Nine LA Kings prospects traveled to the Czech Republic to represent their native countries on an international stage. Four returned home with medals, including Akil Thomas and Aidan Dudas, who earned gold medals with Team Canada.
Let's take a look back at how all nine of the future Kings performed on the big stage!
Starting with Team Canada - He left it until late, but Akil Thomas was golden. Thomas opened the tournament on a high note, as he assisted on his team's first goal of the showcase, but he saved his best for last.
In the gold-medal game, tied at 3 against Team Russia, Thomas was bumped up onto the top line in the third period and skated onto a loose puck around the Russian defense and went forehand-to-backhand from close range to bury the golden goal from in tight with less than four minutes remaining in regulation.
"I wasn't playing a ton, but I wasn't surprised," Thomas told IIHF.com. "I thought it would happen, and it did, and I ended up scoring and thought, wow, that really happened. It was meant to be. After the game, Dale told me he had a hunch that I was going to score. Some things are just meant to be. I think the hockey gods are real and they were with us today. Everything happens for a reason."
Joining Thomas in the gold-medal club is forward Aidan Dudas. Dudas really won twice during the tournament, as not only did he take home a gold medal with Team Canada, but he also took home his signed, entry-level contract with the Kings.
Dudas finished the tournament with two assists, both of which came in the semi-final victory over Finland, which propelled Canada into the championship game.
"I really want people to notice how hard I work, because that's my goal in every game," Dudas said. "In order for me to play well, I need to work hard every game and that's how I know I can help the team win."
Dudas was a fixture on Team Canada's third line, the shutdown line, throughout the tournament. He pointed to his unit being asked to be a defensive-minded unit and play against the opponent's top player, while also killing penalties.
"When you're playing on a stacked team like this, you have to know your role and do it to your best to help the team win," Dudas said. "That's all that matters."
Joining Team Canada on the medal charts was Team Sweden, which lost its semi-final matchup against Russia, for a shot at the gold-medal game, but rebounded to defeat Team Finland in the bronze medal game and come home with some hardware.
Sweden, and the entire tournament really, were led by forward Samuel Fagemo. Fagemo was an offensive dynamo during the showcase, with eight goals and 13 points from just seven games played. Fagemo found the back of the net in six of his team's seven games played and the only game that he didn't score in was a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over the tournament hosts and he tallied two assists.
"I think we showed a great game," Fagemo said. "We had a great team spirit and we created a lot of chances. So it feels very nice to win the bronze medal."
Fagemo was voted to the All-Tournament team, as selected by the media, one of two Swedes represented on the team and he had to have been in the conversation for the tournament's MVP, awarded to Canada's Alexis Lafreniere.
Tobias Bjornfot was the fourth Kings prospect to earn a medal, as he joined his teammate Fagemo as a bronze medalist with Team Sweden. Skating in his first World Juniors, Bjornfot did not collect a point, but was a big part of Sweden's third pairing, which was used primarily for defensive responsibilities, and on the penalty kill, on route to a medal.
"It's really big of us to win after such a tough loss yesterday," Bjornfot said. "It was a good team effort. We wanted to skate hard for the whole game. It's a great tournament, and there are so many great players."
Bjornfot's role was remarkable consistent, as he skated between 14:11 and 16:31 of ice time in each of his seven games played. The 18-year-old defenseman shows poise beyond his years and will be a key player for Team Sweden next season if he plays in the tournament.
Skating with Team USA, forward Arthur Kaliyev was tied for the team lead with four goals from five games played. Kaliyev began the tournament in a limited role, playing sparingly at even strength and mostly on the power play, but saw his role, and his time on ice, increase over the course of the event. Kaliyev tallied a PPG in his team's opening game against Canada, scored twice in the United States' 3-1 win over Russia, and also scored in a 4-3 overtime win over the Czech Republic.
Joining Kaliyev in representing the United States was forward Alex Turcotte. LA's first-round selection this past NHL Draft shined in flashes during the event as he finished with two assists from five games played. Turcotte combined with collegiate teammate Cole Caufield on a give-and-go in 3-on-3 overtime against the Czech Republic, to give the USA a 4-3 win.
Both Kaliyev and Turcotte have another year of eligibility left in the tournament, and could be key players for the United States if both are selected to next season's rosters.
The fourth-place finishers, Team Finland, fin(n)ished the tournament with one LA Kings prospect, defenseman Kim Nousiainen. A fourth-round selection by the Kings in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Nousiainen tallied four points (1-3-4) from seven games played, as he played on Team Finland's top defensive pairing. Nousiainen scored his first career World Juniors goal against Kazahkstan in pool play, and had an assist in the bronze medal game against Sweden.
Slated to play a major role for Team Finland as an assistant captain, Rasmus Kupari suffered a reported knee injury in his opening game against Sweden. Kupari did not play again for Team Finland in the tournament.
The final Kings representative was goaltender Lukas Parik of the Czech Republic. Parik played in two games, his team's final two in pool play, but left with an injury midway through a 7-2 loss against Team Canada. Parik, playing in place of the injured Lukas Dostal, was admirable in the team's 4-3 overtime loss against Team USA, as he made 39 saves on 43 shots in a losing effort.