The World Junior Championship tournament is notorious for elevating expectations to unreasonable levels, and, on the other end of the spectrum, placing unwarranted question marks around players. Ottawa Senators’ prospect Roby Järventie may have accomplished both with respect to his offensive play during his two World Junior Championship tournaments.
A 2021 tournament in which he went pointless, followed by a cancelled tournament in December set the stage for Järventie to redeem himself offensively on the world stage, just weeks before the North American hockey season kicks off.
Roby Järventie’s 2021 WJC Performance
Though he was playing on a roster filled with superstar U20 players, the talented 6-foot-3 Järventie was an assumed staple on the second line for Finland at the opening of the 2021 tournament. It didn’t last long, though, as he struggled to gain much confidence from head coach Antti Pennanen, seeing his ice-time plummet after the first period of the third game.
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||Total Time On Ice|
The Senators’ prospect fell out of favor in the second period of the third game and never recovered. In the limited action he saw, Järventie had 11 shot attempts. Eight of the 11 were on target, and from good locations on the ice, though he limited himself to the left side of the ice for most of the attempts. Only two attempts, one blocked and one through, came from the right side of the ice.
Even with the time he was given, Järventie struggled to find ways to generate any sort of consistent, tangible individual offense. He finished the tournament without recording a point over the six games he appeared in for Finland’s eventual bronze medal team.
Had Järventie not been afforded the opportunity to redeem himself with a rescheduled 2022 tournament, his 2021 experience would have undoubtedly become a larger cloud over his potential – and placed him under more scrutiny heading into the 2022-23 season in Belleville.
Roby Järventie’s Redemption Tournament
It’s hard to ignore that Järventie was an over-aged player in this year’s tournament and that he plays for the best hockey development program in the world, but he put forth a performance on a North American ice surface that will almost certainly generate more attention.
His individual attempts were up – a lot, as he recorded three times as many shot attempts per 60 minutes of ice-time compared to the 2021 tournament. That likely has as much to do with more consistent ice-time as it does with watchful expectations from the coaching staff.
This was impressive not just because it was an increase over the previous year’s tournament, but because the definition of his role in the lineup didn’t change. He was still being asked to be accountable for his play in all areas and was seemingly punished accordingly.
Despite his best offensive efforts, Järventie still found himself in a constant battle for ice-time as the tournament wore on. He followed a consistent preliminary round by recording a pair of goals and assists in a quarter-final win over Germany before being used sparingly in the last two periods of the semi-final game against Sweden.
|Period 1||Period 2||Period 3||Overtime||Total Time On Ice|
Järventie’s championship game performance in 2022 was a flashback to the restricted offensive standard he set for himself in the previous year’s tournament. He created minimal individual chances and rarely varied his location on the ice. Defensively, the final game against Canada was consistent with his play in his own zone throughout the entire 2022 tournament. He struggled to pick up coverage, and maintain foot speed, and saw his ice-time reduce as a result.
Despite trending down in ice-time since the fourth game, Järventie’s ability this year to play between the circles in the offensive zone set him up for a flurry of chances throughout the tournament. He transformed from a questionable two-way player with offensive potential to an offensive threat that understands the dangerous areas of the attacking zone, but still needs work defensively. If he’s generating chances, it’s much easier for Pennanen to justify giving him more ice-time despite weaker defensive play.
The most valuable evolution of Järventie’s game is his willingness to make plays from his off-wing. In the 2021 tournament, he took two shot attempts from there and generally kept his creativity to his strong side. Successful players in today’s game rarely find themselves held to an invisible line traveling down the center of the ice.
Järventie’s 2022-23 Season Outlook
Järventie will be an interesting player to pay attention to throughout the season. His performance at the 2022 World Junior Championship ahead of his second season in Ontario will have more eyes looking his way to find out just what kind of player the Senators have at both ends of the ice.
Related: 3 Senators Hot Takes for 2022-23
Järventie has clearly become comfortable with varying angles of attack and overall vision on the ice, so there is a case to be made that he makes his NHL debut at some point this season. Perhaps by season’s end he can find his way into the lineup alongside Claude Giroux in a third-line setting, providing he can improve his skating in close-quarters and his defensive awareness.
The Senators do not currently have all the pieces they need in the top nine to guarantee offensive stability, but they could be closer than everyone thinks. After a couple of productive development seasons at the professional level in Finland, two opposite World Junior Championships, and an adjustment year in Belleville, the 2022-23 season could be the defining year for the trajectory of Järventie’s development.
*Statistics from IIHF.com