Three best LA Kings moments in WJC preliminary round

LA Kings World Juniors (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
LA Kings World Juniors (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

LA Kings 2019 third-round pick Lukas Parik was outstanding against Russia. Where does his performance rank in the top three preliminary round plays?

While the preliminary round of the 2021 World Junior Championships saw many lopsided scores, there was no shortage of LA Kings prospects making noise. The organization matched last year’s total, sending nine prospects to play for their respective countries. Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte returned for their second stint for Team Canada and Team USA, respectively.

The two top-five draft picks in back-to-back years arguably had the most attention on them, but it was several of the mid-round picks that contributed in significant ways. Kasper Simontaival was a standout player in the preliminary round. He was selected in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft, tallying two goals and five points through four games.

Anton Lundell (Panthers), Roni Hirvonen (Maple Leafs), and Simontaival combined for one of the most dynamic top lines in the entire tournament, so it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Team Finland was matched up against Team Canada on Thursday night, battling for the top seed in Group A.

Turning our attention to the quarterfinals, Saturday is scheduled for a jam-packed day of hockey:

All times in PT

Russia vs. Germany, 9 a.m.

Finland (Simontaival) vs. Sweden (Bjornfot), 12:30 p.m.

Canada (Byfield, Spence) vs. Czech Republic (Parik), 4 p.m.

United States (Turcotte, Kaliyev, Faber) vs. Slovakia (Chromiak), 7:30 p.m.

Before officially closing the door, let’s look back at the three best moments for LA Kings prospects in the preliminary round.

1. Quinton Byfield’s six-point night

The LA Kings second overall pick in 2020 entered the matchup against Team Switzerland with one assist and plenty of scrutiny, while third overall pick Tim Stutzle looked seemingly unstoppable for a short-staffed Team Germany. Byfield began the contest against Switzerland with three assists and finally broke through with two goals less than three minutes apart. He added another assist late in the third period, leaving his mark on the tournament regardless of what happens the rest of the way. Byfield also silenced the doubters.

2. Lukas Parik blanks Russia

The hockey rivalry between the Czech Republic and Russia dates back to the 1960s. Russia has primarily been the dominant one of the two. The Czech Republic took home the Gold Medal and the 1998 Olympics, topping the Russians, in which Patrik Elias still calls it the victory of the century.

Despite the two teams playing in a preliminary round of the World Junior Championships, the rivalry remained alive. Lukas Parik replaced Nick Malik in net for Team Czech Republic. The LA Kings third-round pick in 2019 made his first start of this year’s tournament and stopped all 30 of Team Russia’s shots. The Czech Republic won the contest 2-0, but the celebration after the final horn will forever be remembered.

3. Jordan Spence scores in his first game

LA Kings 2019 fourth-round pick Jordan Spence was one of the surprise players who made the Team Canada roster. He figured to be a healthy scratch for the tournament — that was until Braden Schneider was suspended for a game for his hit in the game against Team Germany. Spence was added as the seventh defenseman for the following game and sniped a drop pass from Philip Tomasino to get Team Canada on the board first.

That game against Team Slovakia ended up being Team Canada’s closest match in the preliminary round, so Spence’s goal loomed large in the 3-1 victory.