Two prospects for the New Jersey Devils are competing in the World Junior Championship this winter as representatives of their respective nations. Seamus Casey, the best defensive prospect on Team USA, is dressed in red, white, and blue. Lenni Hameenaho, Finland’s top forward prospect, is wearing blue and white.
Hameenaho and Finland begin the competition against Macklin Celebrini and Team Canada, who could be selected first overall in the 2024 NHL draft. Though Canada easily defeated Finland 5-2, the Devils prospect was the most potent skater during the 60-minute game.
Sadly for Finland, Canada’s goalie Mathis Rousseau was the best player in the game. Hameenaho started and completed a stunning rush opportunity from Finland’s end of the ice in the opening period. The 19-year-old forward breaks through two Canadian defenders to gain possession of the puck in his own zone, but he is unable to beat Rousseau to give Finland the advantage.
Later, while trailing forward in a 3-on-1 rush, Rousseau made a sprawling stop on Hameenaho. With 19:43 of ice time remaining, the Devils prospect concluded the game. His four net shots tied Arttu Karki and Kalle Kangas for first place among all skaters.
Prior to the Finnish forward’s selection by the Devils in the second round of the 2023 NHL Draft, Hameenaho was most recognized for his high hockey IQ. The Devils prospect’s ability to create plays and score goals wasn’t well-regarded. But almost immediately after the 2023 draft, Hameenaho improved and stocked up on the previously mentioned weapons.
Finland will play Team Germany on the ice once more tomorrow.
This afternoon, Casey and Team USA achieved a better result than Finland. The USA allowed Team Norway to stay on the field for a little longer than they ought to have, which made the first period for the red, white, and blue somewhat worrying. But the first period ended with no goals and no injuries.
USA’s first tournament goal came from a feed from Casey to Jimmy Snuggerud, a St. Louis Blues prospect, in the second period.
With two shots on goal in 15:42 of ice time, that was Casey’s only point for the entire game. Seeing Casey score was encouraging because, during the tournament’s first round, the Devils’ defense prospect struggled a little. Casey was more dominant, contributed significantly to the offensive in the USA’s opening game of the tournament, and played solid defense. In their next three games against formidable opponents, he will need to maintain that consistency.
The USA and Casey will play Switzerland on Thursday after that.