The World Junior Championships are just around the corner (with some pre-tournament games even underway) and the Red Wings will be well represented. Four prospects from the Wings farm system will be playing across three national teams. Those four are Jared McIsaac, Malte Setkov, Joseph Veleno, and Filip Zadina.
This year will be much more exciting for fans to watch. In recent years the team has lacked one of the big names in the tournament. You’d have to go back to Dylan Larkin or Petr Mrazek for the last time the Wings had a high-end player participating.
The expectations will be different for each one of the four. Here is what you can expect from each of them:
Jared McIsaac, Canada
McIsaac will serve as a depth player on a stacked Canadian blue-line. He won’t see top-4 ice time but could get some time on the penalty kill. It’s hard to envision him getting the nod from coach when you have Evan Bouchard, Josh Brook, Ian Mitchell, and Ty Smith sitting right there. With strong play he could possibly move past Noah Dobson on the depth chart.
In Canada’s pre-tournament games McIsaac was serving as the 6th/7th defensemen which further indicates he won’t be a go-to-guy for the Great White North. Nevertheless, he still beat out several other viable candidates like Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Nicolas Beaudin so the coaching staff does believe in him. He could end up being used in key situations like defending the lead late in games.
His small-ish role this year shouldn’t disappoint fans. making the team now almost assures he’ll be returning next year where he’ll most likely serve a much bigger role.
Malte Setkov, Denmark
Setkov is one of the more forgotten players in the Wings farm system, playing over in Sweden where he isn’t putting up many points. This season has been a struggle for the Malmo defenseman having barely played over the last two months due to benchings. The World Juniors could do wonders for his confidence as he is set to be Denmark’s top player.
Denmark isn’t the best team to begin with, being a nation that could be relegated. Setkov, along with Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jonas Rondbjerg, are the only NHL draft picks on the squad. Setkov played massive minutes for the Danes last year and that will happen again this year. Don’t be surprise to see him struggle thoughout the tournament. He’s going to be used in a work horse role against the best teams and that could overwhelm him.
His plus-minus will be in the toilet but the experience should be quite valuable for a kid who hasn’t been playing a lot of hockey this year.
Joseph Veleno, Canada
Veleno is coming into this tournament with a lot of momentum. He has been torching the QMJHL over his last nine games, posting 31 points. Red Wings fans will have high standards for him, but those hopes will have to be tempered just a bit. Early signs point to him playing in Canada’s bottom-6 to allow the team to roll four very dangerous lines. Canada is the favorite to win it all and being one of the younger players won’t help Veleno’s cause.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective. He has been playing on the wing in the pre-tournament games but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Less defensive responsibilities give him more offensive freedom which could get him noticed by the coaching staff. If the team hits a wall he could be the next man up.
This entire tournament is a huge wildcard for Veleno. I wouldn’t bet on him expanding his initial role too much, but on the other hand there is always that Drake Batherson who comes out of no where. With Veleno’s exceptional resume why can’t that player be him?
Filip Zadina, Czech Republic
Okay, now you can get hyped! Zadina will have the spot light on him all tournament. You know teams haven’t forgotten his post-draft comments stating certain teams made a mistake on passing on him. He’s a confident son-of-a-bitch who has his eyes set on a medal.
And why not? The Czech Republic has a strong team this year, and he’ll be the center piece. His 7 goals in 7 games at last years World Juniors, which included a few highlight reel goals, put him on the map. Now, all the attention is on him to perform. He is one of the favorites to come away with player of the tournament. He certainly is capable of it.
A strong performance could help kick-start the rest of his season and put him on his way to filling opponent’s nets with pucks sooner rather than later.