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A Rangers’ WJC Primer

HOCKEY: AUG 06 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp - Sweden v USA Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the recent cancellations in the NHL, you may find yourself with a small void in your life. If you’ve been yearning to watch some ice hockey, you’re in luck—the 2022 World Junior Championship is right around the corner. It’s a chance to see many of the world’s top prospects on one of the biggest stages they’ve played so far in their career.

The tournament consists of two groups that hold five teams each. The groups play one single round robin series and then the top four teams from each group advance into a playoff. If you’re interested in reading all the rules for this international tournament you can find them here.

The United States is looking to defend its gold medal from the 2021 WJC, but they may have to wait until they advance to the playoff portion of the tournament to face off against Canada once again. The Rangers have at least four–potentially five–prospects playing for four different teams in the tournament this year. Let’s take a deeper look into each player’s role with the team, what we can possibly expect as well as the team’s preliminary round schedule.

USA

Brett Berard (LW) - 134th overall in 2020

I recently wrote about Brett Berard and the fantastic sophomore season he’s having at Providence College. You can read that here.

Last year Berard played a depth yet incredibly important role for the gold medal winning American team. However, this upcoming tournament he will be counted on to do even more. Having shown he’s capable of more than just the tenacious, in-your-face play, he may be on one of the top two scoring lines for Team USA, lining up next to long time friend and 2021’s 2nd overall pick Matty Beniers.

Berard has done a lot to solidify himself as a major prospect for the Rangers, but a big performance in this year’s WJC would put any doubts of his potential to be an impact NHL player to rest. You can expect to see Berard buzzing all over the ice wearing number 21.

Games:

  • USA vs. Slovakia - 12/26 9:30PM EST
  • USA vs. Switzerland - 12/28 4:30PM EST
  • USA vs. Sweden - 12/29 9:30PM EST
  • USA vs. Russia - 12/31 9:30PM EST

*All games available on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. FUBO TV is a streaming option and comes with a 7-day free trial.

Canada

Dylan Garand (G) - 103rd overall in 2020

I recently wrote about the exceptional season Garand is having with the Kamloops Blazers. You can read that here.

Garand is one of three returning players from last year’s roster, and while he didn’t play a major role for Team Canada in his first WJC, it’s becoming more likely he will split games with Sebastian Cossa in this year’s tournament. Garand currently sports a 1.85 GAA and a WHL leading .932 SP%. These outstanding numbers don’t do his dominant season justice; he is simply playing too well to not get an increased role. To have put himself firmly in the conversation to be Canada’s starting goaltender with a goaltender like Cossa, who was highly coveted and drafted in this past year’s first round, is a testament to Dylan Garand’s hard work and progress. He is slowly proving he has an NHL future ahead of him. Look for number 31 in Canada’s crease to see Garand in action.

William Cuylle (LW) - 60th overall in 2020

Cuylle had a diligent offseason and successful Rangers Training Camp. He’s been able to take this into his current season with the Windsor Spitfires. I recently wrote about his increase in production and success in the OHL. You can read that here.

Cuylle, a Toronto native, is currently the odd man out skating on the wing of Canada’s newest French Connection. Mavrik Bourque and Xavier Bourgault, both from Quebec, are two very talented players for Canada and will hopefully be setting up Cuylle to do what he does best: shoot the puck. If this line remains together and continues to click, Cuylle may have an excellent tournament and give himself more confidence to continue his development to become an impact player for the Rangers. You’ll find Cuylle wearing number 27, winding up for a shot at the top of the left circle.

Games:

  • Canada vs. Czechia - 12/26 7PM EST
  • Canada vs. Austria - 12/28 7PM EST
  • Canada vs. Germany - 12/29 7PM EST
  • Canada vs. Finland - 12/31 7PM EST

*All games available on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. FUBO TV is a streaming option and comes with a 7-day free trial.

Finland

Kalle Väisänen (RW) - 106th overall in 2021

Väisänen is a 6’4” right wing and is known both for his soft hands and for finishing his checks. He plays for TPS—the same Finnish team Rangers prospects Kaapo Kakko and Lauri Pajuniemi hail from. The big right wing has some skill and is lauded for his playmaking ability while competing hard and playing a tough game.

He will play a depth role for Team Finland as they fully expect to medal in this year’s tournament. Väisänen will either be on the third or fourth line to give Finland some grit and physicality in their lineup. The best part about Väisänen’s game is while he does bring an aggressive style of hockey that may contrast with the top two scoring lines, he does so while not sacrificing skill level. You’ll find Väisänen wearing number 23, following through on his checks to wreak havoc and cause turnovers.

Games:

  • Finland vs. Germany - 12/26 2PM EST
  • Finland vs. Austria - 12/27 2PM EST
  • Finland vs. Czechia - 12/29 2PM EST
  • Finland vs. Canada - 12/31 7PM EST

*All games available on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. FUBO TV is a streaming option and comes with a 7-day free trial.

Czechia

Jaroslav Chmelař (RW/LW) - 144th overall in 2021

Chmelař is the fifth Rangers’ prospect in the WJC, but with most of Czechia’s roster not fully confirmed his participation in the tournament is still considered tentative. Upon making the team, Chmelař is likely to play in the bottom six. He is another big bodied winger who specializes in a net front presence. He constantly drives to the front of the net to screen goalies while looking for deflections and rebounds.

Another skill Chmelař excels at is his ability to cycle in the offensive zone, consistently moving with the puck and getting open to create scoring opportunities. It’s traits like these that can have a player pushed up the line up into a bigger role at opportune times. Chmelař plays for Jokerit in Finland but hasn’t had an outstanding offensive season. A solid performance for Czechia at the WJC can do wonders for the young player’s confidence and help further his development. You’ll notice Chmelař more than likely wearing number 28, cycling up high and low in the offensive zone looking for a cross pass or prime scoring opportunity.

Games:

  • Czechia vs. Canada - 12/26 7PM EST
  • Czechia vs. Germany - 12/27 7PM EST
  • Czechia vs. Finland - 12/29 2PM EST
  • Czechia vs. Austria - 12/30 4:30PM EST

*All games available on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. FUBO TV is a streaming option and comes with a 7-day free trial.

Stats via EliteProspects