Photo credit:Erica Perreaux/WHL
The Calgary Flames’ 2024 World Junior contingent may just be Samuel Honzek
By Ryan Pike3 months ago
Friends, American Thanksgiving has come and gone, meaning the next major holiday on the docket is Christmas. And by “Christmas,” we mean the annual IIHF World Junior Championship tournament, which has been a fixture of the holiday season for decades.
While the Calgary Flames’ drafting and development has become a strength – as evidenced by a strong American Hockey League squad – it’s beginning to look like they might have just a single player representing them at the tournament.
The World Juniors occurs every year – this year’s tournament runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Gothenburg, Sweden – with this year’s group of eligible players being born in 2004 or later. 10 teams are participating: Canada, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Czechia, the United States, Slovakia, Switzerland and Norway.
By age group, the Flames have eight players that are eligible to participate:
- 2022 picks Topi Rönni (Finland) and Cade Littler (USA)
- 2023 picks Samuel Honzek (Slovakia), Etienne Morin (Canada), Aydar Suniev (Russia), Jaden Lipinski (USA), Yegor Yegorov (Russia) and Axel Hurtig (Sweden)
Due to the ongoing invasion and war with Ukraine, Russia is currently ineligible to participate in IIHF tournaments, so there is no team for Suniev or Yegorov to play on.
Of the six remaining players with eligible teams to play on, all but Honzek seem like long-shots.
- Rönni was on last year’s Finnish World Junior team, but due to his ongoing legal issues he seems unlikely to be included. The Finnish national team hasn’t publicly ruled him out, but he wasn’t included in either Finland entry – the main team or the secondary “challenger” team) – during November’s Five Nations tournament in Czechia or their set of games in Germany.
- Lipinski and Littler are off to solid starts to their seasons, but the United States’ World Junior squads tend to be a mixture of U.S. National Development Team players, United States Hockey League standouts, or NCAA freshmen or sophomores. Sometimes players on Canadian junior teams are included, but they’re usually exceptional, league-leading players, and Lipinski and Littler aren’t performing at that level this season.
- Morin could potentially be in the mix, as he’s ninth among all QMJHL blueliners in points – and of the eight players with more points, only three are under-20 Canadians who could beat him out for a spot. But Morin wasn’t part of the summer-time World Junior orientation meetings, which means he might have an uphill battle to make the team.
- Hurtig was on Sweden’s under-18 team last spring, but his subsequent shoulder surgery kept him out of all three of the precursor under-20 tournaments. He’s since returned to action and he’s impressed for his club team, but he just hasn’t played enough hockey to cement himself on the national team radar. (For this season, at least.)
And that leaves Honzek, a Slovakian standout who’s expected to return from injury this coming weekend, as the lone Flames prospect likely headed to Sweden for the World Juniors.
Flames fans better be prepared to cheer for Slovakia when Boxing Day rolls around.
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