With the preliminary round wrapped up, the Tampa Bay Lightning can boast two prospects who have played well at the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC). Defenseman Jack Thompson is on Team Canada, while Klavs Veinbergs is skating for Team Latvia. Because the original 2022 edition was postponed at Christmas due to issues with the worldwide pandemic, players eligible for the tournament in December are able to play in this one even though they may be over 20 years old now.
Thompson Playing Well for Team Canada
Team Canada was undefeated in round-robin play, and Thompson contributed three assists to the effort. Two of those came in a 5-1 win against Czechia on Aug. 13, which led to him winning the Player of the Game award for his team. He almost did not finish the contest; early in the game, he blocked a shot with his foot and left the bench briefly. Canada has received the stellar play and leadership they hoped for from him, based on his time in the Ontario Hockey League and a short stint in the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch.
The Lightning drafted Thompson in the third round, 93rd overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft. In May of 2021, they signed him to a three-year entry-level contract, and he started last season as the captain of the Sudbury Wolves, recording eight goals and 23 points in 29 games. Sudbury decided to trade him to the Soo Greyhounds before the deadline, where he posted 13 goals and 34 points in 36 games. The right-handed shooting defenseman is expected to start with the Crunch in 2022-23.
The Lightning are hoping he develops into the type of player that the Greyhounds saw when they traded for him in January 2022. “He’s the kind of guy we want representing the Soo Greyhounds both on and off the ice,” Soo head coach John Dean said after the acquisition. “He is a pleasure to coach. He absorbs quite a bit, and he likes being corrected. He and (assistant coach Jordan) Smith have a really good relationship.” His ability to eat minutes and play tenacious defense has been appreciated by both the Greyhounds and Team Canada.
Veinbergs Helps Team Latvia Reach the Quarterfinals
The players from Team Latvia caught a break when they were invited to participate in the tournament after Russia and Belarus were expelled because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Although winless in their last 27 WJC contests, they upset Team Czechia on Sunday and qualified for the quarterfinals. In the preliminary round, Veinbergs tallied a goal and an assist, helping propel a team that was expected to finish at the bottom of their pool.
As most of the public scouting services lack the resources to scout Latvian players, there isn’t a lot of information about Veinbergs. He is the fourth Latvian drafted by the Lightning – their most recent pick was Kristers Gudlevskis in 2013. Besides being selected in the seventh round by the Lightning, the 19-year-old was also drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the ninth round of this year’s United States Hockey League Entry Draft, and there is every indication that he will be headed there this season. Last season, he recorded one goal and five points for Zemgale in the Latvian pro league and added another four goals and seven points in nine playoff games. He also spent time in the MHL with HK Riga, recording 16 goals and 24 points in 47 games.
Both players will get to continue their experience at the World Juniors as Thompson and Team Canada will face Switzerland in the quarterfinals, while Team Latvia and Veinbergs will face an uphill battle against Sweden in their quarterfinal matchup. Both players have picked up valuable ice time in helping their teams get this far while continuing to develop their skills with the hope of someday taking to the ice for the Lightning in the NHL.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)