On May 1, 2005, 17-year-old Sidney Crosby and 20-year-old Jeff Carter faced off against 18-year-old Evgeni Malkin during the gold medal game of the World Junior Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
They’re not the only current Penguins to have preceded their NHL careers with a World Juniors medal; other WJC medalists on the roster in 2021-22 include Brian Dumoulin (USA bronze, 2011); Kasperi Kapanen (Finland gold, 2016); Kris Letang (Canada gold, 2006, 2007); and Jason Zucker (USA gold, 2010 and bronze, 2011).
This year, three Penguins prospects will be making their debut in the tournament. Let’s take a look at who is getting the biggest chance of their career so far to shine on an international stage. (Data from EliteProspects.)
Born: January 10, 2002 (Age 19)
Weight: 183 lbs.
Drafted: 52nd overall (2nd round), 2020
Career summary: Blomqvist has been a top goaltending prospect ever since he became a starting netminder at 15 years old for Finland’s top U18 league. At 16 years old, he posted a .938 save percentage in 11 games at the U20 level to help his team win the first of two consecutive championships. So far in 2021-22, he has posted a .964 SV% and averaged just .73 goals against in eight games in Finland’s top league. After spending the 2021 World Juniors on the bench, he’ll get the biggest chance of his career so far in 2022.
Fun fact: Blomqvist’s favorite NHL player is a fellow Finnish goaltender, former Nashville Predator Pekka Rinne.
Some of my thoughts on Joel Blomqvist (52nd overall, PIT). Been lucky enough to get extensive chances to watch him and talk to some people over in Finland who have been there throughout his development. Think he could follow the Justus Annunen trajectory; very smart pick by PIT. pic.twitter.com/HRZHqxHHLX— Catherine Silverman (@catmsilverman) October 7, 2020
Born: May 20, 2002 (Age 19)
Weight: 176 lbs.
Drafted: 77th overall (3rd round), 2020
Career summary: After moving up through Sweden’s junior leagues for five seasons, and making 11 appearances at the U18 level at the age of 15, Clang climbed the draft rankings after shining at the U20 level in 2019-20, where he marked a .913 SV% over 34 games. Clang earned himself a shutout to celebrate his SHL debut in 2020-21, then returned for the start of 2021-22, where so far he has posted a .892 SV% and 3-4-0 record through eight games.
Fun fact: Clang starts shootouts perpendicular to the net, then whips around to face the oncoming skater— sending, we can only assume, chills down their spine.
Born: March 26, 2002 (Age 19)
Weight: 190 lbs.
Drafted: 218th overall (Round 7), 2021
Career summary: After he was passed over in the 2020 NHL Draft, Tankov climbed the international draft rankings in his third season in the MHL. In this 2020-21 campaign in Russia’s junior league, he led his team with 43 points (18-25—43) in 52 games. The forward has begun 2021-22 in the VHL, the second-highest level to the KHL, where he has so far posted 12 points (6-6—12) in 25 games.
Fun fact: Tankov’s deft stickhandling through defenders and puck movement in tight spaces caught scouts’ eyes at the MHL level (as shown in the video below).
The 2022 World Junior Championships schedule can be found here. Blomqvist could potentially debut against Germany, and Clang against Tankov and Team Russia, on December 26.