MY STARS! There are no Leafs prospects at the Canadian World Junior camp. While understandably disappointing as Canadians are likely to be cheering for Team Canada, the Leafs have put us in a situation where Leafs fans will have a vested interest in the Russian, Finnish, and American teams as well.
Robertson may or may not be on Team USA’s roster. It’s going to come down to when NHL training camps are going on and if the Leafs see having Robertson with the Leafs or whether giving him the opportunity to play with Team USA is the better option for him.
Robertson would be a very welcome addition for the Americans and given the Leafs depth on wing, sending him to play at a competitive best on best tournament might be a better use of his time than skating on depth lines in Toronto.
The Russian Three
Without a doubt the team that Leafs fans should be watching the most, it’s probably Russia. Rodion Amirov has shown the potential to be every bit the elite prospect that Robertson is, and he will be playing for certain. Mikhail Abramov has the potential to be a first line player for the Russians as well, and Artur Akhtyamov will be serving as the team’s backup goaltender. You can read a lot more about him here:
Artur Akhtyamov is the Leafs 16th ranked prospect
The Russians always have a competitive team that pushes far in this tournament, so it will be a great chance to see what Amirov can do on North American ice against North American style defense.
Don’t count out the Finns
Roni Hirvonen and Topi Niemela were a couple of worthwhile high picks from this years draft of Finnish descent. Throw in Mikko Kokkonen, a promising defensive prospect from last year, and the Leafs could be very well represented on the Finnish team as well. Throw in some long shots to make the Finnish team like Kalle Loponen, and Veeti Miettenen, and the Finnish training camp could be of great interest to Leafs fans.
It would be shocking if there was fewer than two Leafs prospects that make the team.
The 2021 (and 2022) Draft Eligible Players
Here’s where we can double back around to Team Canada for a bit, and talk up Xavier Simoneau, a 2020 draft eligible who went unselected, but is presently at the World Juniors Camp for Canada. He’s now likely to be selected in 2021, and here’s our chance to scout him. Additionally, while things won’t be going off the rails for the Leafs enough that we can expect Toronto will get a shot at Shane Wright in 2022, he’ll be an interesting player to watch, if he makes the team as a 16 year old.
Outside of Canada again there are a ton of players worth paying attention to:
Aatu Raty will likely be going first overall in 2021, and he’ll get a chance to lead Finland’s offense this year, and of the potential first round picks in the 2021 draft, 7 are American, 2 are Finnish, 5 are Swedish, 3 are Russian, and one is Czech. While not all of these players will be on their country’s rosters, we will get the chance to establish some small sample based opinions off their performances.
If you just want to cheer for Team Canada…
Team Canada once again, as in most years looks like the team to beat, although no nation has players coming in colder than the Canadians. And heck, there’s nothing to say that the Leafs won’t someday trade for these players and now is our chance to fall in love with them early (with the exception of the Habs and Sens prospects, of course.) The performance of John Tavares at the World Juniors will always be one of my favourites, and now I can look back at it even more fondly since he’s found his way to the Leafs.
While Dubas and company might take a lot of guff for not drafting Canadians (as did Burke, Nonis, and every other Leafs GM in history) it’s worth remembering that the Leafs have had Mitch Marner, Ian Scott, and Morgan Rielly have all represented Team Canada as Leafs prospects, and other Leafs players like Spezza, Thornton, and Tavares played big parts of the Team Canada legacy. The Leafs not building their team based on passports is the right way to go, and it’s not likely that Toronto will go long without seeing representation on Team Canada again.