The World Junior Championships have come to a close, with Canada winning gold, Czechia winning silver and the United States winning bronze. Canada’s back-to-back gold medals were the first for them since 2008 and 2009, stemming off of a victory in the summer edition of the 2022 tournament. Czechia’s medal was their first since a bronze in 2005 and their first appearance in the Gold Medal Game since 2001.
For LA Kings fans, many were likely happy that Czechia’s appearance resulted in a silver medal instead of a gold, with Kings defensive prospect Brandt Clarke on the Canadian side that won the tournament, via a 3-2 overtime victory yesterday evening. Kings prospect Kenny Connors, a fourth-round selection in 2022, also walked away with hardware, courtesy of a wild, 8-7 overtime victory over Sweden in the bronze-medal game.
Recapping the tournaments of the three participating LA Kings prospects.
Brandt Clarke – Gold Medal
7 GP, 2G, 6A, 8PTS
BRANDT CLARKE TIME ⏰ pic.twitter.com/iiOBIzfSGu
— Barrie Colts (@OHLBarrieColts) January 5, 2023
Couldn’t have asked for much more from Clarke from a 10,000-foot perspective. The right-shot blueliner was over a point-per-game, as he led all Canadian defensemen in scoring during the tournament, tied for third amongst all defensemen participating from 10 nations. Clarke was a regular on the second pairing for Team Canada, contributing on special teams and saving perhaps his biggest offensive contributions for the medal round. Clarke scored in the semifinals against the United States and added a pair of assists during the gold-medal game against Czechia, including a helper on the game-winning goal in overtime.
Todd McLellan on Clarke
It’s been a month already that he’s been gone, in that range and time flew by really quick. I know the lead up to going, and I’m sure there’s not a single young player that wants to leave the National Hockey League just like that in the middle of December, but Brandt accepted the challenge. He was all in and I’m sure [last night], he’s really glad he left the National Hockey League to go and enjoy that experience. I think he’s probably grown as a player immensely. To win a championship under that type of scrutiny in Canada, there’s a ton of pressure on those kids and he was a big part of it. We were glued to the TV, since Boxing Day when it started, we were glued to the TV watching our prospects, other prospects and we couldn’t be happier for him.
As announced earlier today, Clarke has been reassigned to the OHL’s Barrie Colts, where he will spend the remainder of the 2022-23 season. Clarke got his taste of the NHL and didn’t look out of place in doing so. Now, he’ll look towards making one championship into two, with the Colts looking like major players in the OHL postseason picture. A great tournament for an exciting prospect.
Kenny Connors – Bronze Medal
7 GP, 2G, 0A, 2PTS
Kenny Connors finishes off the tic-tac-toe to extend USA's lead to 2-0.#WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/a6E6hvE6pw
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 5, 2023
Connors walks away from his first and only World Juniors with a medal, as he helped Team USA win bronze. Connors netted two goals from seven games played at the tournament, as he took on a role lower in the lineup than he typically plays at the NCAA level with UMass. Connors was a regular on the fourth line with Team USA and saved the bulk of his scoring for the knockout rounds. Connors was scoreless in group play, but scored a goal in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, including a goal against Team Canada in the semifinals, which helped earn Team USA’s player of the game award against the eventual tournament champions.
Connors heads back to UMass in the NCAA, where he was the leading scorer when he was selected for the tournament. The Minutemen are ranked 15th in the nation, right in the mix for NCAA Tournament contention. Here’s to a big second half for one of the nation’s best freshmen.
Otto Salin – Quarterfinals
5 GP, 0G, 3A, 3PTS
Salin is the lone Kings prospect who is eligible to return to the event next season. Salin was a top-four defenseman for Team Finland, skating on the team’s second defensive pairing for the bulk of the tournament. Salin had an assist in Finland’s 5-2 win over Slovakia in group play, as well as two assists in the team’s 3-0 win over Latvia. Salin averaged 16:23 in time on ice throughout the course his five games played, including a tournament-high 19:28 against Team USA in the final game of pool play.
As noted above, Salin is eligible for one more tournament next year, where he should be a key player for a Finnish team looking to get back into the medal rounds. Salin has spent his season to date with HFK Helsinki in SM-Liiga, the top men’s professional league in Finland, where he’ll expect to finish out his season.
Looking ahead, Salin headlines the potential participants in next season’s tournament from a Kings perspective. Of prospects currently in the system, only Angus Booth of Canada would be eligible, though there are still several picks to be made in 2023 between now and then!
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