December 26, 2016
The 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship gets underway in Canada tonight, and the tournament is a major deal up there. This time around, the world juniors should also be pretty important for another group of people: Flyers fans.
The Orange and Black have a crazy nine prospects playing in the tournament, most in the NHL by a mile (three other teams are sending five players). They are:
Canada: D Philippe Myers, G Carter Hart
Russia: C German Rubtsov, C Mikhail Vorobyov
Slovakia: G Matej Tomek
Czech Republic: C David Kase
Sweden: G Felix Sandstrom, D David Bernhardt
USA: C Tanner Laczynski
It’s impressive that the Flyers have this much depth in their minor-league system, especially considering Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are still eligible to play in the world juniors. Instead of Canada, they’ll head to St. Louis and the West Coast with the big club.
Some of these Flyers prospects could very well decide the tournament. As always, Canada will have quite a bit of pressure, probably even more so with the tourney in Montreal and Toronto. Usually a position of weakness for the Canadians, the No. 1 goaltender spot figures to be Hart’s. After submitting a 16-3-4 record to go with a .928 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average to start the season, he has been receiving strong reviews from coaches and those that follow the team.
Myers, who the Flyers essentially signed to an entry-level contract off the scrap heap last year, has been on Canada’s top defensive pair in the exhibition games. He should play heavy, important minutes.
Canada’s opponent in the first game tonight (8:00 pm on NHL Network) will be against Russia. All eyes will be on Rubtsov, the 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. This is mainly because the 18-year-old struggles for playing time in KHL and is trying to get out of his contract and latch on with Chicoutimi of the QMJHL. If even for a short period of time, the Flyers front office will be able to watch Rubtsov play in the tournament.
Laczynski was only a sixth-round pick by the Flyers this past summer, but he leads Ohio State in points (22 in 15 games) as a freshman.
The tournament runs from today until January 5th and coverage will be on NHL Network.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann