Four ‘04s Make Their Mark At World Juniors

The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships are underway this week in Edmonton. With the NHL start date altered due to the pandemic, the spotlight is brighter than it has ever been on the WJC, and all eyes are on the U20 tournament.

An event that regularly features the best 18- and 19-year-olds on the planet, dominated by recently drafted or future NHL Draft picks, the U20 World Juniors is the undisputed main stage for up-and-coming prospects in the game. We typically wouldn’t expect to see many players from the 2004-birth year until next year, and the age group will certainly dominate the conversation in 2023 and 2024. However, four standout ‘04s have fast-tracked their path to World Juniors, and are mixing it up with competition two and three years their senior. 

A trio in Simon Nemec, Filip Mesar and Juraj Slafkovsky have suited up for Team Slovakia. That youth has paid off a bit early on in the tourney as well, with Nemec contributing to the offense with an assist on two of Slovakia’s first three goals in round-robin action. 

After shutting out Switzerland 1-0 in its first game, Slovakia skated to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of tournament front-runner Canada. In those games, Slafkovsky has logged the second-most minutes among forwards while Mesar has contributed from a more limited role.

Slovakia’s trio of forwards weren’t the only ‘04s on the ice on opening day, however. Austrian Marco Kasper suited up as well, and will look to provide an offensive boost to his team after they were shut out in their first game.

It’s also worth noting that arguably the best player from the 2004-birth year is absent from this year’s WJC. Projected first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and CHL Rookie of the Year Shane Wright was one of the last cuts made by Team Canada prior to the tournament. 

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