3. Cam York, D, Team USA
Defense is king at every level of the game and Cam York has been one of the best blueliners at the 2021 World Junior Championship so far.
Ranked second among all defensemen in the tournament, behind Finland’s Topi Niemela, York has six points (1 G, 5 A) in four games with a plus / minus rating of +3.
He’s been an offensive juggernaut on the blueline for Team USA, someone who can carry the puck out of the zone with ease and who is an elite outlet for his offense.
And, going up against a Slovakia team that have been solid on the penalty kill (81.25%), Team USA will need to move the puck well and be patient in order to create high-danger chances, and York is more than capable of doing just that.
After all, York’s ability to make things happen and create is a big reason why Team USA rank first on the power play at the 2021 WJC, boasting a conversion percentage of 40.00%.
2. Quinton Byfield, F, Team Canada
This is an obvious one but it doesn’t make Quinton Byfield any less important to Team Canada in their Quarter-Final clash against the Czech Republic today.
Without a goal in last year’s tournament as his country secured the Gold Medal, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the LA Kings, Byfield has played a much bigger role this year for Team Canada.
Through four games he has seven points (2 G, 5 A) and has lit the lamp twice, while he exploded for a six-point night (2 G, 4 A) in Team Canada’s dismantling of Switzerland earlier in the tournament.
Playing top minutes as the key center for Canada, Byfield is playing in all situations and his physicality and size are both huge weapons for his country.
He’s a real disruptor on the forecheck and he has done a good job of using his size to force turnovers.
Plus, with games getting tighter and more harder fought the deeper you go into tournaments, Team Canada will need Byfield to be at his physical best, while using his big frame as a net-front presence both at 5-on-5 and on the power play.
If Quinton Byfield has a good game, maybe his best of the tournament so far, then Team Canada will advance.