When the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) was taking place in December, Vancouver Canucks fans didn’t have any reason to watch the festivities. Now, seven months later, they have three: Jonathan Lekkerimäki, the Canucks’ first-round selection at the 2022 Draft and two surprising ones in defencemen Joni Jurmo and Jacob Truscott, who were drafted in 2020 in the third and fifth rounds respectively.
Related: 2022 World Juniors Guide
Only a couple of weeks ago, it appeared that Canucks Nation would only be caring about games involving Team Sweden. Well, that’s no longer the case, as Team Finland and Team USA’s matches will be circled on the calendars as well.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Right Wing (Team Sweden)
When Lekkerimäki was selected 15th overall by the Canucks at the recently completed 2022 Draft in Montreal, it was a surprising turn of events as he was ranked to go well before then. Though, Patrik Allvin and company were ecstatic to see it as a recent Canucks All-Access video on YouTube revealed that they had him seventh on their draft board.
Blessed with an NHL-ready shot and goalscoring instincts that cannot be taught, Lekkerimäki is ready to lead Team Sweden to their second gold medal in the last four months. In May, the Swedes shocked the powerful Americans in a 6-4 triumph to take home the Under-18 World Championship, as the 18-year-old led the tournament in scoring with five goals and 15 points. He also dominated the Swedish junior league with Djurgårdens putting up 20 goals and 35 points in 26 games, all while sporting an impressive plus-18 in the plus/minus column. In other words, don’t be surprised if he is one of the headliners possibly playing on a line with Liam Öhgren, someone he had tremendous chemistry with during the 2021-22 season.
Jacob Truscott, Left Defence (Team USA)
The first surprising addition to the rescheduled 2022 WJC was Truscott with Team USA, as usually, these tournaments feature first and second-round picks, not prospects that were selected in the later rounds. As mentioned before, the Canucks did not have anyone representing them at the original event in December, as he was one of the final cuts. However, after a 2021-22 season that saw him put up a career-high two goals and 17 points in 40 games along with an outstanding plus-31 rating with the Michigan Wolverines, the brass decided to add him to the lineup that was announced on Sunday.
While a 17-point season doesn’t appear to be a campaign worthy of a WJC roster spot, Truscott likely was added because of his chemistry with uber-New Jersey Devils prospect Luke Hughes. In the last scrimmage before the pre-tournament games, he was playing with him on the top pairing, the same duo that Wolverines fans saw frequently in Michigan.
On a defence corps that is full of first, second and third-round picks, Truscott will suit up as the only defensive prospect drafted in the fifth round. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for the Fort Gratiot, Michigan native, as it just goes to show that chemistry with an elite player matters even if you aren’t a blue-chip prospect. Maybe in the future, he can do the same in the NHL for Luke’s brother Quinn? Nevertheless, it will be fun to watch him take to the ice at this year’s WJC even if it’s just to see his mobility and crisp passes up close.
Joni Jurmo, Left Defence (Team Finland)
Finally, there’s Finnish blueliner Joni Jurmo. While he was drafted in the same year as Truscott, it seems like he’s been in the Canucks’ system a lot longer than a couple of years. Since he was selected 82nd overall in 2020, he has played for a grand total of four teams in three different leagues. Finally settling in with Jukurit of the Finnish Liiga in 2021-22, he suited up for a career-high 50 games, recording two goals and 10 points. His defensive game also improved from a minus-11 with JYP in 2020-21 to a plus-10 with Jukurit in 2021-22. Yes, the plus/minus stat is inherently flawed, but it’s still good to see a plus beside a prospect’s name instead of a minus.
Like Truscott, Jurmo was one of his nation’s final cuts in December, but a strong two-way performance with Jukurit and an equally strong showing at Canucks development camp in July helped propel him to a roster spot in August. While he won’t be an offensive juggernaut by any means, the smooth-skating defenceman will help his team transition the puck out of its own zone, and be a big body to defend against the skilled forwards of Canada, Czechia and Slovakia.
Canucks’ Later-Round Picks at 2022 WJC is Encouraging for the Future
The Canucks’ prospect pool is unfortunately one of the weakest in the NHL right now. Adding Lekkerimaki to the fold at the 2022 Draft was a good start, but they still need more elite talent to emerge sooner than later. With Truscott and Jurmo being added to the 2022 WJC and fellow late-round picks Lukas Forsell, Jonathan Myrenberg and Elias Pettersson invited to Sweden’s 2023 WJC evaluation camp at the end of July, there is definite hope for the future. If even two or three of those prospects can make an impact in the NHL at some point, then those drafts that saw first-round picks traded away to win now, won’t be looked upon with regret in a few years.
Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.