This year, the 2015 World Juniors will be held in Canada, split between Montreal and Toronto. Finland will be looking defend their title after winning the tournament last year for the first time in over a decade. Last year was also the first time since 1998 that neither Canada or the US collected a medal. With home ice advantage and the most talented team on paper, the pressure on Canada to end their 5 year gold medal drought will be immense.
After sending five representatives to the tournament last year, a few Philadelphia Flyers prospects are primed to make an impact on this year’s World Juniors. Here’s a look at who they are, and the role they will be playing:
Samuel Morin, D, Team Canada
After fracturing his jaw 5 games into the season, Samuel Morin was able to return to the Rimouski lineup in late November. His six points in the seven games since his return was enough to show Hockey Canada that he was healthy and ready to contend for a spot on a deep Canadian blueline.
After a few days of practice and a tuneup game against Russia, Morin was able to survive two rounds of cuts and make the final roster. In the practices before cuts were made, Morin had been on a pairing with Washington Capitals prospect Madison Bowey. But in the most recent games and practices, he has been paired with Joe Hicketts. Morin and Hicketts look like quite the pair on the ice, with 6’7″ Morin towering over 5’8″ Hicketts.
The pairing looks like the classic offensive defenseman paired with a defensive defenseman to cover for him. While Samuel Morin’s offensive game has improved a lot since he was drafted, don’t expect a lot of offense from him this tournament. He won’t be getting any PP time, and is chiefly on the roster due to his size, physicality, and defensive acumen. Add on the fact that he’s paired with Hicketts, it’ll certainly be Morin’s partner that’s is providing the offense from the backend when they’re on the ice.
Robert Hagg, D, Team SwedenFor Robert Hagg, playing in the World Juniors is nothing new. When he suits up for Tre Kronor this year, it will be his third U20 WJC. He will be expected to carry a heavy load for Sweden’s defense, which has just one other returning player in Robin Norell.
After playing two years in the SHL, Hagg has made a seamless transition to the AHL this season. In 38 total AHL games, he’s amassed 17 points while playing big minutes for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Hagg is equally adept at playing on both sides of the puck, and has no real weaknesses in his game. Due to his versatility, he could be deployed in a number of roles by Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg. Similar to Morin, Hagg will likely be deployed more in a shutdown role due to his defensive skills. The rest of the projected Swedish defense is more offense-leaning, and Hagg’s shutdown ability will be a useful contrast to their offensive abilities.
Oskar Lindblom, LW/RW, Team Sweden
Going into the 2013-14 season, Lindblom was projected to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. After having a disappointing year, the Flyers were able to nab him in the 5th round. So far this season, Lindblom has looked much more like the early round pick many have projected him to be.
He’s produced 9 points in 17 games for Brynas of the SHL while only receiving a minimal amount of playing time. However, Lindblom brings much more to the table than just offense. He’s a big bodied forward at 6’1″ that uses his size effectively in front of the net and along the boards. He’s also a responsible two-way player.
Right now, Lindblom is projected to fill a second or third line role for Sweden. He has the ability to play either wing, so there is a good chance he will be shuffled throughout Sweden’s lineup due to his versatility and complete skillset.
Bill Schoeninger is a Philadelphia Flyers writer and current Boston University student studying business. Coming to THW from Hometown Hockey, Bill follows and writes about the Flyers, Boston University Terriers, and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @BSchoeninger17