Two Flames Prospects to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors

Let’s take a break from what has been mostly an underwhelming season for most Calgary Flames fans thus far. The team is currently trying to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture, with a recent, successful California road trip helping achieve this feat. They are still trying to consistently produce goals and make line combinations stick.

Something that can help some fans ease a bit of the pain of underachievement is the upcoming 2023 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. This year they are being held in Canada in the Eastern cities of Halifax and Moncton, and run from Boxing Day up until Jan. 5, 2023. This comes after the strange Summer 2022 edition that was made necessary thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, wrecking last winter’s tournament.

While Flames fans should ideally be rooting for the home squad to bring back the gold medal, don’t be surprised to see some diehards doing a little background cheering for Teams Sweden and Finland. This is due to them being the only countries to deploy players from within the Calgary Flames organization for this year’s competition. Team Sweden announced that Flames forward prospect William Strömgren would suit up for the Tre Kronor. In addition, Team Finland placed fellow prospect Topi Rönni on their official roster. In case this is the first time some fans are hearing those names, let’s get to know each young man a bit better before we see them on the big stage.

William Strömgren

First up is 19-year-old William Strömgren, who this year plays for Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The 6-foot-3, 180-pound winger hails from Örnsköldsvik, which has produced talent such as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Peter Forsberg, and current NHLer Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Strömgren was plucked by the Flames in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft, 45th overall after putting up nine points in 27 games for MODO Hockey of the second-tier Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan league and 12 points in 11 games for his hometown Örnsköldsvik HF of the third-tier HockeyEttan league. He also played in six games for Rögle BK in the SHL that year, going pointless.

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So far this season the Swede has produced two goals and five points in 26 SHL games. The low totals might be eyebrow-raising for some, and in that aspect of the game Strömgren leaves much to be desired. He did put up five points in seven games for Sweden in the U-18 World Championships back in 2021. Strömgren is, of course, big but not as strong as some would like. However, he does possess a solid two-way game and a great stick in all three zones. He is a smart defensive winger and this is likely why Team Sweden called his name. He will most likely not lead the team offensively, but will provide a solid presence in the bottom six and perhaps some time on the second power-play unit.

Topi Rönni

Our second Calgary Flames prospect in this year’s tournament is Finland’s Topi Rönni. The native of Hausjärvi skates for Tappara of the Liiga, the top professional hockey league in Finland. He too was selected in the second round by the Flames, but at 59th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. This came after scoring 29 points in 30 games for Tappara’s U20 team and well as four points in 19 appearances for the big club. Rönni also has solid size, listed at 6-foot-2 and 181 pounds, but is much more of a playmaker as opposed to a defensive forward as he is well-regarded for his vision and passing ability. He is adept at taking faceoffs and is known to create well off the rush.

Finland bench celebrates gold
Team Finland celebrates their last gold medal win over the United States in 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Rönni is likely to play a much more prominent role for his team than Strömgren, and has proved he can hang with the world’s best in the past. He accumulated two goals and two assists in six games in the U18 tournament a year ago. He has been a bit snakebitten this season playing against men in the Liiga with just two points in 10 games, so this tournament could serve as a very nice refresher for him. After all, he will be playing big minutes on a big stage for what figures to be a very stacked, competitive team. Team Finland opened tied with Team Canada for the best odds to win the championship, but has now shifted behind them to a spot in the top three tied with Team USA. Rönni will be alongside such young talents as the Nashville Predators’ Joakim Kemell and the Winnipeg Jets’ Brad Lambert, both first-round draft picks.

This year’s tournament will be a must-watch, as it always is. Strömgren and Rönni give Calgary Flames fans a little extra skin in the game, and a reason to look forward to what is to come. The two young men should hopefully be donning the flaming “C” in the near future, and showcasing their talents on one of hockey’s biggest stages always helps boost a player’s confidence and skillset.

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