Photo Credit: Twitter: @HV71

Jets At The Juniors: 2019 Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s nearly time for the annual IIHF World Junior Championships that begins every year on Boxing Day. While most hockey fans are glued to their seats decked out in their country’s gear, Jets fans will have something to cheer for even when Canada isn’t playing. There are three Winnipeg Jets prospects from three different countries and none of them are Canadian. This diversity provides Jets fans with a reason to watch even more hockey than normal over the course of the holiday season.

The first thing that needs to get mentioned is the absence of the Jets highest rated prospect, Kristian Vesalainen. Vesalainen has made the decision not to participate in this year’s tournament despite being invited by the Finnish team. It’s already been a tumultuous year for Vesalainen who has traveled many miles and has played in three different leagues since October.

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Even though it seems that Vesalainen is at peace with his decision, the Finnish team will be disappointed as Vesalainen was tied for the team lead last year with six points in five games. Overall, this is likely a good move for Vesalainen who gets to settle in with his new team and play at a very competitive level in the KHL. Unfortunately for Jets fans, they won’t be able to see him in what likely would have been a great showing for the big winger.

Even though the Jets won’t see Vesalainen participate, there are three other players that will showcase their skills at the tournament.

David Gustafsson

The Winnipeg Jets went without a first round selection at the latest NHL Entry Draft. Their first pick was 60th overall and they landed Swedish centerman David Gustafsson.

Winnipeg Jets Select David Gustafsson With 60th Pick

Gustafsson is making his World Junior debut this year although he’s no stranger to the Swedish national team. He has represented Sweden every year since 2015-16 for the U16, U17, and U18 teams. This year he gets to be involved with the U20 team for the first time. Gustafsson had a great showing last year at the U18 World Junior Championship where he finished 10th in tournament scoring with seven points in seven games. He was second on his team in scoring and helped lead the team to a Bronze medal finish.

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Gustafsson is projected to line up as the third or fourth line center during the tournament.

Dylan Samberg

The most experienced of the group, Samberg is looking to build on his success of last year’s World Junior Championship. He scored one goal and had three assists in the seven games for the United States last year.

A former second round pick at 43rd overall, Samberg is making his way through the NCAA in his second season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He currently has two goals and two assists in 15 games to start the year.

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Winnipeg Jets Draft Dylan Samberg 43rd Overall

Samberg projects to be an important piece for the United States. After playing nearly 20 minutes per game during last year’s tournament, he will likely play big minutes again.

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Santeri Virtanen

Virtanen is a former fourth round pick of the Jets during the 2017 draft.

Jets Select Santeri Virtanen 105th Overall

He is currently playing in Liiga for SaiPa, and has five goals and two assists in 29 games. Virtanen has represented Finland on multiple occasions, most notably during the 2016-17 U18 World Junior Championship where Finland placed second. He played alongside a stacked Finnish squad with names highlighted by Jets own Vesalainen, as well as Miro Heiskanen and Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Virtanen is projected to slot in the bottom six for the Finns and hopes to translate past success to future success at the best junior tournament there is.

There you have it. Something to watch for even when you can’t cheer on team Canada. This tournament is always a highlight of the holidays and it makes it even more fun when we get to see some of the recent draft picks of the Jets. We will be providing updates throughout the tournament in regards to all three of these players so make sure to check JetsNation throughout the entire tournament.