A lot can happen between early August and December. Nevertheless, the WJSS can be a springboard to a player making a strong impression on national team officials as well as to the NHL organization that selected him (or, in a few cases, may draft a not-yet Draft eligible player the following June).
Entering this year's WJSS, two of the four participating Flyers prospects -- Team USA left winger Joel Farabee and Team Sweden defenseman Adam Ginning -- had little to worry about in terms of trying to win roster spots on their respective teams come December. Both are returnees from last year's World Junior Championships.
Farabee's participation in the 2019-20 tournament is dependent on whether he's playing in the NHL with the Flyers or in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at that point, and whether the Flyers organization correspondingly makes him available to USA Hockey for the World Juniors. Since Farabee is already a proven quantity at the international junior level, Team USA rested him (and other returnees) twice during the WJSS in order to get a look at some other players.
When he did dress for games with the USA Blue split squad and the main Team USA roster, Farabee was often dominant. In Sunday's tournament finale against Canada -- a 5-3 victory for the USA -- Farabee recorded a game-high five shots on goal.
Shaking off a big hit he took in the first period, Farabee later scored the game-winning goal in the opening half minute of the third period. On the play, he got open near the net to collect a Jack Drury rebound and stash it home from point blank range. Earlier in the game, Farabee collected a secondary assist on a Cole Caufield power play snipe.
Farabee finished the Showcase tourney with three goals and five points in four games.
He will attend his first NHL training camp in September. As a collegiate player (Boston University) last season, Farabee was unavailable to attend the Flyers' 2018 training camp.
A smart all-around player as well as a highly skilled one, he could quickly become all-situations player if he opens his first pro regular season for Scott Gordon's team Lehigh Valley rather than in the NHL. Farabee is also slide rule eligible for the 2019-20 season, meaning that the first year of his entry-level contract will not be used up unless he appears in 10 or more NHL games next season.
Flyers 2019 first-round pick Cam York entered the 2019 WJSS in similar position to where Farabee was a year ago; while he'd likely still have a decent shot at a World Junior Championship roster spot even if he struggled at the WJSS, the tourney was an opportunity for the player to solidify his chances.
The defenseman responded in a big way, playing an outstanding tournament with and without the puck.
York did not play on the top USA pairing at 5-on-5 during the combined-roster phase of the tournament. Returnees K'Andre Miller and Mattias Samuelsson comprised the top pairing for the American side. However, York demonstrated why he was considered the No. 1 defenseman last season for Team USA's powerhouse national under-18 squad (which had 17 of its players overall and all of its top six defensemen selected in the 2019 NHL Draft).
York is sometimes labeled an offensive defenseman because of his high-caliber work on the power play, pinpoint passing, accurate (although not overpowering) shot and his ability to jump into the rush at even strength. While those traits are among his prime assets, York is also a fine two-way player.
At the WJSS, York's prowess without the puck -- good gaps, quick defensive stick, sound positioning -- was on full display. Team USA's 6-0 shutout win over Sweden was probably York's best game from a strictly defensive standpoint. Throughout the tournament, York was very good on retrievals, poised under forechecking pressure, and silky smooth in triggering breakouts from the defensive zone.
In the USA vs. Canada rematch that closed the tournament, York created a 5-on-3 power play opportunity for the Americans in the first period. The California native carried the puck in the offensive zone, and chipped it past Kevin Bahl with a half step on the defender. Bahl was called for a kneeing minor as he attempted to slow York down.
On the ensuing two-man advantage, the Americans gained puck possession. York made a tape-to-tape pass to Oliver Wahlstrom, who took one stride and rifled home a shot to give Team USA a 1-0 lead. York received the primary assist on the goal.
York finished the WJSS with three points (1g-2a) and 11 shots on goal in five games. At even strength, he finished with a plus-four rating. The 18-year-old York is an incoming freshman at the University of Michigan in 2019-20.
Following the rematch against Canada, Team USA general manager John Vanbiesbrouck cited both Farabee and York among the tournament-long standouts in his assessment. Specific to York, Vanbiesbrouck said that the younger was "tremendous" all around and handled the pressure of his first under-20 international tournament with poise and consistency.
Flyers 2019 second-round pick Bobby Brink had a quiet tournament in terms of offensive stats, playing into tough luck -- one assist (on a York goal) in five games played. In the final game against Canada, Brink played fourth line left wing and received secondary power-play time. He was robbed on a scorching one-timer in his most notable moment of the game. Earlier in the tourney, it took a 10-bell save at the post by Team Canada's Olivier Rodrigue to deny Brink a goal in Canada's 4-1 win over USA.
Although pucks weren't going in for Brink on his own scoring chances and only one of the scoring chances he helped set up for teammates ended up in the net, Brink played well overall in a secondary role for USA Blue/Team USA during the tournament (playing in support of the big guns such as Farabee, Wahlstrom and Montreal 2019 first-round pick Cole Caufield).
Brink is a highly competitive player, who does not shy away despite being one of the two smallest players (Caufield is the other) on his team. Brink's choppy first stride or two need work for him to gain separation but his top-end skating is not bad. The youngster, who only turned 18 on July 8 of this year, will be a freshman at Denver in 2019-20.
Ginning has a regular for the Swedish national team in every age group, and already has a WJC and two seasons of pro experience with Linköping in Sweden's top league (SHL) under his belt despite being only 19 years old. He tends to be more defensive-minded than offensive-minded -- his puckhandling could still use some developmental work for greater consistency, but he has an underrated shot from the point -- but he combines above-average mobility on a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame with a willingness to engage physically. It's primarily the package of size, athleticism and competitiveness that made him a second-round pick last year. Ginning's first-pass ability is decent for a young SHL defenseman, although not exceptional.
As with the entire Swedish team in the tourney, Ginning's performance at the 2019 WJSS was a bit uneven. There were a couple strong games and some solid segments even within a couple of the team's losses, but there were also a few rough patches. Ginning ended with an overall sound game in Sweden's 6-3 win over Finland on Saturday, despite taking six minutes worth of penalties (including a high-sticking double minor with the Junior Crowns leading 5-2 in the second period). Offensively, he earned a secondary assist on a Marcus Karlberg goal that opened a 4-2 lead early in the second period.
Overall, Ginning finished the 2019 WJSS with two assists, eight shots on goal, eight penalty minutes and a minus-one rating at even strength across five games. He will soon rejoin Linköping with the Swedish preseason beginning later in August. The SHL regular season gets underway in September while the Flyers will be in training camp.