Anaheim Ducks prospects Olen Zellweger, Nathan Gaucher and Tyson Hinds helped deliver a gold medal win in last night’s World Junior Championship final against Czechia, who proved to be a worthy adversary and game opponent all tournament long with stellar performances in all three phases of the game. It was a familiar scene for Team Canada as well as Zellweger and Gaucher, who were among the players representing the nation in consecutive tournaments, the first of which ended in August, also with a Team Canada victory. It was the nation’s first back-to-back WJC win since 2009.
Zellweger Played Important Minutes and Looked Great Doing It
Team Canada was not shy about sending its big-time players out there as much as possible in the third period and overtime of last night’s game. This includes Olen Zellweger, who logged a team- and game-high 27 minutes and 54 seconds of ice time. In the approximately seven-minute overtime session, he was out there plenty, making timely neutral-zone pinches, exhibiting patience offensively and defensively, and setting up other strong skaters with opportunities to carry the puck with speed into Czechia’s zone. He might be undersized at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but there was nothing small about the impact he made on this game and the tournament overall. He had six assists and led all tournament skaters in total ice time at 164 minutes and 14 seconds. His experience in the 2022 tournament (11 points in seven games) in August no doubt helped, as he was dependable, confident, fast, and mobile all tournament long yet again.
His offensive abilities on the back end are sorely needed in Anaheim and he looks primed for a top-4 role on their defensive unit in the future. And that’s a pretty conservative floor for him, especially when you consider other current NHL defensemen who have led Canada’s back end in the way that Zellweger did. Ducks fans should be excited about this kid.
Gaucher and Hinds Play to Their Strengths as Well
Team Canada’s stars of the night included some of the more familiar names fans have been hearing throughout the week like Shane Wright, Dylan Guenther, and Connor Bedard. This is for good reason, as the former two have already played some NHL games, and made big plays in the finale, while the latter in Bedard is the next big thing in hockey. You won’t hear that from him though (aren’t hockey players awesome?). However, Gaucher and Hinds, like Bedard, didn’t appear on the stat sheet last night. Does that mean they didn’t have an impact on the game and the tournament? Of course not.
Hockey, of course, is very much a “if everyone plays their role, then the team will have success” sport. And within the confines of their roles for Team Canada, Nathan Gaucher and Tyson Hinds made this team for a reason and they both had good tournaments. Gaucher finished the 2023 WJC with a goal and three assists, and a plus-1 rating, while serving as an alternate captain. Hinds, another defenseman, finished the tournament with two goals and a plus-9 rating, good for third in the tournament among defensemen.
Final Takeaways for Zellweger, Gaucher, and Hinds
The WJC is the ultimate platform for young players to represent their country on the biggest stage at that particular time in their careers. It’s also a time for them to show, whether it’s to the organization that drafted them or to organizations that could draft them, what they are capable of against the best players in the world at their age group. There are reasons abound to perform, and that’s what these players did.
Zellweger is an offensive force at this level and appears ready for the next one. Anaheim’s blue line should be full of openings next season with numerous players either potentially traded at the deadline or not re-signed in the offseason. Expect him to dominate the rest of the junior season and compete for a spot in training camp.
Gaucher is a big, strong body that plays center, always a position in demand. He can kill penalties, and he’s mean, an exceedingly lesser-seen trait these days. He might be a few seasons away, but keep an eye on him.
Hinds is big and lengthy with some offensive instincts. Things happen when he’s on the ice; see his plus-9 for the tournament. He could be competing for a blue line spot in the future as well.
The Ducks were among the most represented on Team Canada’s roster. Not all are NHL locks, but two of the prospects are two-time World Junior Champions. That’s no small feat.
Jordan is an Orange County native who has lived 30 minutes from Honda Center (or Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim as he used to know it) for his whole life. Growing up around the Ducks facilitated his love and passion for hockey. You are just as likely to find playing shinny at a local rink as you are at an arena watching NHL games. Otherwise, he is spending with his family, traveling with his fiance, or on the road training for a marathon.