How prospects Bystedt, Gaudreau have fared at World Juniors


The Sharks have two prospects at the 2023 World Junior Championships, and they might play each other for the gold medal.

But first, Filip Bystedt’s Sweden must defeat Czechia (11:30 a.m. PT), and Benjamin Gaudreau’s Canada will have to top USA (3:30 p.m. PT) in Tuesday’s WJC semifinal games. The gold medal game is on Jan. 5.

This tourney has been a coming out party for Bystedt, who was a somewhat surprising first-round pick for the Sharks in the 2022 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-4 centerman, lined up with 2023 potential top-three pick Leo Carlsson and Buffalo Sabres’ 2021 first-round pick Isak Rosen, leads Tre Kronor in ice time (18:30) and is tied with defenseman Ludvig Jansson for the team lead in points (two goals, five assists).

On a star-studded squad that includes Jonathan Lekkerimaki (No. 15), Noah Ostlund (16), and Liam Ohgren (19), all drafted ahead of Bystedt (27), it’s the Sharks prospect who’s been leaned on most.

For the Sharks' 2021 third-round pick Gaudreau, however, his 2023 World Juniors might be defined by coming out of Canada’s first round-robin game, a 5-2 loss to Czechia. The Sarnia Sting netminder earned the start with a chance to take the ball into the medal round for the defending champs, but instead, he gave up five goals on 17 shots and was pulled for Thomas Milic. Milic defeated Slovakia in the quarterfinals and is expected to get Tuesday's start.

On the eve of the semifinals, I spoke with Chris Peters of FloHockey about both Bystedt and Gaudreau’s tourneys. Peters isn't as high on Bystedt or as low on Gaudreau as some might be, and he also shared what his rookie year expectations are for perhaps now-unanimous 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard, who has put up an incomprehensible 21 points in just five WJC contests. 

Did Benjamin Gaudreau blow his chance to be Canada’s No. 1 with one bad start?

Chris Peters: I'm pretty sure that they had a pretty decent idea that he was going to be the more likely starter for their team. He led the U-18 team to a gold medal, even though he really hasn't been that good in the last couple of years by the standards of the goalies that typically play in this tournament.

He faltered, and Milic came in and just played better. You don't have a lot of time at the World Juniors to make up for mistakes. They had to go with who was playing better at the right time. And unfortunately for Gaudreau, he never really got another chance.

I would just say, for any player, it's a snapshot of their career. A lot of guys have a bad World Juniors or have a bad game. 

Especially for him, they got off to a tough start, team didn't play well in front of him, he didn't play well enough in net.

If I'm a Sharks fan, I'm not drawing any conclusions [about Gaudreau] off this tournament.

What are your thoughts of Filip Bystedt’s tournament?

Peters: I think he's played well. I don't think he's been exceptional. He had a really good last couple minutes against Finland.

What we've learned is when he's playing to the middle of the ice, he is very effective. When he's failing to get to the middle of the ice -- and this is any player, right -- but a player at his size and his speed should be a guy that consistently gets through the middle and can kind of dominate the middle of the ice. That's what he's supposed to do. And I've seen a few games in this tournament where he just hasn't gotten that straight-ahead, dominant power forward kind of game that he can play. 

And he's on a line that should never be physically outmatched. And I don't think they were, but I just want to see him play more direct to the net. I think this was a problem for Sweden in general in the game against Finland. And then, finally, when they started getting to the middle, they started having success.

Regardless, Bystedt’s stock has risen from, say, the draft, right? He was sort of a fringe first-rounder.

Peters: To a certain extent. 

There's just not a lot of consistency there. What I will say is he's definitely ahead of where I thought he'd be by this point. He's starting to put it all together. 

The long and short of it is, this is a very positive step for him and his development. The fact that he still has another year of eligibility in this tournament is also exciting, because he's still only just starting to scratch the surface of what's really possible for him.

Where did you have Filip in your final 2022 draft rankings?

Peters: I had him outside of the first round in my rankings. My concern was, I saw the speed, I saw the size, I wasn't necessarily sure if he was all that good at finishing plays off. So that, to me, is like he could be like a third-line energy-type NHL player. 

And I think if he continues to progress like this, you definitely see more of that middle-six kind of player.

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I [still] want to see him do a little more with the puck. Like, he's getting points here. But I don't think he's necessarily made a ton of plays.

Of course, Connor Bedard is the talk of the tournament. But for San Jose Sharks fans, how immediate is his NHL impact? Does he come in like a Connor McDavid and score a point per game as an 18-year-old?

Peters: I think it would surprise me if he were a point per game. It wouldn't surprise me if he was like a 30-goal scorer.

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