Happy Sunday, Insiders!
Certainly an eventful Saturday night as far as August hockey is concerned! The rescheduled World Juniors gave us some much-needed entertainment in these slow summer months and LA Kings prospects walked away from the event with three medals, all won during yesterday’s deciding games. Finnish forwards Samuel Helenius and Kasper Simontaival suffered overtime heartbreak at the hands of Team Canada, with the pair of Finns walking away with silver medals. Both players were also a part of Finland’s 2021 bronze-medal winning squad, giving both future Kings a pair of medals as they conclude their respective under-20 careers.
Earlier in the day, Swedish defenseman Helge Grans claimed his first medal at the under-20 level, as he helped Team Sweden to bronze with a win over Czechia in the third-place game. Grans was participating in his first and only World Juniors and walks away with hardware, after Sweden failed to medal during the 2021 tournament.
A look below at the tournament summaries for all three Kings prospects –
Simontaival was the leading scorer amongst Kings prospects, as he finished the event with seven points (3-4-7) from seven games played. The young forward was tied for fourth on Team Finland in points throughout the course of the event and tied for 13th in scoring overall amongst all participating players.
As noted here, Simontaival was an impactful offensive player during pool play, as he totaled five points (2-3-5) from four games played, helping to lead Finland to the second seed in Group A.
Nice little move in the shootout from Kasper Simontaival to earn Team 🇫🇮 its second straight win.
Simontaival also had an assist in the win over Czechia, giving him two from his first two games in the WJC. pic.twitter.com/oF0Z1T0039
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) August 11, 2022
Entering the quarterfinals, Simontaival got Finland off on the right foot in its single-elimination game against Germany. Facing a win or go home situation, Simontaival both started and finished off a beautiful passing play off the rush to get his team on the board, with his third goal of the tournament. Simontaival added an assist on the man advantage for his team’s second goal, giving Finland an early lead it would not relinquish en route to a 5-2 win and a place in the semifinals.
Simontaival did not get on the scoreboard during the semifinals or finals, a pair of lower-scoring games. The shifty forward logged 13:29 in a 1-0 win over Sweden, which advanced Finland to the gold-medal game. He added another 12:33 against Canada in the final, a total that was certainly impacted by the seven minor penalties assessed to the Finns.
Great start this morning for @LAKings prospect Kasper Simontaival in the WJC quarterfinals!
Scored this opening goal and collected the primary assist on Finland's second. An early two points and an early 2-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/l8EXo9C3Vn
— Zach Dooley (@DooleyLAK) August 17, 2022
Simontaival finished his under-20 career at exactly a point-per-game, with 14 points (7-7-14) from 14 games played. Per Quant Hockey, Simontaival is one of 19 players in Finland U-20 history to appear in two tournaments and average both 0.5 goals and assists per game or better.
While he did not post the offensive totals that his teammate Simontaival did, Helenius projects as a different type of player in the long run. Standing at 6-6, Helenius profiles as a bottom-six center, with an ability to win faceoffs, kill penalties, be defensively sound and bring an element of nastiness to his game.
During the group stage, Helenius scored a goal – his only point of the tournament – in Finland’s loss to Canada. His full performance from pool play is addressed here.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 15, 2022
Helenius centered his team’s fourth line in all three knockout round games, as he averaged 11:29 in time on ice. Helenius was strong in the faceoff circle during the group stage and continued that performance into the knockout round as well. The centerman won 14-of-23 faceoffs across the three games, good for a 60.9% success rate. Prospect analyst Scott Wheeler of The Athletic was complementary of Helenius on the penalty kill, with his ability to use his long frame to effectively break up plays when down a man. Those are the types of things Helenius will need to do well to reach the NHL, which we’ll look out for this season with AHL-Ontario.
Despite being a 2021 draft pick, Helenius is a November birthday and will age out for the 2023 tournament this winter. Helenius concludes his under-20 career with five points (3-2-5) from 13 games played.
2022 was the one and only shot at the World Juniors for Grans, and he and his teammates earned a medal from their participation. Grans was a late cut from the 2021 squad and will age out of next year’s tournament, so the bronze medal is a nice reward for his wait to finally play in this event.
Grans tallied three assists from four games in pool play, as Team Sweden won three games and earned the second seed out of Group B. As noted here, Grans had assists against Switzerland, Austria and Germany, including an impressive hold in at the blueline and dish for a helper in his tournament opener.
In the quarterfinals, Grans was incredibly active, as he logged 21:00 in a 2-1 win over Latvia, second most on his team, to guarantee Sweden the chance to play for a medal. Grans went on to play just shy of 21 minutes in the narrow, 1-0 defeat against Finland in the semifinals but bounced back in the bronze-medal game against Czechia, as he played 21:43 and collected an assist, as well as a +2 rating in the victory.
Grans concluded his tournament with four points (0-4-4) from seven games played, as well as a +5 rating and six penalty minutes. Grans, like the pair of Finns, will age out for the tournament in December.
Looking ahead, the trio of aforementioned Kings will not be eligible for the December 2023 tournament, but others within the system figure to compete for roster spots. Americans Kenny Connors and Jack Hughes participated in the 2023 selection camp this summer, as did Canadians Brandt Clarke and Francesco Pinelli, who both featured at the 2021 Under-18 tournament. Defenseman Otto Salin was a part of Finland’s “challenger” squad at their summer development camp, a sign he is in contention for the 2023 squad.