With the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway, here’s a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects playing in the tournament, and what to expect.
As you woke up on Boxing day, groggy and probably bloated from the events of Christmas Day, only one thing should have been on your mind: Canada vs the USA to kick off the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship.
What a game it was! In a back and forth affair, Canada won their first game of the tournament after brilliant performances from 2020 draft prospect Alexis Lafreniere (one, three assists) and Arizona prospect Barrett Hayton (two goals).
If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, however, you’re probably as happy about the win for Canada as you are about the performance of one of the most explosive forwards with the United States, Nick Robertson (one goal, one assist).
For those less familiar, the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is an annual tournament where each country’s top U20 players battle it out for gold. This year, the 10-day tournament takes place in the Czech Republic and, as always, has a number of great prospects to keep an eye on.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the Leafs prospects participating in the 2020 World Juniors, and just how much of an impact they can have for their respective countries.
Nick Robertson: LW, United States
The crafty, speedy winger is poised to have a remarkable tournament on a loaded USA team. Not only does he have great hockey IQ and excellent hands, he’s also got a rocket of a shot. Selected in the second round, 53rd overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Robertson’s had a monstrous start this season in Peterborough (OHL).
Despite battling injuries, he’s got 23 goals and 12 assists in 22 games. Expect him to rack up plenty of goals and points while getting loads of ice time alongside some equally talented American juniors.
Rasmus Sandin: D, Sweden
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The 2018 first-round pick of the Leafs has been one of the most highly touted defensive prospects in Toronto for some time. He’s put up great numbers at both the junior and AHL level, and even played six games in the NHL with the Leafs at the start of this season. Since going back down to the AHL, he’s got 12 points in 19 games, with a +/- of -2 this season. Sandin has previous World Juniors experience heading into this year’s tournament, having contributed 4 points in 5 games for Sweden last year.
The smooth-skating, offensively gifted defenseman provides both high-end skill and experience to Sweden, and will also don an “A” for his country.
Many are already picking Sandin to be the best defenceman in the tournament, and it’s easy to see why with chances like this. He’ll log huge minutes all tournament long (including 24:30 in Sweden’s first game, which leads the team), meaning Leafs fans can get a good look at him in this tournament.
Mikko Kokkonen: D, Finland
The third-round pick, 84th overall, by the Leafs in 2019, Kokkonen has a great opportunity to showcase his solid defensive game and quick transition style on a Finland team that should contend for a medal at the World Juniors.
It’s his first time at the tournament, but Kokkonen will play an important role as a defenseman that can play in all three zones and is very competent defensively. Not a lot of flash to his game, but he’s still valuable to Finland in this tournament for his versatility.
If you’re a Leafs fan, use this tournament as an opportunity to see some of the impact players who could arrive in Toronto over the next few years.
Which player are you looking forward to watching during the world juniors? Let us know in the comments below.