For many, the month of December gets people excited for the holidays. For hockey fans, however, December rolling around means the World Juniors are nearing. Each year, this tournament displays elite junior hockey talent and showcases many players who go on to have fantastic NHL careers. The same should be expected for the 2022 tournament, which will take place in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.
One of the most exciting aspects of the World Juniors is to catch a first-hand glimpse of your favorite team’s prospects. For Calgary Flames fans, they may have the opportunity to watch several at this year’s tournament. While a pair of first-rounders in Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier are no longer eligible for the event, they boast several other prospects who have a chance to suit up for their respective countries. Let’s take a look at them.
Matthew Coronato – Team USA
The Flames’ most recent first-round pick in Matthew Coronato appears to be a great one. The 19-year-old, who was selected 13th overall in 2021, was seen by many as the best pure goal scorer in his draft class. In his draft year, he scored 48 goals and 85 points in just 51 games with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League.
Coronato is now at Harvard University and is not struggling whatsoever to get acclimated to college hockey, as he has four goals and 10 points through nine games. He is a lock for the Team USA roster and should play a major role for them.
Yan Kuznetsov – Team Russia
Yan Kuznetsov is one of the more puzzling prospects the Flames have. The 19-year-old, who went 50th overall at the 2020 draft, is viewed as a fantastic defensive defenceman but has struggled to produce whatsoever offensively. To his credit, he continues to play at an age younger than his competition, which makes him so intriguing.
In 2019-20, Kuznetsov was the youngest player in college hockey at the age of 17 with the University of Connecticut. He spent two seasons there and is now playing for the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League (AHL). In 11 games with the Heat, he has yet to record a single point but once again is playing against players older than himself. Whether or not he will develop into an NHL defenceman remains to be seen, but a roster spot for Team Russia at this year’s World Juniors is a guarantee. He played in the tournament last year as well, but was held pointless in seven games.
Rory Kerins – Team Canada
The name Rory Kerins may not be a very well-known prospect among Flames fans, but that should change in the near future. The 19-year-old was taken in the sixth round (174 overall) of the 2020 draft after a 30 goal, 59-point season with the Soo Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Unfortunately for Kerins, he was only able to suit up for four games in the AHL for the entirety of 2020-21 due to COVID-19 causing the OHL to cancel their season. Thankfully, things, at least hockey-wise, are back to normal for the 2021-22 season, and Kerins is making up for lost time. In just 21 games on the season, he leads the Greyhounds with 32 points. Though he is by no means a lock for this team, he has certainly earned some consideration thanks to his great start.
William Stromgren – Team Sweden
Another Flames prospect who isn’t guaranteed a spot in the 2022 World Juniors but has a reasonable shot is William Stromgren. The 18-year-old Swedish winger was taken in the second round (45th overall) by the Flames in the 2021 draft. For the 2021-22 season, he has suited up in 24 games with Rogle BK J20 in the J20 Nationell league. In those 24 games, he has recorded eight goals and 22 points.
The good news for Stromgren in terms of making this team is that Team Sweden had plenty of forwards from last year’s team who have aged out, meaning there are open spots for the taking. The bad news is that he is still very young, and the coaching staff may instead decide to go with players a year older than him. His spot on this team for 2022 is a question mark, but regardless of what happens, he has a great chance at representing his home country at this tournament in 2023.
The Long Shots
Many scratched their heads when the Flames chose to select Jack Beck with their first of two sixth-round (168th overall) selections in the 2021 draft. Not only had the 18-year-old been forced to sit out the 2020-21 season due to the OHL’s cancellation, but his seven goals and 19 points in 56 games didn’t seem to suggest that he was a draft-worthy player.
Fast forward to where we are now, and it appears that Flames scouts may have seen something in Beck that few others did. In 12 games this season with the Ottawa 67’s, he has 11 goals and 17 points. It seems that for this year’s tournament, he remains a long shot to find his way onto the roster, but Team Canada’s coaching staff has to be impressed by his near goal-per-game pace to this point.
With their first of two third-round (72nd overall) picks at the 2020 draft, the Flames selected one of the most talked-about prospects of that year’s draft-eligible players in Jeremie Poirier. The now 19-year-old defenceman was viewed as having first-round talent, but poor and sometimes lackadaisical play defensively caused him to fall down the draft board.
Since being drafted, Poirier has made a serious effort to improve his defensive game while still putting up big numbers. After his first two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he had a combined plus/minus of -61. He was much better in 2020-21, going minus three on the season, and he’s been even better in that regard in 2021-22 as he currently owns a plus three. On top of that, he has also managed 21 points in just 22 games, and while he isn’t all that likely to earn a spot with Team Canada for this year’s World Juniors tournament, it is possible the coaching staff considers keeping him as a power play option.
A Look Into the Future
While this year’s tournament may not be as exciting for Flames fans who got to watch both Zary and Pelletier for Team Canada at least year’s event, there are still a few players to really keep an eye on. The most obvious of the bunch is Coronato, who, as of now, has the makings as a legitimate goal scorer at the NHL level in the future. Hopefully a few others on this list are able to crack the roster for their respective countries as well, as it will provide Flames fans the opportunity to see what they have in their prospect cupboards.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.