IIHF Under 20 World Championships Are Here

Just because The NHL has now entered its holiday break doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get your hockey fix over the holiday. On December 26 in Gothenburg Sweeden the International Ice Hockey Federation will renew its annual Under 20 Ice Hockey World Championships. The annual tournament will pit the world’s best under 20-year-olds in a two-week “look into the future” of professional hockey tournament.  All games can be seen live on the NHL network, and schedules and other information can be found on the website www.iihf.com.

The Flyers

Your Philadelphia Flyers will be represented by three prospects in this year’s tournament. Cutter Gauthier (USA), Oliver Bonk (CAN), and Alex Ciernik (SVK). Notably missing from this group is the Flyer’s 2023 7th overall draft pick Matvei Michkov (RUS) due to the geopolitical situations involving Russia they are disqualified from international competition.  

Cutter Gauthier

In mentioning Flyers’ prospects, Cutter Gauthier must be brought up. The 19-year-old will look to make a big splash returning to the WJC for another year. He’ll be asked to take the reins as a leader, especially in the absence of Arizona Coyote, Logan Cooley. Last year in the Championship, Gauthier had 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 games. In his two years representing the U.S.A. at the World Juniors, he has accumulated 19 points in 13 games. Putting him over 2.00 points per game pace.

In 2021-22, Cutter Gauthier took home a silver medal and will be hunting for gold this winter with a well-structured U.S.A. team behind him. Gauthier will look to bring the gold home for the Americans this time around. Flyers fans should pay attention to Gauthier’s playing style in this year’s tournament. This season at BC Gauthier has played at times a very frustrating perimeter game. In this tournament, he will be called to deliver in front of the net for the stacked USA roster.

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Oliver Bonk   

One of the handful of Flyers’ Canadian prospects has a great chance at being a solid backend piece to a strong Team Canada this year. Oliver Bonk is off to a more than hot start with the London Knights in the OHL, with 25 assists in 28 games, while also tailing six goals.  Oliver Bonk has never been chosen to represent Team Canada at the World Juniors and has only played in the OHL, GOJHL, and HEO (U14-18). The WJC would be a big jump for Bonk and would give him a chance to not only showcase his skills but also use the time as a learning experience.

Alex Ciernik

 Alex Ciernik has a lot of experience at the international level, playing for Team Slovakia. In 2022-23, Ciernik had 2 goals and 3 points in 5 games for Slovakia. The 19-year-old has an ample chance at making the Slovakian roster and making his third-year appearance at the World Juniors. Besides playing on the international stage, Alex Ciernik has played acceptingly well for the struggling Vasterviks IK team.

Ciernik is the only player on Vastervik who has a positive plus/minus at +2. He has 4 goals and 7 assists in 17 games played. His team is scoring an average of 2 goals per game…and is -29 in goal differential. Ciernik himself has been directly involved in 30% of the team’s goals (goal/assist) on ice for ~50% of the team’s overall goals in games he played.

Notable Missing Flyers Prospects

Matvei Michkov

Unfortunately, Flyer’s faithful will have to go without the young Russian prodigy Matvei Michkov at the World Juniors. Until the IIHF and Russia make peace, Russian prospects may not take part in national competition. The IIHF cited multiple concerns for Russia’s players, coaches, and staff due to the current geopolitical climate in Russia.

Denver Barkey

 Another Canadian prospect and London Knight who could make a difference in this year’s Junior Championship is Denver Barkey. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic projects that Denver Barkey will have a fantastic chance at making the team and could be an impact player alongside Owen Beck and teammate Easton Cowan.

Cowan and Barkey have been terrorizing the Ontario Hockey League this season. Both have great chemistry together and would be great paired up together on opposite wings for Team Canada. The Flyers third-round pick is on pace for 91 points this season (42g, 49a). Currently sitting at 23 goals and 31 assists in 30 games played this season.

Carson Bjarnason

Carson Bjarnason is the top-ranked netminder from the 2023 NHL Draft and GM Danny Briere traded up to land the Carberry, Manitoba native. The 18-year-old has previously competed in six World Junior games for Team Canada, who took home bronze in 2022-23. Carson’s adjustment to the IIHF was a little difficult, suffering a 3.51 GAA and .849 SV%. Despite that, those 6 games were the most starts by any goaltender in the WJC.

Currently, he is posting a .906 SV% and 3.15 GAA in 16 starts, on an even.500 Brandon Wheat Kings team, that has a shallow defensive core. He faces some fierce competition this year if he hopes to make the cut. Ex: Winnipeg Jet, Domenic DiVincentiis, Buffalo Sabre, Scott Ratzlaff, and 2024 Draft Eligible, Mathis Rousseau.

Cole Knuble

Knuble is attending the University of Notre Dame in the NCAA / Big Ten. Since committing to ND, he has struggled offensively. After a strong year with Fargo Force in the USHL, the Flyers saw promise in the son of former Flyer Mike Knuble. However, making the jump to the NCAA has stunned his production with only 2 points in 13 games.

Although he is eligible, it is unlikely that Cole Knuble will get an offeror to cut to play for Team U.S.A. at the World Juniors this year. Cole Knuble has yet to take part or be invited to play for Team U.S.A., but he has played in the NTDP and the USHL. Like his counterparts, Devin Kaplan, and Cutter Gauthier.

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The World Will Be Watching

Players like Maclin Celebrini (CAN), Cole Eiserman (USA), and Berkly Spokane (CAN) will be watched very closely.  These players are the featured players to be selected very highly in this year’s NHL draft. The abilities of these players are game-changers to any NHL franchise lucky enough to acquire them.

Favorite Time Of The Year

The IIHF hosts two world championship events every year, one in December and one in May. The May one is for players over 20 and features many NHL players whose teams either failed to make the playoffs or have been eliminated. The tournament in December is strictly for the youngers who represent the future of the NHL and Hockey in general. Although all players 20 and under are eligible to play, players like Conor Bedard (19) must be released by their current NHL team to participate. Either way there is nothing like this tournament anywhere in the world. We here at EOP will have you covered throughout.    

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.