The 2023 World Junior Championship begins Dec. 26 in Canada as the top under-20 men's ice hockey players from around the world represent their nations in search of gold and glory.
The World Juniors has annually been the premier U-20 hockey championship, showcasing the best young stars. Organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), beginning in 1977, it began unofficially in 1974, providing historic national team moments and glimpses at that season's top NHL prospects.
With preliminary exhibition games wrapped up, the World Juniors are next, running from Monday, Dec. 26, through Thursday, Jan. 5. Moncton, N.B., and Halifax, N.S., will serve as hosts. It is the third-straight tournament that is held in Canada, who are defending champions after winning in Edmonton in August. Sweden will host in 2024, and the United States will in 2025.
Of the last 10 World Juniors, Canada has won four, while the U.S. and Finland have each won three times. Russia and Sweden were each runner-up three times in that span.
The tournament has historically been dominated by Canada and Russia (including the former Soviet Union and CIS). The Canadians lead with 19 gold medals as part of their 34 total medals all-time, while Russia/USSR/CIS combine for a total of 13 golds and a WJC-leading 37 medals in all.
Behind them are Finland and the United States with five gold medals each. Finland has 17 total medals to the Americans' 13.
The U.S. has historically brought a college-heavy contingent to the WJC. All but four of the 25 players on Team USA currently play at Division I programs. One of the four, goaltender Trey Augustine, is committed to Michigan for next season. Meanwhile, forward Tyler Boucher of the OHL's Ottawa 67's played this first half of last season at Boston University, and forward Chaz Lucius played at Minnesota last season before signing a professional contract with the Winnipeg Jets.
Latvia features 10 future NCAA players while Slovakia has four, each committed to various programs around the nation, including Maine and Lake Superior State.
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Thirteen Division I programs are represented in this season's tournament, spanning across Team USA, Canada, Czechia and Finland. Michigan leads the pack with six players, the most in program history, while Minnesota has four. Colorado College and UMass are the only other programs to have multiple players selected with two each.
Below is each Division I men's hockey player competing in the World Juniors, as well as their NCAA statistics this season:
- Luke Hughes, sophomore defenseman | 20 games: 3 goals, 15 assists – 18 points
- Rutger McGroarty, freshman forward | 19 games: 8 goals, 11 assists – 19 points
- Seamus Casey, freshman defenseman | 20 games: 4 goals, 12 assists – 16 points
- Dylan Duke, freshman forward | 20 games: 10 goals, 8 assists – 18 points
- Gavin Brindley, freshman forward | 20 games: 1 goal, 9 assists – 10 points
One of the headliners among the U.S. returners, Hughes had six points (1g, 5a) in last year's WJC. He will serve as captain for this year's group. After finishing as a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker last season, he entered 2022-23 with a heap of expectations on his shoulders. Although the goals haven't come like they did in 2021-22, he's still been among Michigan's best offensive drivers. Meanwhile, McGroarty and Duke have been among the Wolverines' top forwards, both sitting top-five on the team in points, while Duke's 10 goals are third on the team.
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- Logan Cooley, freshman forward | 19 games: 10 goals, 15 assists – 25 points
- Jimmy Snuggerud, freshman forward | 20 games: 12 goals, 15 assists – 27 points
- Ryan Chesley, freshman defenseman | 20 games: 1 goal, 2 assists – 3 points
- Luke Mittelstadt, freshman defenseman | 20 games: 2 goals, 11 assists – 13 points
Snuggerud has been sensational this season, sitting second in the nation in points in addition to having the third-highest goal total. Twenty of his 27 points have come during 5-on-5 play, while eight of his 12 goals have been at 5-on-5. Logan Cooley, last year's third overall pick, grabbed the headlines coming into the year, but Snuggerud, who went 23rd overall, has quickly established himself as well. For Cooley, he's been just as good for the Gophers, holding the fourth-highest point total in Division I. Another returner from last year's tourney, the Arizona Coyotes prospect put up six points (2g, 4a) in five games for the Americans in Edmonton.
- Kenny Connors, freshman forward | 16 games: 7 goals, 10 assists – 17 points
- Ryan Ufko, sophomore defenseman | 16 games: 3 goals, 10 assists – 13 points
Connors has burst onto the scene in Amherst, leading the team in goals and points. He has been the key driver of the Minutemen's forward group with seven multi-point outings. Connors has six points in his last six collegiate games, and ripped off a stretch from Oct. 14 to Nov. 5 where he had 11 points in seven contests. Meanwhile, Ufko is building on a strong 31-point freshman season as he's tied for the lead in scoring among defenseman at UMass and third in total points.
- Kaidan Mbereko, freshman goaltender | 16 games: .927 SV% , 2.26 GAA, 3 shutouts – 6-6-1
- Noah Laba, freshman forward | 17 games: 7 goals, 4 assists – 11 points
Mbereko has stepped right in as the starter for the Tigers, putting up the second-most shutouts in the nation in addition to ranking in the top-12 in save percentage. Two of his clean sheets have come against NCHC contender Minnesota Duluth, and he's among the top reasons Colorado College is receiving votes in the USCHO poll. As for Laba, the forward is having a solid debut season, ranking second on the team in goals and third in points.
