Snuggerud, Robertsson Represent Blues at 2023 WJC

Today, the day after Christmas, the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) kicks off. Each year, the WJC pits the best hockey players under 20 years old against each other in a tournament of national dominance. The games feature top NHL prospects that have been drafted or are soon to be drafted in one of their most visible and competitive appearances before their NHL debut. It is a great opportunity for NHL fans to get a glimpse at the players that might one day play for their team. And for the St. Louis Blues, there are two players to watch very closely at this season’s tournament: 2022 23rd overall pick Jimmy Snuggerud and 2021 71st overall pick Simon Robertsson.

Snuggerud Stars at Minnesota

The Blues took the 6-foot-2 second-generation forward Snuggerud with the 23rd pick this season, despite arguably having a bigger need at defenseman. At the time, The Athletic‘s senior NHL prospect writer, Corey Pronman, wrote, “Snuggerud’s a talented winger who can be dangerous with the puck on his stick. He has one-on-one skill, good vision, and his best asset is his shot. He is a long-range shooting threat with a one-timer you can build a power-play unit around” (from “St. Louis Blues 2022 NHL Draft guide: Corey Pronman analyzes every pick,” The Athletic NHL, Jul 7, 2022).

Jimmy Snuggerud St. Louis Blues
Jimmy Snuggerud, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since his draft, Snuggerud moved to the University of Minnesota and formed probably the best line in the NCAA with fellow first-round picks (both in the top five) Logan Cooley and Cutter Gauthier. Despite his teammates’ talent, it is Snuggerud who leads the group and is second in the NCAA in scoring, with 27 points in 20 games. His shooting is lethal, and he has really made a name for himself at the NCAA level.

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Still just 18, Snuggerud has plenty of maturing to do. But he looks like a potential star scorer in the making. For a Blues team that is facing the loss of Vladimir Tarasenko, either by trade or free agency, finding their next go-to scorer should be a major organizational goal. And while Snuggerud might not be the pure shooter Tarasenko is (few are), he certainly has the promise, and he tools to find the back of the net at the next level. But the Blues are fortunate enough to have two potential NHL scorers going to the WJC this season.

Robertsson Skates for Sweden

Snuggerud won’t be the only scoring winger with size that the Blues are sending to Halifax and Moncton (the host cities of this tournament). Robertsson will join Team Sweden at a WJC for the first time since he was on the U-18 tournament team during the 2020-21 season (where he scored three goals). Moreover, Sam Cosentino fingered Robertsson as one of Sportsnet’s “three players to watch on Team Sweden”, and he had high praise for the Blues’ 2021 draft pick: “One of my favourite picks from the 2021 draft, Robertsson is a complete player who played SHL games in both his 16- and 17-year-old seasons. The St. Louis prospect plays roughly 10 minutes a night for SHL Skelleftea, yet still puts up about a half a point per game.”

Related: Blues 2021 Draft Deep Dive: Simon Robertsson

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Robertsson, who will turn 20 in February, has played most of his hockey for Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) alongside men and, as Cosentino said, has managed seven points in 15 games despite playing only 10 minutes a night. Team Sweden is desperately in need of scoring, as the tournament over the summer showed. They had a strong campaign but were unable to score goals in high numbers, which arguably kept them from a higher finish than Bronze. Robertsson might be just the player Sweden needs, which means he could have a very good tournament and emerge as a star prospect for the Blues.

Blues Future Is Bright

The Blues don’t have a top farm system in the NHL right now. And many teams will be sending more than two players to the WJC. But what they lack in depth, they hope to replace with skill. Snuggerud looks like a future star. Robertsson could graduate from a third-round pick to a top prospect. Zach Bolduc, the team’s 2021 first-round pick, barely missed the cut with Team Canada. With those three players in the pipeline, the Blues will have a promising future. But if general manager Doug Armstrong plans to rebuild his team in the near future, there will be WJCs where the Blues send a lot more prospects in years to come.