Red Wings Well-Represented at 2021 World Juniors

Lucas Raymond 2020 World Juniors Team Sweden
By Jeff Watters

December 16, 2020

The Red Wings, as expected, will be well-represented at the 2021 IIHF World Juniors in Edmonton next week. Seven Wings prospects will be participating at this year’s event — second-most of any NHL team (the LA Kings lead the league with nine prospects).

Before jumping into the Red Wings that will be representing their countries at this year’s World Juniors, let’s look at a few of the team’s recent draft picks who won’t be making the trip to Western Canada. 

This includes a high-profile defenseman who decided to remain with his SHL club, a slew of COVID-19-related absences, and a 2020 draft pick who just missed the cut for Team Canada.

Opting Out of the World Juniors

Moritz Seider, D (Germany) 
2020-21 Stats: Rögle, SHL – 15 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 PTS

This is the big one. While it was never a guarantee that Seider would be heading back for one more World Juniors run with Germany, this was a bit surprising. After being given the option to join his countrymen for one last kick at the can, the standout defender opted to remain with Rögle in the SHL.

Moritz Seider chats with Rogle teammate at practice
Seider has been one of the best defensemen in the SHL this season. | Photo: Bildbyran

But should we be surprised? Seider’s game is very mature and it appears his decision-making off the ice is as well. The decision to forgo the world’s premier junior tournament tells us Seider is happy in Sweden and feels his time would be better spent continuing to develop in a men’s league. Honestly, he has nothing left to prove at a junior level so you can’t blame him there.

Selfishly, it would have been great to see Seider play 30 minutes a night with Team Germany, but considering the health protocols and quarantine timelines, he would’ve been sacrificing a lot to make it happen. 

Seider will continue to log big minutes for Rögle as he has been a force to be reckoned with in the SHL. It’s probably for the best that he remains in Sweden.

COVID-19 Related Absences

Antti Tuomisto, D (Finland)
2020-21 Stats: Denver, NCAA – 7 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS

It’s safe to say COVID-19 played a big part in keeping Antti Tuomisto off of Finland’s roster. Finland was hesitant to name Tuomisto to the team due to the late start of the NCAA season (Tuomisto’s Denver Pioneers just got their season underway on Dec. 2nd). 

The towering Finnish defenseman was the MVP of Finland’s top junior league last season and would’ve been one of Finland’s best players in a normal season where he’d have gotten his reps in ahead of the World Juniors. Had he joined the team this year, he would’ve only played a couple of games with Denver prior to the tournament.

The delayed start to Denver’s season also would’ve made it difficult for the Pioneers to part with the freshman blueliner for a significant amount of time. With just a 26 game season, quarantine regulations would’ve held Tuomisto out of the lineup for perhaps 8 or 9 games. That’s a huge chunk of the season.

Albin Grewe, RW (Sweden)
2020-21 Stats: Djurgårdens, SHL – 16 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 PTS

Grewe tested positive for COVID-19, then subsequently tested negative eight times. Regardless of the validity of the positive test, it’s disappointing for Grewe to miss out on the opportunity to represent his country. He would’ve brought some bite to a talented Team Sweden. This was also his last year of eligibility.

With forwards William Eklund (2021) and Karl Hendriksson (NYR) also left off the roster for corona-related reasons, Sweden has taken a big hit up front. They’ll also be missing a big defenseman by the name of…

William Wallinder, D (Sweden)
2020-21 Stats:
MODO, HockeyAllsvenskan – 15 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS
MODO J20, J20 Nationell – 4 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 PTS

Sure, Wallinder may have been a longshot to make the team with Sweden having so many talented and more experienced defenders, but he was left off the roster much earlier than expected. Unlike Grewe, Wallinder will have another shot in 2022 but it’s still unfortunate that the big defenseman was forced to sit out due to COVID-19.

Had Grewe and Wallinder been eligible to play, the Red Wings would have had a jaw-dropping 7 players suiting up for Sweden at the World Juniors.

Robert Mastrosimone, LW (United States)
2020-21 Stats: Boston University, NCAA – HAS NOT PLAYED

It’s been a tough start to the 2020-21 year for Mastrosimone and the Boston University Terriers.

