With the annual World Junior Championship at a close — Canada having captured gold once again — it’s time to take a look at some of the standout performances of this year’s tournament. It is a great chance for young players to showcase their talents, and in some cases even to catch the attention of an NHL team (Denis Godla, anyone?). Here are the best players of the tournament in each position:
Nic Petan, Canada
Nic Petan’s always been known as a scorer. In his draft year, he had 46 goals and 120 points, more than either Nathan MacKinnon or Jonathan Drouin. The knock against him is and has always been that he is too small, which was the reason the Winnipeg Jets were able to draft him in the second round, 43rd overall in 2013. I think those worries can be put to bed now, as he has — in my mind — been Canada’s best forward in the tournament, scoring 11 points in seven games. He also had a hat trick in the semi-final match against Slovakia, and could have had two or three more if not for the sensational goaltending of Denis Godla. The Winnipeg Jets have a good prospect in Petan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the team out of training camp next year.
Runners Up: Sam Reinhart, Max Domi
Darnell Nurse, Canada
Before the tournament started, it was clear that Darnell Nurse, last year’s sixth overall pick (for the Edmonton Oilers), was going to be a big part of Team Canada. However, before the final, Swedish defenceman and Canuck fifth round pick Gustav Forsling was the probable standout, leading the tournament in scoring as a defenceman. But after the gold medal game against Russia, there’s no choice but Nurse. He was instrumental in holding the lead in the third with a couple of great shifts, and was very physical, not just during the final but the whole tournament. He was not on the ice for a single five-on-five goal against the whole tournament, an unbelievable achievement. While he didn’t put up many points in the tournament — finishing with only one assist — Nurse stood out with his solid defensive game.
Runners Up: Gustav Forsling, Josh Morrissey
Denis Godla, Slovakia
Denis Godla has been passed over the past two NHL drafts, but I think this is the year he will finally be drafted after his performance in this tournament. He was named both top goalie and MVP of the tournament, and was given a standing ovation after both the semi-final and bronze medal game by the crowd in Toronto. He finished with a .926 save percentage, and while that wasn’t the highest in the tournament, he made a total of 224 saves during the event, by far the most of all the goalies. His performance against Canada in the semi-final was simply incredible, making numerous highlight reel saves throughout the game. While Canadian goaltender Zach Fucale had the better numbers, he had the benefit of having a much stronger defence playing in front of him.
Runners Up: Zach Fucale, Thatcher Demko