It’s not the day after Christmas, but the 2022 World Junior Championship begins this week after its sudden postponement in December. As usual, the major hockey countries have filled out their rosters with the best players under 20 and are ready to compete for a gold medal. The New York Islanders have a few prospects that fans should be excited to watch who will be representing their home country when the tournament gets underway on Tuesday.
As usual, the host country is the favorite and looking to win their 19th gold medal. They announced their roster last week, which included Islanders forward prospect William Dufour. He was not on the roster in December but was included after many players bypassed the opportunity to play in the summer tournament. Shane Wright and Owen Power headline the list of players who are not participating.
Dufour made the roster thanks to his incredible season with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Saint John Sea Dogs and their run to the Memorial Cup, where he scored seven goals in four games. He was a fifth-round selection in 2018 and was off the radar for both the national teams and the Islanders until the 2021-22 season when the 6-foot-3 forward put up 116 points in 66 games. He will reap the benefits of that incredible campaign playing for Team Canada. He also signed his professional contract with the Islanders after his season ended so he will likely be heading to Bridgeport at the beginning of 2022-23.
Dufour’s linemates in pre-tournament practices have been Ridly Greig and Brennan Othmann. Greig was selected by the Ottawa Senators with the 2020 first-round pick that New York traded for J.G Pageau, and Othmann is the Rangers’ first-round pick from the 2021Draft. His inclusion on Team Canada shows how much Dufour has grown since that 2020 Draft, going from a fifth-round selection to a top-nine forward, playing alongside first-round selections just two years later.
Dufour made the roster thanks to his incredible season with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Saint John Sea Dogs and their run to the Memorial Cup, where he scored seven goals in four games. He was a fifth-round selection in 2018 and was off the radar for both the national teams and the Islanders until the 2021-22 season when the 6-foot-3 forward put up 116 points in 66 games. He will reap the benefits of that incredible campaign playing for Team Canada. He also signed his professional contract with the Islanders after his season ended, so he will likely be heading to Bridgeport at the beginning of 2022-23.
Other notable Team Canada members include the Anaheim Ducks’ Mason McTavish, Columbus Blue Jacket Kent Johnson, and the projected number one prospect in the 2023 Draft, Connor Bedard. Team Canada begins play on Wednesday, Aug. 10, against Team Slovakia.
The Islanders have three prospects suiting up for Finland, including another star forward in the making. Aatu Raty will finally be playing in the World Juniors after he missed the 2021 edition due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. The 2021 second-round pick slid out of the top 32 selections due to a poor pre-draft season, but he carried his team in 2021-22.
He also put up three points in seven games at the 2020 World Juniors at 17, but now, at 20, he is expected to take on a much more significant role for the Finns. In a pre-tournament game against Sweden, he centered the top line, a group that The Athletic’s Corey Pronman was impressed by. He played well with Bridgeport in their playoff run last season and is expected to take on a bigger role with the team this season.
Further down the forward chart is fellow 2021 draftee, winger Eetu Liukas. The fifth-round selection plays a physical game that does not lead to eye-popping stats but will still prove valuable in the tournament. He has not signed with the Islanders yet, so he will likely be heading back to Finland this fall. This will be his first World Juniors tournament and the first chance for Islanders fans to see him on the international stage since he was drafted last summer. Finally, Matias Rajaniemi made the team as an extra defenseman. The sixth-round selection from the 2020 Draft will serve in a reserve role for Team Finland.
Other notable players include Islanders head coach Lane Lambert’s nephew Brad Lambert (2022 30th overall, Winnipeg Jets), Joakim Kemell (2022 17th overall, Nashville Predators), and Roni Hirvonen (2020 2nd round, Toronto Maple Leafs). The latter two were wingers on Raty’s line in the pre-tournament game. The Finns face off against Latvia in their first game on Aug. 9, while Finland versus Canada is always a matchup to circle on the calendar; the game is scheduled for Aug. 15 at 6 PM ET.
If you’re joining a World Junior pool, it would be silly not to choose Team Canada as the gold medalist. They have the deepest prospect pool and the least amount of travel time, so they are always the easy selection. That being said, my sleeper team to walk away with the gold is Team Sweden, even if they have no Islanders prospects on their roster. I will choose Canada, but the United States and Sweden are both strong, and with three Islanders on Team Finland, they should also be capable of winning gold at the 2022 World Juniors.
My name is Chris Hennessy, welcome to my page! I am a recent graduate of Fordham University and WFUV where I covered the Islanders for the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons. The experience of being in the Coliseum and UBS ignited my love for storytelling, especially about my favorite team.