Sorry, Canada: Parity Reshapes the World Junior Championship
“We have absolutely reshaped how we’re teaching the game and how we’re teaching coaches how to teach the game,” Starman said. “We have really emphasized small-area games, and it goes along with age-appropriate practices.
“If we play a lot more 3-on-3, 2-on-2, where younger kids are touching the puck more, they’re in an environment where they’re going to have more fun and be more involved,” he added. “Not only are they going to have more fun and want to come back, they’re going to get better because they’re constantly involved in the play.”
The emphasis is the same in Finland, Starman said.
“A lot of their parents and their organizations don’t care who wins the average game by shortening a bench so they can win a game,” he said. “Their players play, and they use their bench. They believe in player development.”
The trends from the World Junior Championship are now showing up in the N.H.L., too. Over the last decade, the American and Finnish federations have increased the number of players they have delivered to the N.H.L.
In 2009-10, the season that John Carlson’s overtime goal in Saskatoon gave the United States a 6-5 win over Canada in the final, 22 percent of N.H.L. players (212) hailed from the United States, while 4 percent (38) came from Finland, according to Quant Hockey.
This season, the N.H.L. is up to 240 American players (26.8 percent) and 49 Finns (5.5 percent). With Finland’s Mikko Rantanen and the Americans Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane among the league’s top scorers, it is not surprising to see that the number of points produced by players from the two nations also has increased — to 26.2 percent from 19.4 in 2009-10 for Americans and to 5.7 percent from 3.8 for Finns.
Jack Hughes, 17, a forward on this year’s American team, is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the N.H.L. draft in June. Kaapo Kakko, 17, who scored the gold medal-winning goal with 1 minute 26 seconds left Saturday, and his teammate Anttoni Honka will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, Jesse Puljujarvi of the Edmonton Oilers and Olli Juolevi of the Vancouver Canucks from Finland’s gold-winning team in 2016; all were selected in the top five at that year’s N.H.L. draft. (A Canadian player has not been chosen No. 1 over all since Connor McDavid in 2015.)