They have yet to play a game.

After a delayed start to their season, BU was scheduled to kick off 2020 with a Dec. 5th matchup vs. the University of Connecticut. A positive COVID test within the BU program nixed that plan just days before the start of their season. 

It also meant Mastrosimone would not be taking part in the World Juniors this year – his final year of eligibility. Mastrosimone would’ve been a nice addition to a very talented American squad. It also would’ve been nice for Red Wings fans to see him in action on such a big stage. 

Just Missed the Cut

Donovan Sebrango, D (Canada)
2020-21 Stats: Kitchener Rangers, OHL – HAS NOT PLAYED

Sebrango was not left off Team Canada’s roster for COVID-related reasons. He wasn’t expected to make the team — but I felt he was worth mentioning here.

The 3rd round pick was among the final cuts for Team Canada last week. By all accounts, he had an excellent camp. This is noteworthy, as Canada is absolutely loaded with talent this year (20 1st round picks) and are heavily favored to capture a second consecutive gold medal. 

Sebrango made it difficult for the team to leave him off the roster and that bodes well for his chances to crack the lineup in 2022.

7 Red Wings at the World Juniors 

Of the seven Red Wings participating in this year’s World Juniors, five will be representing Sweden. The Wings will also have a Finnish defenseman and a Czech goalie competing in Edmonton. Let’s start with the Swedes.

Team Sweden

Lucas Raymond, LW
2020-21 Stats Frölunda, SHL – 22 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 PTS

Lucas Raymond has a track record of elite international play.

The Red Wings’ top prospect and most recent 1st round pick will be looking to have another big showing at this year’s World Juniors. At last year’s tournament in the Czech Republic, Raymond had 2 goals and 4 points in 7 games for the Swedes. With Samuel Fagemo (LAK) and Nils Hoglander (VAN) stealing the show, the young winger played more of a supporting role on the second line.

lucas raymond gold medal winner 2019 u18 world championships
Raymond led Sweden to their first-ever gold medal at the 2019 U18 World Championships. | Photo: Johan Löf, Bildbyran

This year, all eyes will be on Raymond. With COVID-19 wreaking absolute havoc on Sweden’s roster, Raymond and Alexander Holtz (NJD) will need to have monster tournaments if the team is to medal.

Raymond has had an excellent season with Frölunda this year. He’s hit a bit of a lull offensively with just 2 assists in his past 7 games, but a big World Juniors could get him back on track — and we know he has it in him.

Theodor Niederbach, C
2020-21 Stats:
Frölunda, SHL – 11 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 PT
Frölunda J20, J20 Nationell – 19 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 35 PTS

It was great to see Niederbach’s name on Sweden’s final roster. There was already a good chance he was going to make the final cut, but with Eklund and Henriksson out Niederbach will have a larger role than anticipated.

During Sweden’s selection camp, Niederbach replaced Henriksson as first-line centre. A line of Raymond – Niederbach – Holtz will certainly be a treat to watch, but it’ll be interesting to see how long newly-named Head Coach Joel Ronnmark (replacing Tomas Monten) will stick with the line should they get off to a rocky start. This is a great opportunity for Niederbach so let’s hope he has a big tournament.

Niederbach has been playing on a line with Raymond for Frölunda and after a slow start has looked better as of late. He has yet to produce offensively but has flashed the high-end skill he used to dominate the J20 ranks earlier this season. With the J20 Nationell postponing play through the end of 2020, Niederbach was fortunate to catch on with the men’s team.

Niederbach and Raymond continuing to build chemistry at the World Juniors would make a lot of people happy — the Red Wings at the top of that list.

Elmer Soderblom, LW
2020-21 Stats:
Frölunda, SHL – 7 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS
Frölunda J20, J20 Nationell – 4 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS

Soderblom has had a tough start to the year. After just 11 games across two levels with Frölunda, the big winger suffered a foot injury that kept him out of action right up to Sweden’s selection camp. 

Soderblom is seemingly healthy enough to have been named to the team, but we’ll be keeping an eye on that foot-injury. Soderblom isn’t the fleetest of foot so let’s hope there aren’t any lingering effects.

