The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton, Alberta was an event like never before and, hopefully, never again. Despite the challenges in holding the tournament within a bubble environment, several QMJHLers found their way into the spotlight.
Team Canada brought an even stronger roster than usual to the table this year and cruised to the gold medal game, where they were halted by a no-less impressive American squad. Despite the heartbreaking finish, four “Q” players made an impression over the holidays.
Val d’Or captain Jakob Pelletier posted seven points in as many games while displaying the brand of leadership that has earned him the “C” with both the Foreurs and the Moncton Wildcats during his time in the QMJHL. Meanwhile, Chicoutimi Sagueneens centre Dawson Mercer returned from last year’s championship team with his usual game-changing play as evidenced by his six points and promotion within the lineup over the course of the event.
On the back end, Halifax Mooseheads captain Justin Barron offered depth and a few shifts at key moments for a stacked Canadian blueline. The end result was a pair of assists and a +5 rating in seven games. While Jordan Spence, traded recently from Moncton to Val d’Or, was limited to action in just two games, he provided a pivotal moment in Canada’s round robin game against Slovakia, scoring the opening goal on his very first shift in his team’s eventual 3-1 triumph.
Team Russia left Edmonton as fourth place finishers. Their opening contest, a 5-3 win over Team USA, was notable by the performance of Shawinigan Cataractes center Vasily Ponomarev, who scored twice to hand the Americans their only loss of the tournament. He would finish the tournament with three tallies, joining Mercer as one of four players to score shorthanded goals. Victoriaville Tigres captain Mikhail Abramov was healthy scratched in Russia’s first two games but provided two assists and high energy play throughout the remainder of the event. Finally, Chicoutimi defenseman Artemi Kniazev led all Russian blueliners with four points.
The Czech Republic finished the event in seventh place. Rimouski Oceanic winger Adam Raska, a returnee to the national squad, chipped in with one assist in four games and was one of five Czech players to finish with a positive +/- rating. While goaltender Jan Bednar didn’t see action at the tournament, the Detroit Red Wings draftee will nonetheless stay in North America as he is slated to make his debut with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Team Slovakia, the eighth-place club at the event, featured a pair of players with “Q” ties. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies centre Oleksii Myklukha scored a goal and was used in numerous situations over the course of four tournament games. Meanwhile, Samuel Hlavaj posted a 4.03 GAA and .889% save percentage in two games, statistics that bely a plethora of key saves the Sherbrooke Phoenix goaltender was forced to make in his time between the pipes.
Switzerland left the bubble in ninth place and the two youngest skaters on its roster will now move on to their QMJHL debuts. Attilio Biasca, who is poised to suit up for Halifax, posted a powerplay goal in four games. Meanwhile, Shawinigan draftee Lorenzo Canonica posted an assist and six penalty minutes in four outings. Between the pipes, Saint John Sea Dogs goaltender Noah Patenaude saw his only action of the tournament in a preliminary round matchup versus the powerful Canadian squad. Peppered by no less than 52 shots in the 10-0 Swiss loss, Patenaude’s 42 saves included some that once again displayed his awesome athleticism.
Team Austria returns to the tournament next year despite a tenth-place finish as no team will face relegation in this unique set of circumstances. Over the course of four games, Drummondville Voltigeurs winger Fabian Hochegger provided a veteran presence and fired the second most shots on net for the Austrian club. And while the club managed just one goal in the event, it was scored by a familiar face in winger Senna Peeters, whose next move will be back to Halifax where he’ll rejoin the Mooseheads.