When the 2020-21 IIHF Under-20 World Championship (AKA the World Junior Championships) tournament in Edmonton officially gets underway on Christmas, the Philadelphia Flyers will have three prospects participating in the tournament: 2019 first-round pick Cam York (defenseman, Team USA), 2019 second-round pick Bobby Brink (right wing, Team USA) and 2020 second-round pick Emil Andrae (defenseman, Team Sweden).
Flyers 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster and 2019 fourth-round pick Mason Millman participated in Team Canada's recent WJC selection camp. However, neither player made the final roster in an ultra-competitive field. The 18-year-old Foerster stands a significantly better chance of being part of next year's squad. Millman, who is 19, may have benefited developmentally from the Hockey Canada camp experience ahead of the belated Ontario Hockey League season but was in his last year of WJC eligibility.
Nineteen-year-olds York and Brink are returnees from last year's tournament. The 18-year-old Andrae is a first-time participant in the Under-20 tournament. All three players, however, are experienced players in representing their countries internationally. Here's a look at their respective national team résumés,.
Before joining the University of Michigan last season, York was the No. 1 defenseman on an ultra-stacked Team USA National Team Development Program (NTDP) squad, leading the team with a plus-44 rating in 2018-19 while playing in all game situations and averaging more than a point per game. Before joining the USNTD, York was a standout for the famed Shattuck St. Mary's prep school hockey team in Fairbault, Minnesota.
York was solid in the first half of the 2018-19 season and outstanding in the second half. By the end of the season, he had set a single-season point record for USNTDP defensemen. At the 2019 NHL Draft, there were 56 American-born players selected including a record-setting 17 players from the NTDP (the most players from one team ever selected in a single NHL Draft). Six of the picks. including York, were USTDP-affiliated defensemen.
"It's an unbelievable group of guys; great players and we were very close. To play with those guys definitely pushes you to be at your best. We had really good coaching, too. I mean, it's one of the best programs in the world, so it definitely helps your game," York said of his NTDP experience.
Internationally, offensive-minded defenseman York represented Team USA at the Under-17 World Hockey Championship in 2017-18 (five points in six games) and then represented his country at both the 2018 (six assists in seven games) and 2019 (four goals, 11 points, +13 in seven games) Under-18 Worlds.
Despite battling some injuries and playing on a low-scoring Wolverines team as a freshman, York had a solid all-around campaign in his debut NCAA season in 2019-20 (5g, 11a in 30 games). He drew praise for his all-around game in addition to his prowess in the offensive zone.
York made the Team USA roster for the 2019-20 World Junior Championships. He wasn't completely healthy at the time and he was the youngest player (in fact, the only 18 year old) on the Americans' blueline corps. Nonetheless, it came as a bit of a surprise and disappointment that he barely saw the ice in the five games he played.
This time around, as the lone returning defenseman on the Team USA roster, York figures to see a greatly expanded role from the one he played last year. Additionally, York made excellent use of the prolonged offseason caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He added considerable muscle to his 5-foot-11 frame, to the point where he packs a lot of pound-for-pound power into his game.
Before taking leave from the Wolverines to join Team USA for the World Juniors, York was off to a very strong all-around start to his sophomore season. Four of his first eight games were dominant at times. Three others were solid. Only one was arguably below his normal standards. Statistically, he has two goals and five points to date for a bolstered Michigan squad.
Although he was not a full-timer with the NTDP -- seeing time with the Under-17 and Under-18 national team squads as well as the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL -- Brink has his share of international games under his belt.
The playmaking 5-foot-8 winger debuted for Team USA at the IIHF-sanctioned tournament level at the 2019 Under-18 Worlds. Although he was competing among a slew of top-end prospects on the packed USA squad, Brink more than held his own. In fact, he thrived. Displaying his combination of ice vision, offensive creativity, above-average passing touch and good hands, Brink posted six points (3g. 3a) in five games.
Brink also had an excellent USHL season in his draft-eligible season, racking up 68 points (35g, 33a) in 43 games for Sioux Falls. Only the combination of being significantly undersized and having his skating skills questioned knocked Brink out of the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. The Flyers moved up in the second round to be able to select Brink with the 34th overall pick.
As a freshman at the University of Denver in 2019-20, Brink did not disappoint. He posted 24 points in 28 games (11g, 13a) and brought a high competitive level to battling for pucks. His skating continued to improve, showing both quickness and elusiveness with the puck on his stick.
Internationally, Brink earned a spot on Team USA's World Junior Championships roster as an 18-year-old. Strong showings at the WJC Summer Showcase and in pre-tournament training buoyed his standing on the depth chart. Although he was largely limited to fourth-line duty at even strength at the 2019-20 WJC, Brink did see some power play time. He chipped in a goal and an assist in five games.
As with York, Brink figures to play an expanded role as a returning player for the Americans at this year's WJC. He, too, also made good use of the extended offseason. With Denver, the sophomore has three assists in as many games including a gorgeous saucer pass goal off an offensive zone entry that led to a highlight reel tap-in goal for the Pioneers.
Already a veteran of the Swedish national junior team in international competitions at various age groups (Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and now Under-20), the 18-year-old Västervik native has also shown leadership potential. Andrae captained the national Under-18 team last year for the "Little Crowns" and was previously an alternate captain on the Under-17 team.
Andrae is a two-time medalist in international play. His teams won bronze at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (Andrae posted 3 assists in 6 games) and the 2019 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup (4 assists in 5 games).
Additionally, Andrae has already moved up from the Swedish junior level to play in the SHL (Sweden's top professional level). He has shown an above-upside both as a puck-mover on breakouts from the defensive zone and, up-ice, as an offensive-minded defenseman with power play upside. Last season, he led defensemen in Sweden's top junior league with 38 points (11g-27a) in 40 games. Andrae also dressed in 10 SHL games last year for the HV71 Jönköping pro team.
This season, Andrae is still getting relatively modest ice time in the SHL, but is a regular in the lineup. Developmentally, he is coming along at a steady pace after a few defensive hiccups in the first 10 games of the season. The points will come over time. The focus right now is on his overall development as a defenseman.
Given his extensive previous junior national team experience, Andrae's rapid ascension to the SHL level and being tabbed to wear the C or an A in the younger age categories, it was not surprising that Andrae earned a spot on Sweden's World Juniors roster this year. It remains to be seen how much all-situation ice time he receives in his first WJC but he is expected to be a reliable contributor this year and then play a leading role come next year.
Although quite small height wise (5-foot-9), Andrae plays a fearless brand of hockey and has been remaking his physique. He had an outstanding off-season conditioning wise, using the early stoppage of the 2019-20 season as a head start to cut his body fat percentage from 15 percent to 10 percent. Andrae has made improvements in his skating -- which was one of the main knocks on him last season as a smaller player -- and projects to continue improving over time.