A healthy Soderblom could be a shot in the arm for the Swedes. With his unique blend of size and skill, he could be a dominant net-front presence on an elite Swedish power play.

Albert Johansson, D
2020-21 Stats: Färjestad BK – 20 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS

Johansson will be one of the more interesting prospects to watch at this year’s World Juniors. He has started to show flashes of his offensive skill in the SHL so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how confident he’ll be playing with teenagers again.

Johansson hasn’t put up big numbers this season but has impressed with his play early on. He’s quick, skilled, and has the ability to pull off moves like this:

Johansson is definitely trending up and he’ll be playing big minutes for Sweden.

Gustav Berglund, D
2020-21 Stats: Västerås IK, HockeyAllsvenskan – 17 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS

Berglund is a name many Red Wings fans may not be familiar with. Taken in the 6th round in the 2019 draft, he isn’t the most skilled defenseman but is a terrific skater. He has good offensive instincts but he’s struggled to generate much against men in the SHL or Allsvenskan thus far.

It was nice to see that Berglund will be joining Team Sweden. A strong tournament could be the confidence boost he needs to take his game to the next level back in Sweden.

Team Finland

Eemil Viro, D
2020-21 Stats: TPS, Liiga – 16 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 PTS

With Antti Tuomisto remaining in Denver, the Red Wings will have just one defenseman joining Team Finland at the 2021 World Juniors. Eemil Viro will be bringing his advanced game to Edmonton as he hopes to help Finland win just their 5th medal since 2006.

Viro, drafted 70th overall by the Wings just over two months ago, has had a very good season with TPS (Liiga) and will be making his World Juniors debut. He’s spent this year — and most of last season — playing for TPS and honing his skills against men. He’ll now have the opportunity to show off his game against his peers.

Team Czech Republic

Jan Bednar, G
2020-21 Stats: HC Energie Karlovy Vary, Czech Extraliga – 5 GP, 4.16 GAA, .867 SV%

While I’m looking forward to seeing Bednar between the pipes at this year’s World Juniors, I can’t help but think, “Poor, Jan.”

The Czechs do not appear to be a strong team this year. It certainly doesn’t help that they’ll have to contend with the Russians, Swedes, and Americans in a formidable Group B. If Bednar sees any action, he’s going to be busy; that much is guaranteed.

You have to wonder if Bednar will remain in Canada at the conclusion of the World Juniors. He was set to join Acadie Bathurst of the QMJHL this season, but it seems the team was waiting for the right time to call on him. Now that he’s in Canada and the Q is set to start back up again in early January, it may finally happen.

Final Thoughts

For hockey fans around the world, the World Juniors have become a holiday staple. They’ve been a Christmas tradition and something we all look forward to this time of year. With just over a week to go until the puck drops in Edmonton, the excitement is starting to build.

While no one is naive enough to assume everything will move forward as planned, it’s looking increasingly likely that we will indeed have a 2021 World Juniors. 

This year’s tournament, however, will be unlike any other. With a number of players and coaches unable to attend, we won’t be seeing most teams at full strength. We also won’t get to experience the typical World Juniors atmosphere with passionate fans from all over the world making the trek to support their young stars. 

But if all goes well, we will see games. We will see the presentation of gold, silver, and bronze medals. We will have some sense of normalcy in what has undeniably been the most unfathomable and craziest year most of us have ever experienced.

For those with a vested interest in the Red Wings and their prospect pipeline, this will be a great opportunity to lay eyes on some of the club’s most exciting young prospects. Sweden, in particular, will be the team to watch — in addition to your home country (Canada for this guy).

Will all 7 Red Wings prospects have great tournaments? It’s highly unlikely. They will gain valuable experience, however (if everything goes according to plan). Although it is possible to read too much into a World Juniors performance, it is often a good barometer for where players stand in relation to their peers. It’s also a good opportunity to see European prospects adapt their games to the smaller, North American ice when the tournament is held in Canada or the U.S. 

So, fingers crossed everybody. Let’s hope we’re able to see some great hockey over the holidays. There will be lots to cover, so stay tuned.

Featured Image: Mckeen’s Hockey


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