Five teams from five different countries that dominated youth hockey in January
2023 started off with impressive runs by a handful of teams from around the world. It was a big stretch for 2007-born teams like Djurgårdens IF in Sweden and Finland’s Tappara. The ‘11 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite and ‘10 Toronto Jr. Canadiens continued their dominance. ‘08 CSKA Moscow stood apart among Russian programs as well. WHH takes a look at a few programs across all countries and birth years that established themselves among the best of the best in youth hockey.
UNITED STATES: 2011 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite
With a schedule that was packed with multiple matchups against fellow Top-10 opponents, No. 1 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite proved they are still the squad to beat among 2011-born U.S. teams.
They kicked off January with three straight wins over No. 10 Philadelphia Hockey Club, outscoring them 21-6. After a series split with the Ohio Blue Jackets, they were tasked with facing off against No. 2 Mid-Fairfield Jr. Rangers for three tilts.
PPE took the first game 2-1, dropped the second 5-1 before rebounding with a solid 6-1 victory to take the series. In total, they secured a 6-2-0 mark for the month, with five of those coming against Top-10 teams.
CANADA: 2010 Toronto Jr. Canadiens
One of the busier Canadian teams to start the New Year were the ‘10 Toronto Jr. Canadiens. An impressive run saw them best the likes of the No. 4 Vaughan Kings and No. 5 Don Mills Flyers. However, it was their performance in multiple cross-border matchups that impressed the most.
The Jr. Canadiens faced a daunting task of dropping the puck against a stacked lineup of U.S. Top 10s. First up was No. 7 Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, who they handled 5-3. Next, two victories against the No. 8 Chicago Reapers and No. 6 HoneyBaked. They rounded out this slate with one of their two losses in the month, dropping a 4-3 result to the No. 3 Chicago Mission.
Altogether, the Jr. Canadiens were able to string together an 11-2-1 record and remain one of the premier teams of the 2010 birth year.
SWEDEN: 2007 Djurgårdens IF
No. 2 Djurgårdens IF skated to an unblemished 5-0-0 record in January, securing three key victories against fellow top-ranked Sweden adversaries.
Currently underway in the continuation of group play, DIF went toe-to-toe with No. 5 Södertälje SK, No. 7 Viggbyholms IK and No. 9 Flemingsbergs IK. Earning wins in all three games, they also had no issue in obtaining wins against Solna SK and Almtuna.
Leading the way across Djurgårdens’ scorching run of play has been forward Arvid Drott. Across the 5-0-0 month, Drott collected nine goals and 13 points. His best game came in the contest against Viggbyholms, where he found the back of the net five times to go along with two assists.
Collectively, Drott has tallied 15 goals and 25 points in group play as one of the premier scorers among all skaters. Top goaltender Ludvig Gromell has served as a calming presence for DIF, recording a 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
FINLAND: 2007 Tappara
Eetu Orpana and Joonas Rajala were the engine that drove 2007-born No. 2 Tappara to a perfect 5-0-0 January. In those five games, Orpana accumulated 16 points (7G, 9A) with Rajala just behind with 14 (5G, 9A).
Their strong play was a catalyst in decisive victories over No. 3 Kärpät, No. 4 Jokerit and No. 9 Lukko. Tappara’s scoring depth was on display when they outscored the Pelicans and Ässät by a combined 19-2.
RUSSIA: 2008 CSKA Moscow
There was no hotter team than No. 3 CSKA Moscow, whose pristine run to a 5-0-0 record was marked with major wins against top-tier opponents.
CSKA opened the month with a 9-2 rout of No. 6 Dynamo Moscow. They dispatched of Russ Moscow and the Polar Bears before setting their sights on two more ranked squads.
Nikita Ovcharov, Nikita Gromakov and Alexander Petrov all recorded multi-point performances to lead CSKA to a 7-3 final over No. 7 Mikhailov Academy. The final hurdle towards a perfect January record was a date with No. 4 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. CSKA had extra motivation for the matchup, as Lokomotiv defeated them in a close 3-2 game on Dec. 18. It would be another hard-fought event, with CSKA securing a shootout victory, 4-3. Ilya Morozov was the only player to find a goal in the skills competition.