- Lane Hutson, freshman defenseman | 16 games: 7 goals, 11 assists – 18 points
Hutson has been tremendous as an undersized freshman defenseman, putting up 1.13 points per game for the Terriers this season. Hughes put up less than a point per game as a freshman blue-liner last season, and finished in the top-10 for the Hobey Baker Award. He has the 11th-most points per game among freshman, sitting fourth among defenseman, and he is second in scoring at BU.
- Cutter Gauthier, freshman forward | 13 games: 10 goals, 6 assists – 16 points
Gauthier has been dominant for the Eagles this season, quickly living up to his draft status as the fifth overall pick to Philadelphia this past summer. He leads the team easily in goals as well as points, despite missing two games, and he has four multi-point outings on the year, including a four-point (2g, 2a) night in BC's 9-6 win over BU. He's another freshman that is generating national buzz along with others like his rival at BU, Hutson, who he connected with for a slick goal in the prelims.
- Sean Behrens, sophomore defenseman | 16 games: 1 goal, 7 assists – 8 points
Behrens put up 29 points in 37 games as a freshman last season, but hasn't quite met that pace for Denver through the first half of this season. Nevertheless, he's poised to make his second appearance for Team USA. after suiting up in one game for in last year's WJC. The Americans are going to lean on him heavily on the blue line and off the ice as he will serve as an alternate captain.
- Red Savage, sophomore forward | 16 games: 4 goals, 6 assists – 10 points
Another alternate captain, Savage is not only one of the most experienced skaters for the U.S., having suited up in last year's World Juniors, he also has one of the best names in the tournament. He put up up two goals and an assist in five games during the last tournament, and is on track to break his goals, assists and points total as a freshman at Miami (Ohio) last season. The Detroit Red Wings prospect sits third on the Redhawks in scoring.
- Charlie Stramel, freshman forward | 18 games: 4 goals, 3 assists – 7 points
Stramel has had a slow start to his rookie season with the Badgers, but his physical tools and style of play allow him to be a difference-maker on the ice. He's not afraid to get into the mix either, evidenced by his 42 penalty minutes with Wisconsin. He had an assist in one game with his one game in last year's tournament, and he posted 2-3--5 in six games at the U-18 WJC last season. A good tournament will go a long way in improving his draft stock after the up-and-down collegiate campaign so far.
- Sam Lipkin, freshman forward | 18 games: 5 goals, 14 assists – 19 points
The Bobcats have surged to second in the USCHO poll, locking that spot down in recent weeks thanks in large part to Lipkin, who is second on the team in assists and total points. The freshman hasn't missed a beat, coming off a 71-point season in the USHL last year as captain of the Chicago Steel. He has clearly made a good impression as he prepares to make his first appearance for Team USA.
St. Cloud State
- Jack Peart, sophomore defenseman | 18 games: 2 goals, 13 assists – 15 points
Peart has deftly set up his teammates this year at SCSU, ranking third on the team in assists on top of having the fifth-highest point total. He is eating minutes on the Huskies' blue line, averaging 19 per game, and put up five points (2g, 3a) in a sweep over North Dakota last time out. He had two assists in four games in the 2022 tournament. Peart looks primed to lock down the top defensive pair with Hughes
- Adam Fantilli, freshman forward | 16 games: 11 goals, 15 assists – 26 points
Fantilli is among the top prospects to watch in this year's World Juniors, as he could be a top-three pick in the NHL Draft in June. He has been as advertised, if not better, at Michigan so far, leading the team in scoring and checking in with the third-most points in Division I. If he continues the pace he's been on, Fantilli has a serious case to become just the third freshman to ever win the Hobey.
Adam Fantilli is going to light up World Juniors pic.twitter.com/5BBqIR2FlP— EVERYTHING COLLEGE HOCKEY (@TeamECH) December 12, 2022
- Jaroslav Chmelar, freshman forward | 18 games: 6 goals, 4 assists – 10 points
Chmelar has been a solid contributor for the Friars this season as his six tallies are the third-highest on the team. He will be making his sixth national team stint for Czechia and second in the U-20 World Juniors after he notched a goal in three games last year in Edmonton.
- Aku Koskenvuo, first-year goaltender | 2 games: .875 SV%, 3.56 GAA – 1-1-0
Koskenvuo hasn't had a ton of playing time at Harvard behind senior starter Mitchell Gibson, but the Vancouver Canucks' fifth round pick in 2021 will be making his sixth total appearance for Finland on the international stage. Last season in the Finnish under-20 league, he posted a 13-10-0 record with two shutouts in 27 games. Finland also has forward Verner Miettinen, who is committed to St. Cloud State for next season.