liiga), with 14 points in 32 games as a rookie for KalPa.
Filip Mesar – Slovakia
Filip Mesar was a surprise first-round pick by Montreal, who drafted him 26th overall in the 2022 Draft. A good friend of the Canadiens’ first overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, the Habs liked the chemistry the two showed in Slovakia’s international play and wanted to have both players in their system. Since being drafted, he has played with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to get used to playing on North American ice and has 22 points in 17 games this season in Kitchener with ten goals.
Mesar played only two games in August at the delayed 2022 WJC without registering a point and ended up being a minus-4. This season he was named alternate captain and is expected to help lead the Slovakian team to hopefully some victories and a medal. Well, this year’s tournament started no better than the last as they lost 5-2 to an upset Finnish team trying to come to terms with the surprising loss to the Swiss in their last game. Mesar had 20:12 of TOI but could only produce one shot and was a minus-2, not the start he or his team was hoping for but not the end of the world as Slovakia and Mesar can still get their game together as the tourney goes on.
Joshua Roy – Canada
Joshua Roy was a fifth-round draft pick by the Canadiens in the 2021 Draft after a year that saw him split his COVID-19-shortened season between the St. John Seadogs and the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), where he was a point per game (PPG) player scoring 35 points in 35 games including 22 goals. After being drafted, he exploded the next season for Sherbrooke, scoring 51 goals and 119 points, and was invited to Canada’s WJC team for the tournament in August, where he scored eight points in seven games.
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Roy came into this year’s WJC expected to be a hard-nosed two-way forward who can score and defend. He has done just that and was one of the few players who played a solid game defensively in Canada’s 5-2 surprising loss to Czechia. He played 13:13 of TOI, registered three shots on the net, and was not on the ice for any of the five goals against. If Canada wants to get back on the right track, they need more forwards playing like him.
Lane Hutson – USA
Lane Hutson is one of the most highly anticipated draft picks for the Canadiens after being drafted in the second round of the 2022 Draft. He has all the skills that can be compared to Cale Makar and Adam Fox as a top offensive defenceman in the NHL. So far, in the NCAA he is dominating all defencemen with 18 points in 16 games and producing highlight-reel plays on a nightly basis. His only downfall is his size at 5-foot-8 and 152 pounds; he is pretty tiny and may not be able to handle the size and speed of the NHL.
This is Hutson’s first WJC, and so far, after one game, he has been pretty average, having 14:07 TOI and not doing anything spectacular during the USA’s 5-2 win over Latvia. He had no points or shots, and after playing over five minutes in the first two periods, he played just over three in the final frame.
Adam Engstrom – Sweden
Adam Engstrom was a third-round pick by the Canadiens in the 2022 Draft and currently plays for Rogal BK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). As a rookie for Rogal, he has five points in 23 games with limited TOI. He is quietly making himself known as a solid late-draft pick with NHL potential. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he has the size to be a capable bottom pairing defenceman. In two games so far, he is making an argument to be Sweden’s top defenceman; he had two assists in their 11-0 shellacking of Austria and scored the only goal in their 1-0 victory over Germany. He is averaging 16:23 TOI over two games and has three shots.
Vinzenz Rohrer – Austria
Vinzenz Rohrer is another third-round draft pick from the 2022 Draft currently playing with the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. In 26 games this season, he has 11 goals and 32 points. He is the captain of Team Austria and is the most skilled player on the roster, which is very low in talent. Not much is expected of them, but Rhorer gives Austria a chance to score a few goals. He missed the first game against Sweden with the flu, showing that they lack offence without him, as they were severely outplayed by Sweden at both ends of the ice.
With so many prospects in this year’s tournament, the Canadiens have a good chance to see how their prospects are developing, especially the European players. It’s only been a couple of games, and some players like Engstrom and Kapanen have found success; more will come to the rest of the prospects as the tourney moves along.