The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship (WJC) wrapped up last Saturday, with Canada beating Finland 3-2 in overtime to capture its 19th WJC title. The annual event, which took place in Edmonton, Alberta this year, consisted of 10 teams. The teams were split into two groups and played every other team in that group, with the top four from each group moving on to the playoff round.
Many of the players who participated in the tournament this year have already been drafted or signed by NHL teams, and some of those players have already seen action in the league. The Florida Panthers had five prospects from five different nations compete. Here is a look at how each of them fared.
Sandis Vilmanis, Latvia
Sandis Vilmanis was a fifth-round pick (157th overall) by the Panthers in this year’s NHL Draft. The 18-year-old forward played in the J20 Nationell, Sweden’s top junior league, last year. He scored 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) in 40 regular season games and zero points (but two penalty minutes) in five playoff games for Lulea HF J20.
Latvia finished third in Group A with a group play record of 1-0-1-2, losing to Finland and Canada, falling in a shootout to Slovakia, and beating Czechia. The Latvians lost 2-1 to Sweden in the quarterfinals. Vilmanis scored one point (an assist) and served two penalty minutes in the five games.
Mackie Samoskevich, USA
Mackie Samoskevich is the most heralded of the Panthers’ prospects who competed in this year’s WJC. He was Florida’s first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old forward had 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) in 40 games as a freshman for the University of Michigan last year.
The United States breezed through group play, finishing first in Group B with a 4-0-0-0 record and outscoring its opponents by a combined total of 22-4, but then the Americans were stunned 4-2 by Czechia in the quarters. Samoskevich finished with three points (all assists) in the five games.
Jakub Kos, Czechia
The Panthers selected Jakub Kos in the sixth round (184th overall) of the 2021 Draft. The 19-year-old forward scored three points (one goal, two assists) in 17 games for Ilves in Liiga, Finland’s top pro league, and finished with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 29 total games on loan to KOOVEE in Mestis, Finland’s second-highest league.
Czechia finished fourth in Group A with a record of 1-0-1-2, losing to Canada and Latvia, falling to Finland in a shootout, and beating Slovakia. The Czechs upset the United States in the quarters before falling 5-2 to Canada in the semifinals and losing 3-1 to Sweden in the third-place game. Kos had one point (an assist) in the seven games.
Ludvig Jansson, Sweden
In the 2022 Draft, the Panthers drafted Ludvig Jansson in the fourth round (125th overall). Last season, the 18-year-old defenseman had five points (two goals, three assists) in 49 total games for Sodertalje SK of HockeyAllsveskan, which is Sweden’s top pro league.
Sweden finished second in Group B with a record of 3-0-0-1, its only loss coming to the United States. The Swedes beat Latvia 2-1 in the quarters, lost 1-0 to Finland in the semis, then captured the bronze by beating Czechia. Jansson had zero points and a plus-minus of minus-2 in five games.
Kasper Puutio, Finland
Kasper Puutio was a fifth-round pick (153rd overall) by the Panthers in the 2020 NHL Draft. Last season, the 20-year-old defenseman competed in Liiga, Finland’s top pro league. He registered 10 points (five goals, five assists) and 20 penalty minutes in 51 games for KalPa.
Finland finished second in Group A behind Canada with a record of 2-1-0-1. The Finns dispatched Germany 5-2 in the quarters, got past Sweden in the semis, then fell to Canada in overtime, settling for the silver medal. In his final WJC, Puutio finished with seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games, third-most among all defensemen. He was named the tournament’s best defenseman.
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It’s unlikely fans will see any of these players much in Sunrise this upcoming season, especially with the stacked Panthers roster expected to compete for the Stanley Cup, but these are certainly some prospects to keep an eye on, especially ones of higher pedigree like Samoskevich. The World Juniors is also a great chance for these Panthers prospects to gain more experience and play against some of the best U20 players in the world.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.