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Anaheim World Juniors Preview
By Thomas Harrington
The World Junior Tournament will begin today, and the Anaheim Ducks will have three prospects playing in it, all of them for Team Canada. Olen Zellweger and Nathan Gaucher both played for Canada at the last tournament and were expected to make the team. Tyson Hinds was the surprise inclusion, and it was great to see him selected. Mason McTavish is eligible for the tournament, and if he wasn’t in Anaheim there’s little doubt that he’d be back playing for Canada again. Disappointingly, Sasha Pastujov played for Team USA at the tournament last year and was eligible to play this year, but he was not invited back. Also, if Russia was allowed to participate in the tournament, there’s little doubt that Pavel Mintyukov would be playing as well. So while the Ducks only have three prospects attending, they could have had as many as five or six if things went a little differently.
Besides McTavish, Zellweger was one of Canada’s best players at the previous tournament, and I anticipate he will be again this year. He’ll play on their top pairing and their top powerplay unit. Zellweger had 11 points in seven games; if he can have a similar tournament, Canada will be hard to stop. He’s been having another strong season for Everett in the WHL. After recording 78 points in 55 games, Zellweger has 28 points in 23 games this season.
Gaucher was primarily used in a checking role in the previous tournament, and likely will be again. He had a goal and two points in seven games, and he’ll hopefully build off of that for this tournament. Gaucher should once again be Canada’s third line center and get time on the penalty kill. He’s also been named one of the team’s alternate captains. After recording nearly a point per game for Quebec last year, he’s up to 29 points in 24 games this season.
This will be Hinds’ first trip to the World Juniors, and he’ll probably see time on the bottom pair or as the team’s seventh defenseman, while also getting time on the penalty kill unit. However, he does have some offensive talent and is having the best start of his career, as he has 28 points in 27 games for Sherbrooke.
The Ducks are used to having several prospects on multiple teams at this tournament, so it’s going to be weird to see all of Anaheim’s prospects on one team. As usual, Canada is considered one of the better teams heading into the tournament. They will begin the tournament against Czechia on the 26th, and then face Germany, Austria, and Sweden to finish the preliminary round. The quarterfinals will be on January 2nd. The World Junior Tournament is one of my favorite events on the hockey calendar. Anaheim’s prospects have been fantastic over the past two tournaments, with Trevor Zegras and McTavish both taking home tournament MVP. While I don’t expect any of Anaheim’s three prospects to reach such lofty heights, I do have high expectations for them and hope they all play great.
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December 23rd, 2022