The San Jose Sharks have two prospects at the World Junior Championships, and they might play each other for the gold medal.
But first, Filip Bystedt’s Sweden must defeat Czechia (11:30 AM PT) and Benjamin Gaudreau’s Canada will have to top USA (3:30 PM PT) in today’s WJC semifinal games. The gold medal game is on Jan. 5.
This tourney has been a coming out party for Bystedt, who was a somewhat-surprising first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-4 centerman, lined up with 2023 potential top-three pick Leo Carlsson and Buffalo Sabres’ 2021 first-round pick Isak Rosen, leads Tre Kronor in ice time (18:30) and is tied with defenseman Ludvig Jansson for the team lead in points (two goals, five assists).
On a star-studded squad that includes Jonathan Lekkerimaki (No. 15), Noah Ostlund (16), and Liam Ohgren (19), all drafted ahead of Bystedt (27), it’s the San Jose Sharks prospect who’s been leaned on most.
For Gaudreau, however, his 2023 World Juniors might be defined by coming out of Canada’s first round-robin game, a 5-2 loss to Czechia. The Sarnia Sting netminder earned the start with a chance to take the ball into the medal round for the defending champs, but instead, he gave up five goals on 17 shots and was pulled for Thomas Milic. Milic defeated Slovakia in the quarterfinals and is expected to get the start tonight.
On the eve of the semi-finals, I spoke with Chris Peters of FloHockey about both San Jose Sharks prospects’ tourneys – he’s not as high on Bystedt or as low on Gaudreau as some might be – and he also shared what his rookie year expectations are for perhaps now-unanimous 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard, who’s put up an incomprehensible 21 points in just five WJC contests.
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