Four New Jersey Devils prospects have been invited to national team selection camps for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship starting later this month in Vancouver and Victoria.
Ty Smith, the Devils' first round selection this past June, will report for Canada. Fabian Zetterlund, who won a silver medal in last year's event, will report for Sweden. Aarne Talivite, who captained his team at the World Junior Summer Showcase, will report for Finland and Akira Schmid, who served as the third goalie as a 17-year-old last year, will be one of three goalies for Team Switzerland. Training camps start this week and exhibition games get under way next week before final rosters are submitted on December 24th. The tournament starts the 26th.
Smith was captain of Canada's U18 squad this past spring and was mentioned by most - if not all - of his teammates as the player they'd want to bring back to play for their club team. He brings international experience, leadership qualities (he's also captain of the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League), smooth skating, a great first pass to support the transition game, creative vision from the blueline and a high hockey IQ to know when to jump into the play and when to stay back.
He is currently 2nd on his team with 39 points (3G, 36A) in 28 games, which puts him in the Top 15 for scoring in the WHL. Beyond the regular season with their respective clubs, Hockey Canada also utilizes the summer showcase in early August, where he scored two goals in four games, and the CIBC Canada Russia Series in November, where he notched a goal in two games. He is expected to play a big role as Canada looks to defend last year's gold medal while on home ice.
Zetterlund suffered an injury in late October and his availability for the WJC was in doubt, but when the doctors told him it wasn't torn and that his recovery would be about six weeks, he did the math and knowing world juniors was still a possibility, he got to work.
He was back on the ice practicing with the team exactly six weeks later and earned a spot in the line up in Farjestad's next game. Being back in the line up and playing well was reward enough for all the hard work he put into his return, but the goal he scored to help his team erase a two-goal deficit to win the game was the cherry on top. It was his second goal of the season for a total of three points in 13 games thus far.
Last year, Zetterlund was an unexpected addition to Sweden's WJC roster, but immediately made an impact with his gritty net front presence, especially on the power play, with two goals and a silver medal to show for it. He also participated in the summer showcase and notched two more goals there. He's expected to fill a similar role this season and, with his extensive international experience, should step into a leadership position for Team Sweden as well.
Talivite was left off last year's Finnish squad and it's unlikely they'll be making that mistake again. He's got five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in 17 games so far in his freshman season with Penn State. He's a mucker, grinder and loose puck finder with a heck of a wrist shot, who's already adjusted to the smaller NHL-sized sheet of ice and the quicker pace and physical nature of the North American game.
He was captain of Finland's U18 team two years ago and, as mentioned earlier, was their captain at the showcase in August. He brings a tremendous work ethic to the ice and a magnetic personality to the locker room. According to Penn State head coach, Guy Gadowsky, Talvitie is like the Pied Piper. He leads by example on and off the ice and his teammates step in line right behind him and could very well find himself wearing the C for Suomi in a few weeks.
Schmid had a rough start to the season after being waived by Lethbridge (too many imports), but found a home with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. He was on last year's WJC team (no games played) and participated in the U18s twice. All three Swiss goalies named to the team are 18 years old and, although Schmid was the only one on last year's squad, the starting position is still very much up for grabs.
He'll have to shake off some tough performances this season and step into his potential to earn time between the pipes for Switzerland, but nothing beats the experience of representing your country on an international stage.
Reilly Walsh was one of the last players cut from Team USA before last year's tournament and many expected him to earn the invitation to USA's selection camp this year and potentially play a big role on their blueline, especially on the power play. Despite a stellar start to his sophomore season at Harvard (5G, 7A for 12 points in 11 games), he was ultimately not invited to their selection camp.
Rosters will be trimmed before the exhibition games start next week, but the final rosters are not due until the 24th. The tournament starts on the 26th with select games available on NHL Network.