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Color of Hockey

Color of Hockey: NHL hopefuls making mark at World Junior Championship

Top-tier 2020 Draft prospect Byfield, U.S. forward Robertson among impact-makers

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles players of color at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

 

Players of color are making an impact at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Seven black and biracial players from the United States, Canada and Finland are competing in the tournament that began Thursday and ends Jan. 5 in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

Finland forward Joonas Oden was among his team's top scorers after a 7-1 win against Kazakhstan on Sunday with four points (one goal, three assists) in three games. Forward Nicholas Robertson scored for the United States in a 3-1 win against Russia on Sunday and has four points (two goals, two assists) in three games.

And all eyes are on Canada's Quinton Byfield, a 17-year-old forward projected as a top-tier first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft at Bell Center in Montreal June 26-27.

Here's a look at the players:

 

Quinton Byfield, F, Sudbury, OHL

A combination of size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), skill and speed, Byfield is the third-leading scorer in the OHL with 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists) in 30 games. He said playing for Canada at the World Juniors is a dream come true.

"Just representing your country is just a huge honor," said Byfield, who had five points (three goals, two assists) for Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup Under-18 tournament in the Czech Republic in August. "It's definitely all the hype around it, the fans. You play for your country. Everyone is cheering for you. It's really exciting."

 

K'Andre Miller, D, University of Wisconsin

The 6-foot-4, 207-pound defenseman is an alternate captain for the United States and a returnee from the 2019 U.S. team that won a silver medal in Vancouver. Miller, 19, was selected by the New York Rangers in the first round (No. 22) of the 2018 NHL Draft. He leads the Big Ten defensemen in goals this season with six and is third among defensemen in points with 11.

 

Nicholas Robertson, F, Peterborough, OHL

The highly-skilled 5-foot-9, 161-pound forward is Peterborough's fourth-leading scorer with 35 points (23 goals, 12 assists) in 22 games. Robertson, whose mother is Filipino, was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round (No. 53) of the 2019 Draft. Older brother Jason Robertson is a Dallas Stars prospect who played for the United States at the World Juniors last year.

 

Akil Thomas, F, Niagara, OHL

The speedy 19-year-old playmaker is Niagara's captain and is tied for the team lead with 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 27 games. The Los Angeles Kings selected Thomas in the second round (No. 51) of the 2018 draft. The 6-foot, 180-pound forward comes from a hockey family. His father, Kahlil Thomas, played in several minor leagues and is an assistant with Greenville in the ECHL. His uncle, Leo Thomas, is also a former career minor league player who coaches Macon in the Southern Professional Hockey League. He's the only black professional head coach in North America.

 

Jordan Harris, D, Northeastern University

Harris, 19, is sixth on Northeastern in scoring with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 18 games, matching his scoring output in 39 games last season. The Montreal Canadiens selected the 5-foot-11, 179-pound puck-moving defenseman from Haverhill, Massachusetts, in the third round (No. 71) of the 2018 NHL Draft. Harris' family also has hockey roots: His father, Peter, was a goalie drafted by the New York Islanders in the eighth round (No. 164) in 1986. Jordan's older brother, Elijah, is a goalie for Endicott College, an NCAA Division III school.

 

Isaiah Saville, G, University of Nebraska-Omaha

Saville, a 19-year-old left-hand goalie, is a backup for the United States. A freshman starter for UNO, he's the fifth-leading goalie in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's with a 6-5-2 record, 3.04 GAA and .889 save percentage. The 6-foot-1, 181-pound native of Anchorage, Alaska, was the Goaltender of the Year in the USHL as a rookie last season with a 25-3-2-1 record, a league-leading 1.90 GAA and a second-best .926 save percentage.

The Vegas Golden Knights chose Saville in the fifth round (No. 135) in the 2019 Draft. He was the second U.S.-born goalie drafted behind starter Spencer Knight, who was a first round (No. 13) selection of the Florida Panthers.

 

Joonas Oden, F, KooKoo, Liiga

Oden, a 2020 draft-eligible forward born in Benton City, Washington, has six points (two goals, four assists) in 25 games this season for KooKoo in Liiga, Finland's top pro league. Oden, 19, had 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) in 44 games for KooKoo's Under-20 team last season. He had three points (one goal, two assists) for Finland in last year's World Juniors.

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