Red Wings Prospects Who Could Play at the 2024 World Juniors

The Hockey Writers

With Thanksgiving coming up and December right around the corner, I wanted to take a look ahead to the biggest hockey event of the upcoming months, the World Junior Championship (WJC). The 2024 WJC is set to begin on December 26 in Gothenburg, Sweden, but most participating nations begin their training/selection camps early in December. 

Axel Sandin Pellikka Detroit Red Wings
Axel Sandin Pellikka, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That means that we will soon begin to get a really good idea of which players have the best chances to represent their nation as they go for Gold. Before all of that kicks off, I thought I’d take a quick look at a few Detroit Red Wings prospects who fans can expect to see at this year’s World Juniors, and where they can be expected to play in the lineup. 

Let’s dive right in with the back-to-back reigning champs, Canada.

Team Canada

Nate Danielson, C, Brandon Wheat Kings

Nate Danielson is a very safe bet to make Canada’s roster for this year’s tournament, despite his lackluster scoring numbers since he returned to the WHL from NHL preseason action. The 2023 8th overall pick has put up just 13 points in 16 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings, but I don’t think that’s cause for concern. 

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Sure, his production hasn’t been great to start the year, but his process is exactly the same. When I watch him I see an excellent two-way center who is a powerful skater and has a much harder shot than people realize. 

Danielson is going to be an important piece for Canada in their attempt to three-peat as WJC champs, most likely lining up as a top-six center, probably on a matchup or shutdown line designed to play tough minutes against the toughest possible competition. I think guys like Carson Rehkopf, Fraser Minten, and Easton Cowan would make a lot of sense as Danielson’ wingers, though they could give him some more firepower in the form of a Zach Benson or Macklin Celebrini type if they so desire.

Regardless, he’s going to be a top player for Canada, especially since it seems unlikely Shane Wright is loaned to the tournament once again. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Danielson earn himself at least an ‘A’ on his jersey for this tournament, with returning defender Denton Mateychuk being the favorite to captain the team should Wright not return.

Projected Lineup Spot: Top-6 Center on matchup line

Team USA

Trey Augustine, G, Michigan State University

Trey Augustine has had a really a really solid start to his collegiate career, with 0.913% save percentage (SV%) through his first 13 games. The adjustment period was a bit rough for the first few weeks of the season, but Augustine has been borderline dominant as of late. In fact, he has a SV% of .935% over his last five starts which is phenomenal for a freshman goaltender. 

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Augustine is going to have a very real chance of being the starting goaltender for team USA in this year’s tournament, with Jacob Fowler being his biggest competition for the spot. I expect team management to go with the hot-hand through preliminary games to decide which goalie gets the coveted starter’s net, though I think they’ll also be willing to go to their backup since both goalies look like great options.

Trey Augustine USNTDP
Trey Augustine, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

You may remember that Augustine played at this tournament last year as a 17-year-old, earning a 4-1 record, .891SV% and a bronze medal for his hard work. However, those numbers are a bit misleading since his final save percentage took a huge hit in the bronze medal game, an absolute barn burner that saw USA top Sweden in overtime by a score of 8-7. Before that game, Augustine had a .922 SV% across five games, which would have been the fifth highest in the tournament.

With another year of growth and development, I expect Augustine to be a formidable goaltender in this year’s tournament, though it’s also worth mentioning that he will be eligible for the 2025 World Juniors as well which will be located in Ottawa, Canada.

Projected Lineup Spot: In Competition for Starter Spot

Team Sweden

Axel Sandin Pellikka, RD, Skellefteå AIK

Axel Sandin Pellikka (ASP) has been getting some well deserved attention to start the year in Sweden where he leads all SHL defensemen in goals with seven (next closest has four). He is also tied for 10th in total scoring amongst SHL defenders with 10 total points.

Having already doubled his SHL scoring total for last season, it seems that ASP is a lock to make Sweden’s lineup on Boxing Day. Sandin Pellikka was a force for Sweden at the U18 World Championship last May, playing massive minutes in all situations and scoring 11 points in just seven games, leading to a silver medal and the award for the tournament’s best defenseman.

ASP made headlines in last year’s WJC as a 17-year-old, draft eligible defender who gradually earned the trust of his coaches throughout the tournament, ending up with some significant power play time by the time the tournament wound to a close. He will be competing with Mattias Havelid for the right side spot on Sweden’s top defensive pairing, but I think ASP has the inside edge given the size advantage he has over Havelid and his superior production in the SHL this Fall. 

Axel Sandin Pellikka Team Sweden
Axel Sandin Pellikka, Team Sweden (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Like Augustine, Sandin Pellikka will be eligible to return to the 2025 WJC in Ottawa where he would be leading the charge for Sweden. This year, I think Sweden will be more competitive than they have in recent years, but they would become gold favorites if they can convince the Anaheim Ducks to loan them Leo Carlsson who would work wonders on their center depth, giving them the elite first line center most teams need in order to win a tournament like this one.

Projected Lineup Spot: Top Four Defender, Possible PP1 QB

Honorable Mentions:

Team Austria

Marco Kasper, C, Grand Rapids Griffins

I know that he wouldn’t necessarily have even joined the tournament if Austria were competing, but I’m a bit sad that we won’t get to see Marco Kasper tearing up the competition at this year’s World Juniors. Austria was relegated at last year’s tournament after a flu-ridden David Reinbacher did everything within his power to hold the team together so they are no longer in the top division. It’s unfortunate that we won’t get this chance to see Kasper bouncing around as the undisputed best player on the team.

Projected Lineup Spot: Best Player on the Team

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