It might only be March, but preparations have already begun for the 2022 World Juniors in Edmonton/Red Deer. For Sweden, who were eliminated by Finland in last year’s WJC, the search for next year’s squad is well underway, and New York Islanders 2020 third-round pick Alexander Ljungkrantz is a factor in the selection process.
In the middle of February, Ljungrantz joined Sweden’s U19 squad in a week-long mini-camp along with Sweden’s U18 squad.
The February mini-camp had two purposes, mainly it was to evaluate the U18 squad but a secondary goal was to look at some of the players that were on the periphery of the WJC squad, like Ljungkrantz.
Checking in with coach Tomas Monten after the camp it seems that Ljunkrantz could factor in 2022 but his place isn’t guaranteed.
New York Islanders chances for Sweden’s 2022 WJC squad
The last time I spoke with Monten, Ljungkrantz was playing well and was about to close out camp playing on the top line. Monten wanted to see what the Isles prospect’s speed could do to help the U19 squad generate offense.
So how did that go?
"I moved him up to our first line with Ljungman as center and Stakkestad on the other wing. And they where our best line the last two games. Helping us to two strait wins.Alex played good both in PP and PK. In 5-5 I liked his speed and attack. He finds openings and is good on the stretch plays. Wants to shoot the puck to."
That’s a good sign for the Islanders top pick at the 2020 draft. Monten indicated that Alex “has a shoot of making it all the way”, but as he told me in February there is no guarantee that Ljungkrantz makes the final squad. Standing in his way are a number of other 2002 born forwards.
Monten pointed to guys like William Eklund (projected top-10 pick in 2021), Theodor Neiderbach (2020 second-round pick by Detroit), Zion Nybeck (2020 fourth-round pick by Carolina), and Oskar Olausson (projected first-round pick in 2021) not being in the February camp.
There are a few things Ljungkrantz can work on:
"Needs to get better on going to the inside and stay there in the Ozon. Play more inside the dots. And needs to be tougher to play against without the puck. Hunt the puck more and finish his checks."
Ljungkrantz will be at the U19’s April camp (assuming one takes place), where he’ll get another chance to impress Monten and maybe take another step towards earning a call-up for the 2022 World Juniors.
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Some might be thinking why we should care about the 2022 World Juniors. And I get it, the tournament is months away. But if there was one takeaway from the Isles 2020 draft class, and maybe Ljungkrantz specifically, it was why?
Why did the Islanders take some of the players they selected and why did they take Ljungkrantz so high? When I spoke with some draft experts, they were surprised that Ljunugkrantz was drafted that high (if at all).
A WJC nod won’t in-and-of-itself justify the pick, but it goes a long way to show that there was a reason the Islanders liked this kid enough to take in him with their first pick in 2020.