Given the Flyers’ overwhelming moves in free agency, the Ivan Fedotov situation and serious offseason injuries to Joel Farabee (disc replacement surgery) and Bobby Brink (hip surgery), there hasn’t been much to cheer for Orange and Black fans this summer. But the ongoing World Junior Championships in 2022 give genuine reasons for hope.
Three of the four Flyers prospects who started the tournament are still competing in the annual U20 showcase, with Sweden’s Emil Andrae and Canada’s Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers set to play in Friday’s semifinal round. Ahead of the semifinals, here’s a look at how each of the three has performed in recent weeks in Edmonton.
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Captaining his country at these world juniors, Andrae has been as important to his team’s success as any player at the tournament. The 5-foot-9, 176-pound defenseman has been exceptional, leading Sweden in scoring with four goals and eight points through five games and also playing solid hockey in his own goal.
He has been Sweden’s best player, and for my money, the best defender in the tournament so far. The 20-year-old leads all defensemen in goals and points and is tied for third among all players in goals and fifth in points.
Andrae has shown dynamic skills in the rush, a physical edge despite his size and an uncanny ability to get shots to the net through heavy traffic. While it’s been his end-to-end scoring and darting that has caught the eye, his work defensively hasn’t gone unnoticed either.
Andrae has also been the undisputed leader for the Swedes, galvanizing their late comeback attempt against the USA and then scoring the winning goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Latvia in the quarter-finals. Watching the Latvia game, you got the feeling that Andrae was inevitably going to make the difference, and he did, beating goalkeeper Bruno Bruveris with a glancing wrist shot from the spot with just 10 minutes remaining.
Talk Wednesday with The hockey newsSweden’s coach Thomas Monten praised Andrae’s leadership.
“He speaks up, he always says what he feels,” Monten said. “He’s always really good with us coaches – he’s honest and tells us things that we need to adjust. On the ice, he always comes to play. He competes, he plays, but he can shut players down as well.”
Andrae and Sweden are back in action on Friday against arch-rivals Finland (8 p.m., NHL Network), as he tries to lead Tre Kronor to its first gold medal since 2012. After the tournament comes the Flyers’ 2020 second-round pick. return to Sweden and play for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League. Last season including the playoffs, Andrae scored 12 goals and 44 points in 51 games to help HV71 move back to Sweden’s top division.
After a slow start to the tournament, Foerster has been red-hot for Canada at just the right time. The big winger scored the opening goal against Switzerland and fellow Flyers prospect Brian Zanetti on Wednesday, marking the third straight one-goal streak for Foerster.
Overall, Foerster has three goals and five points in five games for tournament favorites Canada, often showing off his signature heavy shot. The Barrie Colts product has also shown underrated playmaking skills, often overlooked due to his reputation as a goalscorer.
It’s been especially encouraging to see Foerster play so well considering his 2021-22 campaign essentially amounted to a lost season due to shoulder surgery. Last month at the Flyers’ development camp, Foerster suggested the good thing that came from the injury was an increased opportunity to work on his skating — the one big question scouts have about his game. Foerster has looked powerful on his skates in Edmonton, scoring all of his goals in different ways: crashing the net for a rebound against Finland, hammering home a one-timer from the spot against the Czech Republic and firing home a snap shot off a 2-on-1 against Switzerland.
The winger, who is scheduled to be in training camp in mid-September, will compete to make the Flyers’ opening roster. While Foerster may start the year with the Phantoms, he should see action at the NHL level at some point this season.
While Andrae and Foerster have been the undisputed stars of the tournament among Flyers prospects, Desnoyers has been quietly effective in a smaller role. The 2020 fifth-round pick has played the role of fourth-line center at the tournament for Canada and has largely been tasked with adding energy and physicality.
» READ MORE: Flyers expect Elliot Desnoyer’s Christmas wish to come true as he prepares to represent Canada at World Juniors
A solid two-way player, Desnoyer’s defensive game has been on display more this month. After a 42-goal, 88-point season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Halifax Mooseheads, Desnoyers will not be asked to score for Team Canada. That said, he picked up his first point of the tournament with an assist on Wednesday against Switzerland and also played a tournament-high 12:27 of ice time after moving up to the third line following an injury to teammate Ridly Greig.
Desnoyers, who models his game after Selke winners Sean Couturier and Patrice Bergeon, isn’t the flashiest Flyers prospect but as he’s shown at the World Juniors, he’s an unselfish player willing to play whatever role best helps the team win. He will make his first foray into professional hockey this season and should begin the year with Ian Laperrière and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Foerster, Desnoyers and Canada face the Czech Republic in the semifinals on Friday (4 p.m., NHL Network).