Recapping the Men’s U20 World Championships: Division IA to III
Finland won gold at the top level, let’s look at the movement in the lower divisions
You know the best, now let’s meet the rest (we’re going to open with this line every time)! The purpose of this article is to provide a brief summary/scores of the IIHF Men’s U20 tournaments over the previous season. As the first sentence indicates, I will not be including the Top Division results as LBC provided scores/updates as they were current. In case you forgot, Finland won the Men’s U20 Tournament (aka the World Juniors) by beating the U.S. on a late Kaapo Kakko goal. Denmark was the unlucky team that got relegated in perhaps their worst showing in years. Despite a relatively poor showing, one should keep an eye on Mads Søgaard as he has the potential to become an NHL goalie.
*** Note: In the scores table, please note that the score of the left team is always listed first. GWS stands for Game Winning Shots (aka shootout).
Germany had a strong tournament and earned their first of two promotions this year. Two previously drafted players, Dominik Bokk (Germany) and Mathias Emilio Pettersen (Norway), had strong tournaments with Bokk topping the scoring chart with 8 points. Moritz Seider (who recently went sixth overall to Detroit) had a strong tournament. Norway continues to be inconsistent and Latvia gave France their only win of the tournament. Germany and Belarus were the true favorites, but as you can see, Germany went through with practically no harm done and will play in the 2020 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic in late December.
Poland and Hungary were the pre-tournament favorites in this group. Hungary out-shot Ukraine 63-29 in a 9-3 rout! That being said, Slovenia was quite sneaky as they beat both teams beyond regulation to move up to Division IA. As far as I’m aware, Slovenia had the only NHL draft pick in Jan Drozg who also happened to lead the tournament in scoring with 12 points (go figure). Second place belonged to Kristóf Papp of Hungary who will be playing at Michigan State next season. For the most part, the games were pretty close. Another notable player in this tournament was Ukrainian Feliks Morozov from Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL.
South Korea was a major disappointment at this tournament. This is definitely a step backwards for their program as they should be much better at this level. Anyway, Estonia surprised many with a fairly strong team. A lot of their players hop over the Baltic Sea to play in the junior leagues of Finland. Much was expected of Great Britain as Arizona Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk played in this tournament. It should be no surprise that the lone drafted player led the tournament in scoring with 14 points and +8 rating. Keep an eye on Estonia as they are producing some players that could potentially be drafted in the future. Robert Rooba does quite well in Liiga and could get a shot at the AHL/NHL in the future.
This was Serbia’s second Gold Medal of the season. They don’t have a ton of registered ice hockey players, but they’re making it count by putting some money into their programs. A lot of young Serbs are going to Hungary or Czech Republic to play. They really ran away with this one. Over 2,000 people came to watch the U20 teams of Croatia and Serbia play each other. Not bad at all. This just shows that these countries still have a fierce rivalry. Finally, the scores were all over the place, but even Mexico didn’t do that poorly. That’s pretty much all there is to say about this tournament – a relatively easy promotion for Serbia.
China was by far the best team in this tournament as they had zero difficulty in earning promotion. They only allowed five goals during the entire tournament. The only team that maybe could have beaten them would have been Iceland. When taking everything into account (Iceland out-shot Turkey by a similar margin, but had about half the margin in shots that China did against Australia), they still probably wouldn’t have been able to beat China. Iceland was actually unlucky not to make it to the medal round as they won fifth-place quite easily. Although the game was pretty even against Chinese Taipei as far as the score is concerned, Iceland actually had 71 shots to Chinese Taipei’s 21. Now that’s some goaltending! In case you didn’t know, China is trying to rapidly develop their ice hockey so that they can do what South Korea did. They aren’t even close to South Korea’s level yet, but the effort is there. They’re hiring experienced coaches (side note: Aleksander Barkov’s father actually coached both the Chinese men’s and U20s teams and currently coaches a Chinese team in the VHL, the AHL of Russia) and promoting the sport (getting more youth to play, having NHL games, etc.). As for the rest, it was also pretty cool to see Turkey take third and although New Zealand usually puts up more of a fight, they really weren’t in any of their games save for the ones against South Africa.