Sens Prospects to Keep an Eye on at the World Juniors

EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 25: Jake Sanderson #8 of the United States skates against Russia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 25, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

The World Junior Championship is one of the greatest hockey tournaments in any age category. As much as the Olympics is the most high profiled hockey tournament, there’s just something about the World Juniors that makes it so exciting to watch. Maybe it’s the fact that it occurs every year during the Christmas holidays, one of the greatest times of the year. Or maybe it’s that we’re watching future NHL stars and top prospects compete against one another with each country’s best players under the age of 20. It could be because these kids are so highly skilled and emotionally driven that it makes every game a roller coaster. Either way, it provides some must watch hockey every year.

The Ottawa Senators have five top prospects attending the tournament, so let’s take a look at which players will provide some must watch hockey this year:

Jake Sanderson, D, Team USA (2020 draft- 1st round, 5th overall)
Sanderson is undoubtedly Ottawa’s number one prospect outside of the NHL. He is a returning player for Team USA after helping secure Gold at last year’s tournament, where his strong play resulted in a jump to the top D pair, and the most ice time among Team USA skaters in the Gold medal game. He is second on his University of North Dakota team with 19 points in 15 games (first in PPG), and is third in the country for points by a defenseman (second in PPG, slightly behind last year’s 1st overall pick, Owen Power). Sanderson has the ability to completely take over hockey games with his effortless skating and ability to play both ends of the ice. His play reminds me a lot of Thomas Chabot, and after he became the first defenseman to win tournament MVP, Sanderson has a good chance to follow in his footsteps if he’s able to dominate the way his does for North Dakota. Sanderson has captained Team USA at both the Under-17 and Under-18 tournaments, so don’t be surprised if he gets the C at this year’s World Juniors tournament.

Ridly Greig, F, Team Canada (2020 draft- 1st round, 28th overall)
Moving from Sanderson to Greig doesn’t mean we have to move too far; the two are lifelong friends and even skate together during the summer. Even wilder, both their dads were chosen by the Hartford Whalers in the same draft class. Crazy. Greig is the type of player that gets involved in every aspect of the game; he’s skilled, strong defensively, and unafraid to mix it up in a scrum. With 28 points in 19 games as the captain of Brandon in the WHL, Greig is set to make his World Juniors debut. His game reminds me a lot of Nazem Kadri, and will likely play that role for a strong Canadian team looking to reclaim Gold after a tough loss to rival Team USA in last year’s final. Greig is likely to play third line centre, provide a bit of edge for the team, kill penalties, and even chip in a bit offensively without being heavily relied on to do so. Matching up against the world’s best in his age category will be a good test for Greig, who will be turning pro upon completion of his junior season.

Roby Järventie, F, Team Finland (2020 draft- 2nd round, 33rd overall)
Järventie is returning to Team Finland following a pretty disappointing tournament last year. He started off last year’s tournament on the top line, and first power play unit, before playing his way to the bottom of the lineup to the tune of 0 points in 6 games. Järventie should come into this year’s tournament with another prime opportunity to contribute offensively. If Järventie comes into the tournament looking to prove last year was a fluke, his instincts in the offensive zone will create a number of scoring chances that his elite shot can bury. He is a dynamic offensive threat when he is engaged in the play, but has issues playing away from the puck and can be known to completely disappear from games. With 12 points in his first 25 AHL games, Järventie will be looking to make a significant offensive impact for Team Finland this year.

Tyler Kleven, D, Team USA (2020 draft- 2nd round, 44th overall)
Kleven is also a returning player for Team USA and is expected to have a larger role this time around after dressing in only two games at last year’s tournament, chipping in an assist and a few thunderous hits in his limited minutes. He is a big, strong defender who is capable of playing a solid shut down game when needed, and will be relied upon to do so for Team USA. He has a cannon of a shot, but with only 6 points through 19 games for North Dakota, he will not be looked upon to spark the offense, and will instead settle into a role on the second or third D pair.

Leevi Meriläinen, G, Team Finland (2020 draft- 3rd round, 71st overall)
Meriläinen is not expected to start for Team Finland with them returning a goalie from last year’s squad, but definitely has a strong chance to win it over if he plays well. Fresh off being named the OHL’s goaltender of the week, Meriläinen is gaining confidence playing in North America for the first time, and looks to build on his 14-4-3 start with the Kingston Frontenacs at the World Juniors. If Finland’s returning goalie slips up at any point, look for Meriläinen to get the nod to take the reins and run.

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