The 2017 World Junior Championship gets under way today in Toronto and Montreal, and there are lots of St. Louis connections in this year’s tourney.
Team USA will feature three St. Louis-area products, two of whom were first-round picks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Goaltender Joseph Woll (3rd round, 62nd overall, Toronto), currently the starter on a strong Boston College club in Hockey East, will backstop Team USA at the tournament, while Luke Kunin (1st round, 15th overall, Minnesota) and Clayton Keller (1st round, 7th overall, Arizona) will be tasked with scoring responsibilities.
Kunin, a sophomore at Wisconsin, currently serves as the Badgers’ captain while Keller, who hails from the Metro East (Swansea, IL), recently returned to the Boston University lineup after missing seven games with a lower-body injury.
One other 2016 first-rounder with a connection to St. Louis will also be skating for team USA. Big center Tage Thompson (1st round, 26th overall), the Blues’ first selection in that draft, will step away from the UConn Huskies to pursue a gold medal over the holidays. Thompson, a 6’ 5, 195-pound center, is a native of Phoenix, and currently leads UConn in scoring with a 12-8-20 line (plus-4, 16 PM, 5 PP, 3 GW) through 18 games played.
Another member of the Blues’ 2016 draft class, center Nikolaj Krag Christensen, will skate for a Team Denmark that is coached by Olaf Eller, father of former Blues’ first-round pick Lars Eller. The 6’ 3, 201-pound Dane currently toils for Rögle BK of the Swedish J20 Superelit league, where he has racked up a respectable 6-7-13 scoring line (minus-12, 22 PM, 1 GW) in 27 games while winning 51% of his faceoffs.
The final member of the Blues’ contingent at the World Juniors is 2015 selection Adam Musil (4th round, 94th overall), a 6’ 3, 200-pound right-shooting center who hails from Delta, BC, but holds dual Canadian and Czech citizenship. Musil, the son of former NHL’er Frantisek Musil and nephew of former New Jersey power forward Bobby Holik, will skate for Team Czech Republic after posting a 13-14-27 scoring line (plus-10, 37 PM, 2 PP, 3 GW) in 31 games for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League in the first half of the 2016-17 season.