It’s the middle of December, which means we’re just a little over two weeks away from the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships which start Boxing Day in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
With teams releasing their camp rosters to decide who will be suiting up for their respective countries come Dec. 26, the Calgary Flames have a number of prospects who should play key roles for their teams.
While it isn’t quite the talent pool from a year ago, where the Flames had six fairly high-end prospects such as Dillon Dube (56th overall in 2016)—who captained Canada to gold in a 3-1 victory over Linus Lindstrom (96th overall in 2016) and Team Sweden—Juuso Valimaki (16th overall in 2017) patrolling the blue line for the Finnish entry, or Adam Fox (66th overall in 2016; he took home a bronze medal with the United States) there are still some intriguing prospects that Flames fans should watch out for throughout the tournament.
While the rosters aren’t officially set yet, I’m going to do an in-depth, player-by-player scouting report for the four prospects who could potentially rep the ‘Flaming C’ in the near future while representing their countries at the prestigious world junior tournament.
Rimouski Oceanic forward and Flames seventh-rounder in 2018 Dmitry Zavgorodniy wasn’t invited to participate in the Russian camp, but with him only being 18, look for him to partake in the tournament next winter.
Adam Ruzicka – Slovakia
Ruzicka is likely the most recognizable name to Flames fans during the world junior tournament, due to the fact that he participated in the tournament last year, where the 2017 fourth rounder tallied just two assists in five games in his limited role with Slovakia who upset the U.S. early in the tournament before losing to Sweden in the quarterfinals.
While his scoring touch was a little distant from him during his most recent international experience, Ruzicka has proven he can put the puck in the net during his time in junior hockey with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. Last season, he scored 36 goals and finished with 76 points in 63 games, good for third on the team behind St. Louis Blues second-rounder Jordan Kyrou and Los Angeles Kings prospect Drake Rymsha.
The production has transferred over this season, where the 19-year-old has 31 points in 31 games. According to a scouting report on futureconsiderations.ca, Ruzicka is “a prototypical power forward frame, excellent puck control…has good puck skills…loves to control the puck on his stick,” so he should be a go-to man for Slovakia should they make any noise in a tough Group B with the United States, Finland and Sweden all jostling for top spot.
Milos Roman – Slovakia
Like Ruzicka, Roman suited up for Slovakia at last year’s World Juniors, posting two goals in five games. The playmaking forward has shown great strides in his game in the past calendar year, and it’s shown statistically.
With the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, Roman produced 32 points in 29 games in an injury-shortened season last year and is set to smash those totals with 29 points in 29 games. Roman was injured briefly and had to go to the dressing room after taking a shoulder to the head on the first shift of Vancouver’s home game against the Tri-City Americans on Dec. 3 but appears to be OK.
“Were we worried? We were worried about Milos. The last thing he needs is an injury before world juniors,” said Giants head coach Michael Dyck during an interview with Vancouver Sun Reporter Steve Ewen. “We know how excited he is to play for his country and especially here on the West Coast. We didn’t want to see him miss that opportunity. It was great to see him come back.”
Taken 122nd overall in the most recent draft, Roman is second on the Giants in scoring and will likely be a large part of Team Slovakia when the North American skaters get added to the camp roster on Dec. 15.
Martin Pospisil – Slovakia
To round out the Slovakian trifecta, Pospisil was the first player taken by the Flames in the 2018 NHL draft when they used their first of three fourth-round selections due to trading their first and second (as well as a second-round pick in 2019) to the New York Islanders for defenceman Travis Hamonic and their third-round selection to the Arizona Coyotes in order to acquire goaltender Mike Smith.
The talented Slovakian forward is currently lighting up the United States Hockey League with 10 goals and 32 points in 19 games with the Sioux City Musketeers.
At 6-foot-2, he has good height, but needs to fill out his 174 pound frame a little bit more should he have any chance to succeed at the world junior or NHL level, but Pospisil has shown he’s not afraid to play the physical style, racking up a league-leading 253 penalty minutes in 2017-18.
He can play on both the power play and penalty kill so look for him to potentially do both at the world juniors. He’ll look to refine his game next year, where he’ll be playing against tough NCAA competition, having committed to St. Lawrence University.
Filip Sveningsson – Sweden
In my opinion, Sveningsson should be suiting up for Sweden this year, but whether or not their brass agrees with me is a different story. With the addition of Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Isac Lundestrom on loan from the AHL, there are 15 forwards in the Swedish camp with only 13 spots available. The Flames’ seventh-rounder in 2017 is a fringe roster player, but should he make the team, he’ll provide speed and skill while also bringing a lethal shot to the table.
He currently has nine goals and 18 points in 25 games with IK Oskarshamn of the Allsvenskan league, after struggling to find his stride in 11 games last season with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League. If he continues his play this season into camp and eventually the world juniors, Sveningsson could possibly open some eyes.
Currently the Sports Reporter for the Cochrane Eagle newspaper just outside of Calgary. Use to play competitive football and hockey before giving up the dream to pursue my academics, where I attended SAIT and took their Raqdio, Television and Broadcast News program. Toss me a follow on twitter @troydurrell as I’ll be talking all things Flames, NHL, junior hockey as well as football.