The World Junior Championship in Edmonton has been underway for about a week, displaying some of the best young talents in hockey and giving us a sense of who we will be seeing in the NHL in the next handful of years.
The Rangers sent 4 prospects to the tournament, representing 2 different teams – Branden Schneider and Dylan Garand for Canada, and Hunter Skinner and Brett Berard for the USA. Schneider and Berard have played crucial roles for their respective teams, and are certainly players to watch if you’re a Rangers fan.
Both teams have been dominant in play so far, but Canada has stood out especially, posting a 3-0-0-0 record and outscoring opponents 29-5 through their first few preliminary games. This Canada team has tremendous depth on both ends, as 19 out of their 22 skaters are first-round picks (6 on defense, 13 on offense).
Braden Schneider, who the Rangers drafted 19th overall in the 2020 NHL draft, has yet to get on the scoresheet but has made an impact nonetheless. Schneider laid a big hit on Germany’s Jan-Luca Schumacher, during Canada’s opening rout over Germany. The hit, which made contact with Schumacher’s head, was made in the first period and resulted in in-game misconduct followed by a one-game suspension.
Schneider said later that he was not too surprised to receive the suspension, and that he “got what [he] deserved.” One of Schneider’s biggest strengths is his physical play, and although this specific hit was “higher than [he] would have liked,” Schneider will continue to play with the edge that he believes is part of his identity as a player.
Schneider returned in his regular roster spot against Austria on the 29th, and although he didn’t record a point in the 10-0 win, he came back from his suspension strong. Schneider was a +2 in his return and registered 3 shots on goal. He’s done a great job denying entries and winning those one-on-one battles while continuing his gritty game. It will only be a matter of time until Schneider gets on the scoresheet, as Canada is likely the make a deep run in the tournament. Regardless, points are not always an accurate measurement of how well a player is doing. By watching Schneider, you’ll see the strong and edgy way he plays – quintessential for this Canada team.
You can catch Schneider and the rest of Team Canada for their final preliminary game on December 31st at 6:00 PM EST.
The other prospect making a splash at the World Juniors is Brett Berard, a forward drafted in the fifth round by the Blueshirts. In 3 games played, Berard has registered 1 goal and 3 assists. His goal came during the United States’ dominant 11-0 win over Austria, which then put the US up 8-0.
It was a great display of speed by Berard, whose 5’9”, 152 lb frame is definitely smaller than most.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) December 27, 2020
The goal was actually similar to what we’ve seen with Chris Kreider. Kreider has this incredible ability to separate himself from defenders, and Berard mirrors this here. If Berard continues to show this type of speed and skill, there’s no doubt that people will begin to forget his size and focus more on the more valuable aspects of his game.
Berard was initially projected by NHL Central Scouting to go as high as 45th overall, and even some of the steeper predictions (like one by Andrew Forbes of The Hockey Writers) had him going at around the 100th overall mark. Berard ended up going 134th overall, and with how much promising skill Berard has despite his size, he could end up being a steal. However, it’s still much too early to determine, as these are some of Berard’s first competitive games in months because of the pandemic (Berard has only been able to play in 2 games for Providence this year).
You can catch Berard and the rest of Team USA on December 31st at 9:30 pm EST against Team Sweden.
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