Are you starving for some hockey in late-July? No? Just me? Maybe a few of you?
Well if you are, you’re in luck! Two recent Leafs draft choices – 2nd round pick Nicholas Robertson, and 3rd rounder Mikko Kokkonen – will participate in the upcoming World Junior Summer Showcase. Robertson will play for Team USA White (The Americans sends two teams: White and Blue), while Mikko Kokkonen will suit up for Finland.
If you don’t know what the World Junior Summer Showcase is, it’s a tournament that takes place in late July every year where World Junior hopefuls suit up for their country in an attempt to impress the brass and crack the actual roster for the real World Juniors in December. It’s a nice little taste of hockey that prospect nerds, like myself, enjoy during the dog days of summer, when basically nothing else hockey related is going on.
If you’ve never seen Robertson or Kokkonen play before, here’s your first chance to do so.
The tournament takes place from July 26th to August 3rd in Plymouth Michigan. While I haven’t seen this officially confirmed by anybody yet, TSN always broadcasts the Summer Showcase (and the actual tournament in December/January), so expect to find these games there. The full schedule for the tournament can be found here.
Robertson and Kokkonen play against each other in the first game of the tournament on Saturday, July 27th at 1:00 pm ET.
Wait, you haven’t mentioned Rasmus Sandin. Is he not going to be there? Should I be worried?
No, Rasmus Sandin will not be at the Summer Showcase (he is not on Team Sweden’s roster), but he’ll still be at the actual World Juniors in a few months from now, assuming he is healthy, of course. Sweden usually does not make its tournament-locks participate in this summer event. Sandin wasn’t even there last season, and he ended up playing for Sweden at the actual event.
There is no cause for concern here at all.
As for the other Leafs prospects who are eligible but not on their team’s Summer Showcase roster (Riley Stotts, Kalle Loponen, and Mike Koster), all hope is not lost. But I wouldn’t bet on them playing in the real World Juniors.
There are players who are not on their country’s Summer Showcase roster every year that do end up playing in the real World Juniors, but it usually takes a breakout season, and sometimes an injury or two ahead of them on the depth chart. They’re all quite unlikely, especially Canadian Riley Stotts (Team Canada is always stacked).
As for the eligible Russian prospects Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Mikhail Abramov, and Semyon Kizimov, we’ll have to wait and see whether or not they are in consideration for a spot on their respective nation’s roster. Russia does not take part in the Summer Showcase, but they do attend a tournament in late August called the “U20 Four Nations Tournament”, where each country brings a pool of players they are considering for the World Juniors.
Semyon Kizimov was in consideration last year, so he probably has a decent shot at making it now.
Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic take part in this Four Nations Tournament. Since the Finns and Swedes send their top dogs to the Summer Showcase, they’ll send a different roster of players to the U20 Four Nations Tournament that they are also considering for the World Junior roster (although not as strong as the first group). Maybe we’ll see Kalle Loponen there, and maybe he could earn his way onto the World Junior roster this holiday season. Fellow Leafs prospect Pontus Holmberg took that route to the World Juniors last year, so it’s possible.
Overall, it’s exciting that there will be some actual competitive hockey on T.V relatively soon, and it’s always good to get some viewings in on potential future Leafs.