Barrie Colts defenseman Brandt Clarke and his brother and New Jersey Devils prospect Graeme Clarke head on loan to Slovakia. Adam Raska will miss the Czech Republic’s opening game for the 2021 World Junior Championship due to a suspension and we recap Day One of the 2021 WJC.
Clarke Brothers Head to Slovakia
Devils prospect Graeme Clarke and his brother, top prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Brandt Clarke are heading to Slovakia on loan to join HC Nove Zamky. Brandt had previously tried to push for a loan in Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan with Väsby IK, but it was denied due to his contract with the Barrie Colts.
He is ranked by many as the number one prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft after an impressive rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that saw him amass six goals and 32 assists for 38 points in 57 games played. He led all OHL rookies in assists and was named to the First All-Rookie Team.
With the OHL postponed indefinitely due to the recent lockdown in Ontario, Clarke is one of many OHL players to seek loans in Europe to get playing time before the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. THW’s own Mathieu Sheridan had this to say about Clarke’s abilities in his assessment of the race for first overall.
Clarke can change the game at any time. His elite skating ability allows him to create time and space with the puck on his stick and he can dish it off to his teammates in the slot without any hesitation. He loves to jump into the rush and is more than capable of getting back if the puck transitions the other way. Clarke is also no slouch in the defensive end either. Standing at 6-foot-1, he is great at using his size to clear the front of his net of any danger. He is not afraid to go into the corners to get the puck back and makes a great first pass to his forwards breaking through the neutral zone.
His brother Graeme was drafted 80th overall by the Devils in 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He’s spent the last three seasons playing for the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL. However, he was held to only 16 games during the 2019-20 season due to a shoulder injury. Through those games he still registered nine goals and eight assists for 17 points. The season prior he amassed 23 goals and 11 assists for 34 points in 55 games played. He was due to head into his fourth season with the 67’s for the 2020-21 season.
World Junior Championship Day One
The 2021 World Junior Championship kicked off on Christmas Day with Switzerland taking on Slovakia. It wasn’t the most impressive opening day game that we’ve seen, but Slovakia was able to get a late winner through forward Roman Faith with just over five minutes remaining. Slovakia walked away with the 1-0 victory and three points on the night. Slovakia’s roster features a couple of 2022 draft-eligible players in Simon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovsky who, despite being only 16 years old, managed to standout on opening day.
The Czech Republic found out they will be without forward and San Jose Sharks prospect Adam Raska after he was suspended one game for boarding in the Czech’s pre-tournament game against Slovakia. Raska caught Šimon Bečár from behind with a dangerous hit and will be missing in the Czech Republic’s opening game against Sweden.
The second matchup of the day featured underdogs Germany against perennial contenders Finland. Germany still had many players in quarantine after a COVID-19 outbreak so their roster was limited for their opening game. In fact, German players played an average of 21.01 minutes according to the International Ice Hockey Federation. All eyes were on Tim Stuetzle and John-Jason Paterka for Germany and they didn’t disappoint. Paterka set up Stuetzle’s only goal of the game, while Stuetzle finished with one goal and one assist in Germany’s 5-3 loss to Finland.
Meanwhile, Finland looked to be back to their very best scoring five goals and shelling German netminder Arno Tiefensee for 50 shots on net. Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell scored the first goal of the game and looked impressive all night. He missed the entire 2020 World Junior Championship due to injury and will be one of Finland’s most important players this time around.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Topi Niemela scored a goal and an assist and was one of Finland’s top performers on the night. Lastly, 2022 draft-eligible prospect Brad Lambert had a few chances to grab his first World Juniors goal but was denied by Tiefensee. The 16-year-old didn’t look out of place among players a few years older than him.
The last game of the day was the first meeting of two powerhouses with Russia taking on Team USA. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Vasiliy Ponomarev was the standout player for the Russians, recording two goals including the opening goal of the game in the first period. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Cam York would get the USA on the board before the end of the first period and assisted on Trevor Zegras’ power-play goal in the third period.
Russia blew the game wide open in the second period, scoring three goals and marching out to a 4-1 lead. Zakhar Bardakov, Ponomarev and Ilya Safonov where the goal scorers in the second period. Team USA would cut the lead to one goal through goals from Arizona Coyotes prospect John Farinacci and Anaheim Ducks’ prospect Zegras.
Ultimately, it was too little to late for the Americans as Yegor Chinahov grabbed an empty-net goal and secured a 5-3 victory for the Russians. Day Two of the World Junior Championship kicks off today with Sweden vs. Czech Republic, Germany vs. Canada and USA vs. Austria.