Salin, Slukynsky compete at 2023 World Junior Summer Showcase

Summer is a time for training and preparation, as it pertains to the NHL level.

For those who are hopeful of skating at the World Junior Championships, however, the summer is also a time for evaluation.

Last week, the best under-20 prospects from the United States, Finland and Sweden met in Plymouth, Michigan for a week-long showcase, which saw invited prospects skate in eight games between the three countries, in preparation for the tournament this December. The United States broke up into two sides, making it a four-team showcase. Included on the rosters were a pair of LA Kings prospects – defenseman Otto Salin and goaltender Hampton Slukynsky – who are vying to represent Finland and the USA respectively come the formal tournament this winter.

Salin has to be a near lock for the Finland squad and will be expected to play a large role with his native country. He was on the 2023 roster and collected three assists from five games played, as Finland bowed out in the quarterfinals after finishing second in their group. As a returning player, Salin started off the summer showcase with a goal in Finland’s first game, a 4-2 victory over USA White. Salin went on to collect assists against Sweden and the second game against Team White later in the tournament, giving him a total of three points (1-2-3) from four games played. Finland finished the showcase event 2-2-0 overall. Salin played in a second-pairing role during last season’s event and with defensemen above him aging out of the tournament, expect to see Salin play an even more prominent role. One of Salin’s helpers came on the man advantage, as did his goal, which is a role he should see time in during the main event this winter.

Salin is currently expected to return to Finland for another season playing in Liiga, the top professional league in the country. In his Draft +1 season, Salin spent all but three games playing in the top league, an indication of his level of play at a young age. An action-packed season ahead for Salin, who attended his first development camp with the organization last month. More on the young blueliner HERE.

Slukynsky is certainly less of a tournament lock than Salin is, but was nonetheless one of five goaltenders invited to the event for Team USA. Slukynsky was a part of Team White and saw action in three of his team’s four games throughout the showcase. He logged approximately 80 minutes in total, playing a period in his first game and half the game in his final two. His showcase debut came in the third period against Team Sweden, as he stopped all nine shots he faced in an eventual 10-1 victory over Sweden. He also collected an assist on his team’s final goal. In his second game, Slukynsky played the second half of the matchup against Team Blue, as he made 19 saves from 21 shots of a 7-3 victory. Slukynsky drew his first start in the showcase finale, against Team Finland, making nine saves on 11 shots in a 4-3 defeat. Overall, Slukynsky made 37 saves on 41 shots, good for a .902 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average from his three appearances, leading all American netminders in both categories. Just one goaltender from all three nations who appeared in multiple games had better splits – Finland’s Niklas Kokko – making Slukynsky a standout performer from the event as the top US-born goaltender.

Slukynsky’s status for this season’s event has less to do with him and more to do with the returning netminders around him. Being on last season’s roster isn’t necessarily a guarantee of making the team the next year, but it’s certainly a good start. Expect Team USA to carry three goaltenders and two of last season’s trio are eligible for this season’s tournament as well. Slukynsky is eligible for both the 2024 and 2025 tournaments and there are spots to be won with early-season play. A strong start will go a long way on a competitive Team USA, but either way, the showcase was a positive for Slukynsky as he begins his first season in the USHL.

While the showcase features only prospects from the United States, Finland and Sweden, the Kings should have a few other prospects in contention for places on their respective rosters.

2023 selections Jakub Dvorak (Czechia) and Koehn Ziemmer (Canada) are both likely to be in the mix when selection time comes in December. Defensemen Angus Booth and Matthew Mania are both eligible for Team Canada, with Mania eligible for the 2025 tournament as well. Ziemmer falls just short of eligibility for 2025, because of his December birthday, but will be expected to make a push for a spot this winter. One to keep an eye on, should he get off to a strong start in the WHL.

Next step for the World Juniors will come in early-December, when pre-tournament camps are held. Hockey Canada opted not to hold a summer showcase, as they usually do, so our first look at any potential Kings prospects invited won’t come for a few months. Lots of different routes for these and other players, but great to get a bit of hockey here in early-August, when there’s not much to come by.

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