Here are five players who outplayed what was expected of them at the 2018 world juniors.
5. Adam Fox (USA): a dynamic puck-moving, smooth-skating defenceman, Fox was a force for the Americans all tournament long. Fox played the most of any American player, averaging 21:43 per game. He was excellent on the power play and very efficient in getting pucks out of his own zone. The Calgary Flames third-round pick had one goal, a game-winner against Finland, en route to a tidy five points, while finishing with a plus-6 rating. Oh yeah, he’s well on his way to a degree at Harvard.
4. Libor Hajek (CZE): Hajek, a Tampa Bay prospect was by far the Czech Republic’s best defenceman. Just about every scout I talked to over the course of the event went out of their way to make mention of the 6-1, 185-pound Saskatoon Blades star. Hajek tied for the defencemen lead with eight points. He quarterbacked the second best power play in the tournament with smart decision making and precision passing.
3. Roman Durny (SVK): Durny’s performance against the Americans singlehandedly gets him on this list. A 43-save effort, staving off the likes of top goal-getter Kieffer Bellows, among others, essentially changed the tournament. The 3-2 Slovakian win forced the Americans to play Russia and Sweden before winning bronze against the Czechs. Canadian fans should award Durny with an assist as his game-stealing performance gave Canada the easy road to the gold-medal game. Durny showed efficiency, great rebound control and poise, putting up a .929 save percentage and a respectable 2.75 goals-against average.
2. Maxim Sushko (BLR): the 6-0, 179-pound forward did everything in his power to help his team avoid relegation. Sushko played bigger than he’s listed and was a force just about every shift for Belarus. Sushko played the most minutes of any forward for Belarus and his eight points accounted for almost 22 per cent of all of his country’s points in the tournament.
1. Conor Timmins (CAN): unknown to everyone but those in Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins didn’t really do anything he hasn’t done for the Greyhounds over the last two years. Only this time, everyone in the country got to witness it, as the tournament’s best all-around defenceman. Timmins not only led the tournament in plus/minus at plus-15, but put up five points highlighted by a world-class play on Tyler Steenbergen’s tournament-winning goal. No way this guy should’ve lasted until the second round of the draft, but Colorado has a pair of gems in Timmins and Cale Makar.