Red Wings prospects taking center stage at world junior hockey tournament

Detroit News

Detroit — Red Wings fans, heck NHL fans in general, in need of a hockey fix are in luck.

With the NHL in a quicker-than-anticipated holiday break, the focus this weekend will be on the annual World Junior Championships being played in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, this year.

The best junior players in the world gather in one place, representing their countries, and have an opportunity to build their already glittering resumes.

The Wings are well represented in this year’s tournament.

Eight of the Wings’ top prospects are competing for their countries — two apiece for the United States, Canada and Sweden, and one each for Finland and Czech Republic.

The 10-team tournament will be held from Sunday to Jan. 5, with the U.S. the defending champion, after defeating Canada, 2-0, for the title last year.

Team USA will be looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Canada won its fifth consecutive title in 2009.

“Repeating is very difficult, but we can’t focus on one set thing. We can’t say we did it this way and need to do it that way again,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, USA general manager and a Detroit native. ” We have to adapt, we might have to do it a different way.”

Here are the Red Wings’ prospects competing in the tournament:

Simon Edvinsson, defenseman, Sweden

This is the young player who Wings fans likely will focus on, and for good reason.

A first-round draft pick (sixth overall) last summer, Edvinsson, who will be on 19 on Feb. 5, has been sensational playing for Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. Edvinsson has 12 points (11 assists, one goal) in 24 games, is a plus-four, and playing nearly 20 minutes per game.

What makes the Wings, and their fans, drool is the fact Edvinsson is 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and the thought of pairing him with Moritz Seider is mind-boggling.

Edvinsson is an advanced skater and is dangerous with the puck (sometimes not in a good way), and plays with a with a bit of an edge. His defensive game might be a bit behind the offense, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Wings give Edvinsson an opportunity to start his NHL career in October.

Edvinsson will be a key player for Team Sweden.

Sebastian Cossa, goaltender, Canada

The Wings’ other first-round pick in July (15th overall) is matching the incredible season he had a season ago.

Cossa (6-foot-6, 210 pounds) is 15-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average and .924 save percentage), and is arguably, the best goaltending prospect in the world. Cossa is 57-10-7 in his junior hockey career with Edmonton.

A terrific blend of size and athleticism, Cossa, who’ll likely start next season in Grand Rapids, plays with confidence and loves to challenge shooters. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the pressure playing for Canada in this tournament.

Donovan Sebrango, defenseman, Canada

The 2020 third-round pick (63rd overall) continues to surpass the expectations many analysts had for him when the Wings selected him.

Sebrango, 20, is more a classic defensive defenseman, who took advantage of being able to play in the American League last season and has shown he’s more than ready for that level. In 20 games this season, Sebrango (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) has three assists with a plus-6 rating. The 20-year-old will be one of the leaders on Team Canada.

Carter Mazur, forward, USA

A 2021 third-round pick (70th overall), the Jackson native has been a pleasant surprise playing for the University of Denver. Mazur, 20, is averaging more than a point a game (nine goals, eight assists, 17 points) in 16 games with a plus-12 rating.

Mazur (6-foot, 170 pounds) still needs to get bigger physically. But the way he has produced offensively in the USHL last season, and kept developing in Division 1 hockey this winter, is a good sign.

Red Savage, forward, USA

The 2021 fourth-round pick (114th overall) had an impressive summer and training camp for Team USA and stands to be one of the interesting players to watch in this tournament.

Savage is only 18, and has seven points (one goal, six assists) with a minus-4 rating as a freshman this season at Miami (Ohio). He isn’t big physically, but Savage is effective down low, he’s a clever passer, and has a good wrist shot.

Theodor Niederbach, forward, Sweden

The 2020 second-round pick (51st overall) has overcome injuries to be one of the intriguing prospects in the Wings’ organization. Niederbach (5-foot-11, 172 pounds) has two goals and six points in 28 games for Frolunda in the SEL. Niederbach had two goals in five games for Team Sweden last year in this tournament, and is one of the veterans who needs to play well for them this time around.

Eemil Viro, defenseman, Finland

Viro was on a receiving end of a violent hit in the corner recently, but all signs point to Viro playing in the world juniors. Viro (2020 third round, 70th overall) has one goal and three points in 26 games for TPS (Liiga), with an even rating. Viro is listed as 6-foot, 165 pounds, but he has grit to his game and plays beyond his size. He’s mobile, and he closes gaps quickly, and is one of the leaders for this Finland team.

Jan Bednar, goaltender, Czech Republic

Bednar has taken a step forward playing for Acadie-Bathurst (Quebec junior league), with a 10-6-2 record, 3.03 GAA and .902 save percentage. Bednar, 19, continues to intrigue with his raw skills and athleticism, doing anything possible with his body to make a save. It’s unknown how much playing time Bednar will get, but he’s an experienced option for the underdog Czechs.

World Junior Championships

When:  Sunday to Jan. 5.

Where: Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.

Who: Ten teams competing, with the USA, Russia, Sweden, Solvakia and Switzerland in Group B; Canada, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria in Group A. The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, championship and third-place games Jan. 5.

TV:  All games will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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