Heading into the tournament, the Los Angeles Kings had a league-leading nine prospects playing in the 2021 World Junior Championship. They had representation across six different countries for the tournament.
Los Angeles Kings 2021 World Juniors Recap
Leading the NHL with nine prospects, there were high expectations for the King’ prospects during the World Juniors. The team had three players selected in the first round, and two from the second round playing in the tournament.
A third of the Kings’ prospects playing in this year’s tournament were on the gold medal-winning Team USA, so naturally, their prospects walked away with lots of hardware. Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, and Brock Faber each received a gold medal with the Americans. Playing for Team Canada, Quinton Byfield and Jordan Spence each received silver medals. Taking home a bronze for the Kings was Finnish forward Kasper Simontaival.
The Kings lone representative for Team Slovakia was 2020 fifth-round pick Martin Chromiak. Through five games Chromiak scored one goal. Although his production might not have been as high as some would have liked, Chromiak still had a solid tournament.
Team Slovakia was very young, and lacking some star power compared to other teams in the tournament. This gave Chromiak the opportunity to be a top-six player for the team. Chromiak also had the role of Slovakia’s number one shooting option on their powerplay. Again, while he didn’t score as much as some would have liked, his coach put a lot of trust in him, which is encouraging.
It is worth noting that Chromiak is still a very young player. He turned 18 fairly recently in late August. Look for him to return to Slovakia’s team next year and make some major strides.
The only goaltending prospect the Kings sent to the tournament was 2019 third-round pick Lukas Parik. This was Parik’s last year of being eligible for the tournament, and he did not necessarily get the role he hoped for.
He started just two games, posting a save percentage of .883 and a goals-against-average of 3.77. This was due to his start against the offensive powerhouse that was Team USA. He let up seven goals in a 7-0 shutout loss.
Although Parik’s start against Team USA was subpar, his start against Team Russia was superb. He led the Czech Republic to a 2-0 shutout upset. He made 30 saves against a Russian offence that is nothing to scoff at.
Although it was not the outcome they wanted, Team Finland still had a successful 2021 World Junior Championship. A big part of that success was Kings 2020 third-round pick Kasper Simontaival. Simontaival was slotted into the right-wing on Finland’s top line, which produced most of their offence. He played alongside Florida Panthers first-round pick Anton Lundell and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen.
Simontaival finished third on the team in scoring, posting four goals and three assists for seven points in seven games. He was also a major part of Finland’s semi-final game where they almost upset the United States. He scored two very important goals for the Finns that game.
One of the Kings top prospects at the 2021 World Junior Championship was 2019 first-round pick Tobias Bjornfot. He was an alternate captain for the Swedes and served a game as captain while they rested Philip Broberg. Sweden ended up going home a little sooner than they wanted after a quarterfinal loss to Finland, but Bjornfot was one of their best players throughout the tournament. He was named one of Sweden’s top three players.
Throughout the tournament, Bjornfot was slotted in on the right side of captain Philip Broberg, despite being a left shot. Last year while playing for the Ontario Reign, their coach at the time, Mike Stothers, had emphasized that he wanted Bjornfot to feel comfortable playing both sides.
This came in handy, as he was able to serve on the right for Sweden. In terms of production, Bjornfot had two assists through his five games. While those numbers don’t pop off the page, it’s nothing to be alarmed about, as Bjornfot is known more for his solid defensive play and good transition game with his strong skating.
It’s needless to say that entering the tournament as the favourites, Canada’s second-place finish was disappointing for them. Representing the Kings on Team Canada was 2020 second overall pick Quinton Byfield and 2019 fourth-rounder Jordan Spence.
Starting with Spence, there is not a whole lot to say. He saw some game action against Slovakia as he filled in for defenceman Braden Schneider, who was suspended for an illegal check. In the game, he only played 5:07 of ice-time, but was effective, as he was able to score a goal. He is technically listed as having played two games, as he was in the lineup against the Czech Republic, but he played zero minutes.
Quinton Byfield’s tournament was a little more complicated. Byfield scored two goals and five assists for a total of seven points in seven games. Six of those points, however, came in just one game. He played roughly 12 minutes a night in a third-line centre role for the Canadians while also seeing time on the second powerplay unit. On the powerplay, Byfield played mainly in the net-front/bumper position but was also the main puck carrier on Canada’s drop-pass zone-entry plays.
Byfield has received some criticism for his offence throughout the tournament, but remember, he was still the youngest player on team Canada. Aside from production, Byfield looked excellent, as he did all of the little things right. He was relentless on the forecheck and made it very difficult for opponents to leave their own zone. He was very solid both in puck battles and on the defensive side of the puck as well. Another encouraging factor was that he seemed to add some more fierceness to his game, and be a little more physical and use his size.
Is it a coincidence that the team the Kings had the most prospects on at the 2021 World Junior Championship won the gold medal? Probably, but nonetheless, the three Kings prospects on team USA were all significant players for the team. For starters, two of the Kings three prospects played on the same line together. The USA iced a first line of : Trevor Zegras – Alex Turcotte – Arthur Kaliyev. Kings fans were able to get a taste of Alex Turcotte setting up Kaliyev, something they will likely see a lot more of in the future.
As far as production goes, Turcotte and Kaliyev put up identical stat lines. They each scored three goals and five assists for eight points in seven games. It took each of them a few games to get going, but once they did, each player was a key contributor for the United States.
Aside from his rocket of a shot, it was nice to see Kaliyev engage physically much more. He consistently won puck battles and was forechecking more aggressively than he has in the past. His boards play overall looked very solid.
For Turcotte, he was able to show a little bit of everything. He displayed his speed, puck skills, competitive edge, and grit. One of the reasons the Kings were so high on Turcotte heading into draft night in 2019 was his compete level. He showed the organization that they were right to be attracted to it.
A sneaky good player this tournament was Kings 2020 second-round pick, right-shot defenceman Brock Faber. While it wasn’t entirely clear if Faber would even make the team in the beginning, it’s safe to say he exceeded expectations. Originally slotted in on the third pairing, Faber impressed coach Nate Leaman enough to get him a promotion to play alongside team captain and 2019 first-round pick Cam York.
Like Bjornfot, Faber is known more for his defensive play and transition game. However, by the end of the tournament, Faber posted zero goals and five assists for five points in seven games. This was good enough to tie him with Bowen Byram and Victor Soderstrom, two 2019 first-round picks, for third place in defenceman scoring in the tournament. If Faber could develop an offensive side to his game, the Kings could have a hidden gem.