With the World Juniors officially over, it’s time to take a look at how our Florida Panthers prospects fared in our favorite annual international tournament.
For those of us who watched this year’s edition of the World Juniors, we have to admit how spoiled we were with some great, entertaining action. The group stage played out in nice, dramatic fashion, while the knockout stage provided some thrilling moments, leading up to the finals.
For the Florida Panthers, however, their prospects competed very well, despite finishing in unfavorable places. Starting with forward Grigori Denisenko, the Russian captain closed out the tournament with nine points (3G & 6A) in seven games, matching his tally from last year’s competition.
Last year, the Russians took home the bronze medal, while this year, they fell short of the gold, having to settle for silver in second place. Despite the shortcomings, the 19-year-old still had a phenomenal tournament, showcasing his soon-to-be NHL talent.
In reward for his outstanding play, Denisenko was also named one of Russia’s top three players on the team throughout the tournament. The silver medal may not sit well in his stomach – especially considering that it was his final appearance in this tournament – but if there’s any indication of his game based on these past two World Junior Championships, it’s that Denisenko has a very bright future in the NHL with the Florida Panthers.
Next up is goaltender Spencer Knight – who unfortunately crashed out early with Team USA. Knight is someone I would’ve loved to see more in action this year, but the States were unable to crack a stubborn Finnish side in the quarterfinals, falling ever-so-narrowingly 1-0.
Finishing in sixth place, Knight competed in four games, recording a GAA of 2.49 and a SV% of .913. His tournament didn’t get off to a good start when the US fell to the Canadians on opening day, but as the competition progressed, so did Spencer Knight’s play.
Ultimately, he played as well as he could’ve – especially in the quarters against the Finns, but it wasn’t enough to get his side over the hump and into the semifinals. Like Denisenko for Russia, Knight was also named one of the three best players on Team USA. Expect to see Knight return to the WJC next year as he looks to rebound strongly with the Americans.
Last up is Justin Schütz – who helped Team Germany survive relegation. For Schütz and the Germans, the goal going into the tournament was to avoid relegation and remain in the first division. They placed last in their group, set to face Team Kazakhstan in the relegation stage, where the two sides battled it out in three games, in which the Germans came out on top, 2-1.
The 19-year-old concluded the competition with four points (4A) in seven games, helping Germany remain in the top flight for next year’s tournament. For Schütz, this was his final appearance in the WJC – a tournament he’s personally had much success in.
For this year alone, it was quite the World Junior tournament, with lots of memorable action and experience that each of these three individuals will never forget.