That’s a wrap, folks! With Canada winning the gold medal game on Sunday, the 2020 World Juniors came to a close. The Flyers, while not as highly represented as they have been in the past couple of years, still had a handful of prospects representing their counties in this tournament, and now that the dust has settled, it’s time to talk about how they did.
We should get right into it, but before we do, I should also drop my annual note that these are all kids playing in this tournament and they did their best and we’re going to be nice to them. Okay, cool, on to the analysis.
Bobby Brink. 5 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P
As one of the Flyers’ more project-y prospects, Brink was one that we were particularly excited to see in this tournament, just to start to take stock of how he’s developed even after just half of a season in college. And the good news? We’re already seeing some positive development—while he’s still not a burner, one of the first things I noticed about him is that he already looks a bit stronger and his straight line speed has taken a bit of a step forward (no pun intended).
In terms of his tournament overall, Brink had a bit of a weird one, and through really no fault of his own. He started the tournament up on the third line with Alex Turcotte and John Beecher, and looked solid there. Indeed, even in the first game against Canada where the US team didn’t look terribly sharp, Brink was active in generating chances, and he looked like one of their best players. But, after the second game against Germany, despite those strong first two showings, he was bumped down to the fourth line and had his 5-on-5 minutes a bit more limited. He did, at least, get consistent power play time throughout the tournament, where he had chances to do things like this.
Bobby Brink PP— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 27, 2019
5-3 USA pic.twitter.com/i5XjGLdHmv
And we’re obviously a little biased here—we want our favorite prospects to be getting All Of The Minutes—but Brink’s performance did seem perhaps worthy of longer looks at 5-on-5, even with some of the “bigger names” ahead of him on the depth chart, if you will. He was one of their more consistent shot contributors (indeed, one of the best in their games against Russia and Finland), more or less confirming what the eye had to say, that he kept his energy up and was active in helping to generate chances, even when his team was, say, trying to get settled or struggling against an opponent’s more aggressive forecheck.
USA primary shot contributions at 5v5:— Olivia Lin (@oliviaylin) January 2, 2020
Could've been nice to see more of Bobby Brink (though he did take shifts with Drury and Zegras). Curtis Hall had a lot of chances too despite playing on the fourth line. Ty Emberson lead USA in shot attempts at 5v5 and shots today
The takeaways for us are still positive, though. Brink’s skating (his biggest weakness) already looks better, and with his energy and strong, aggressive forechecking, was able to continue to produce offense pretty consistently at this next level against tougher competition in his age group. It’s hard to find much to complain about in his performance, limited as it ended up being.
Cam York. 5 GP, 0 G, 0 P
It was sort of a weird tournament for York in a couple of ways, and we don’t totally know how to explain it. Alex Appleyard reported that York said he was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury during the tournament, so he wasn’t at 100 percent, and also this may have affected his usage. However, we also found out after the US was eliminated that his coach at Michigan wasn’t aware of any injury.
Asked Mel today about York's shoulder, and he said he's not aware of any injury there. No issues with it when he left, and added that usually, he gets a call right away when an injury happens at WJC.— Bailey Johnson (@BaileyAJohnson_) January 3, 2020
Entirely possible it's minor and he wasn't told, but still, interesting
Now, as Johnson said, it’s possible that the injury was minor enough that Michigan didn’t need to be informed immediately, but still serious enough that it hampered him in the tournament and Team USA opted to limit him. Or maybe he just fell victim to some of the US’s somewhat... curious lineup decisions.
In any event, York played a limited role in this tournament, averaging about six minutes a game, and was used almost exclusively on the power play in the last couple of games, so we didn’t really see a whole lot of him. But, that said, the looks we did get were generally positive. York’s offensive merits aren’t really a mystery right now, and he looked solid when anchoring the US’s top power play unit at the point. His passing was crisp and his speed was a real asset in preventing would-be clears. There isn’t a massive body of work to break down, but what we have is that York was given a pretty specific job to do, and he didn’t look out of place doing it. Selfishly, we just wish we had seen more of him in this tournament.
The good news? He’s the only defenseman from this year’s roster that will be eligible to return for next year’s tournament, and assuming his team releases him, he should have a much bigger role on their future team. It’s something.
Egor Zamula. 7 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P
Zamula, was one of two Flyers prospects to pick up a medal in this tournament, as he and the Russian squad went home with silver this year. We weren’t really sure what to expect out of Zamula in this tournament, as it was his first time playing in this tournament and we haven’t really gotten to see much of him playing in tournaments like this in general. But, in short, he really impressed.
Zamula brought, on the whole, a well rounded game. His offensive instincts jumped out, as he kicked off the tournament with a two goal outing against the Czechs (and you can watch his first goal of the game below).
Yegor Zamula (#LetsGoFlyers) walks around a defender and fires a seeing-eye shot through traffic, beating Dostal (#LetsGoDucks).— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) December 26, 2019
Russia is back in this one. #WJC2020 #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/WCPou8VguN
That was going to be the end of his goal scoring in the tournament, but he was still actively generating chances throughout, and was rewarded with a couple more assists for his efforts. The good news, too, is that this didn’t really come at the expense of the defensive side of his game—we have no complaints about his gaps or in-zone coverage, he was checking all of the boxes for us. Really, he was one of Russia’s best players in the tournament, and it was a real delight to behold.
Personally, I’ve tended to be a bit more hesitant to fully jump on the Zamula bandwagon here, because it wasn’t entirely clear if he was really just something of a late bloomer, or if there really was something else there not to like, and that was the reason all of the NHL teams (who had presumably seen more of him than I had at that point) opted not to draft him. And we tend to talk about this tournament, as fun as it is, as being somewhat useless from a scouting perspective, because of the sample size and all of the confounding factors. That said, seeing Zamula flourishing on the international stage with and against some of the best players in his age group went a long way towards removing the asterisk beside his name, if you will. He had something a little different to prove, and he was successful.
Adam Ginning. 7 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P
Ginning, along with the rest of the Swedes went home with the bronze medal after a tough and sometimes strange run of games for them. This would be his last World Juniors showing before he ages out, and he went out as the team’s captain and with some hardware, which doesn’t seem too shabby, all things considered.
From our perspective, it was a fine tournament for Ginning. At this point, we just about know what we’re going to get from him, at least at this stage in his career—he’s used as a shutdown defenseman and he tends to be successful in that role. His defensive zone positioning is, on the whole, sound, which made him effective in defending in-zone both at even strength and the penalty kill (indeed, where he stood out most and we most liked his work was on the penalty kill). His skating still isn’t a complete strength of his, but he can move around well enough to be effective in closer quarters, even if it looks a bit awkward at times.
We mentioned his place as a holding the shutdown defender job, in the midst of a number of more offensive defensemen on the Swedish blue line, but it’s also worth noting quickly that he did give us a few flashes of perhaps improved puck moving ability, like this breakout pass we see here.
There remain larger questions about his ceiling and future role in the organization, but we’ll leave those for another day. The point we’ll take away from this one is that he had a particular role expected of him in this tournament, and he delivered.