After sharing our U25 First Team from the 2021 IIHF Worlds in Calgary it is time to reveal the six players of the Second Team.
Akane Shiga, Forward | Japan
Shiga was by far the hardest player to leave off of the 2021 Worlds U25 First Team. She was sensational for Japan in Calgary and made history by scoring against Team USA in the quarterfinal.
JAPAN GOALLLLLL!!!!!!— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 28, 2021
Japan takes *full* advantage of a US change to get another 2-1 and Akane Shiga converts for her second goal of the game!!!
USA 5 - Japan 2 pic.twitter.com/jWI1CuiTii
Shiga shot more (28 iSOG) than any U25 player in the 2021 Worlds and was responsible for over 17 percent of her team’s shots on goal. She also finished the tournament with the third-highest total Game Score (6.04) among U25 skaters and scored three of her team’s seven even-strength goals. Clearly, she was a if not the featured weapon in Japan’s offense. Oh, by the way, she’s 20.
The young winger was fanastic on the rush and made several plays during the tournament that changed the entire complexion of the game for Japan. She averaged 18:49 TOI/GP and was on the ice for just under 24 shifts each game. And that was her role in her second senior tournament after scoring a goal in five games in the 2019 Worlds in Espoo.
Shiga has played both on the blue line and on the wing for Japan but, if what we saw in Calgary is any indication of what she might bring in the future, she should stay on the attack. The reads she makes in the transition game are just what a team that relies on structured play like Japan needs to have a counter-attack that can humble the giants like Team USA.
Noemi Neubauerová, Forward | Czech Republic
The Czechs had a lot of young standouts in Calgary and the 21-year-old winger from Colgate was defiinitely among them.
Neubauerová had five points — four of which were primary points picked up at evens — in six games for the Czech Republic. While it’s true that four of her five points were helpers, three of those were primary. Clearly, Neubauerová knows how to move the puck and her ability to make plays was one of the reasons why the Czech offense was so dominant in the group stage.
Skating an average of 18:43 TOI/GP, Neubauerová was a featured weapon for the Czechs and rewarded her head coach for his trust. She had a hand in just under 40 percent of her team’s total even strength offense. Her 2.86 GS/60 was the sixth-highest among U25 skaters and was tied for second on the Czech squad in scoring. She was something of a pass-first player, but still averaged 2.5 SOG/GP in all situations. With that said, she is hardly one-dimensional with the puck on her stick.
Look for Neubauerová to put up some impressive numbers for Colgate in 2021-22 and to help the Czechs qualify for the 2022 Olympics.
Kinga Jókai Szilágyi, Forward | Hungary
We only got to see four games of Hungary and Jókai Szilágyi, who turned 24 in August, but that was all we needed to see she is one of her country’s top players.
Her 9 iSOG might not jump off the page but context is everything when evaluating her role and impact for Hungary. Remember, Hungary had 75 shots on goal in four games and was out-shot by an average margin of -6.75 per-game. That 9 iSOG looks a little different now, right? Far more importantly, Jókai Szilágyi had primary points on half of Hungary’s total offense in Calgary, including primary assists on two of her country’s four even-strength goals.
Jókai Szilágyi averaged 17:08 TOI/GP and was only one of two players on Hungary who finished in the green with a +3 plus/minus. Now, it’s no secret that I abhor plus/minus as a means to evaluate players but in this small sample it helps shed some light into how things went for Hungary when Jókai Szilágyi was on the ice — often with captain Fanni Gasparics, who she appeared to have great chemistry with.
Keep in mind we’re talking about a player who, according to the IIHF, plays for a team with 1,144 registered female players. Hungary was a great story in Calgary and Jókai Szilágyi was one of the players who helped make that story great.
Caroline Harvey, Defense | United States
Harvey, 18, averaged 17:35 TOI/GP for the silver medal-winning Americans in her first major senior international tournament. That, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment and tells us a lot about the impression that Harvey made on Team USA’s coaching staff. But she did a lot more than just clock a lot of minutes. She had three even-strength points, including her first senior national team goal which was scored against Nana Fujimoto and Team Japan in the quarterfinal.
USA GOAL!!!— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 28, 2021
US keeps piling on the goals against Japan. This time Caroline Harvey picks up a pass from Cameranesi to make 7 - 2 pic.twitter.com/G1h8v0pe8J
Harvey is a truly elite skater and a fantastic skater, which makes her fit like a glove into Team USA’s transition game. Perhaps what was most impressive about her game is the decisions that she made with the puck on her stick. Very rarely do we see teenagers, especially blueliners, have so much confidence with the puck at this level. That skill set made it possible for Harvey to pick up 14 iSOG in seven games.
Something that really stood out to me about Harvey’s numbers is that she averaged just a sliver more ice time than teammate and fellow defender Cayla Barnes (17:32 TOI/GP). Barnes, 22, was also one of the top U25 players in Calgary and already has an Olympic medal to her name. But Harvey was on the ice for more Team USA goals, put more shots on net, and had more primary points than her. That is really quite something, even in a seven-game sample.
Daniela Pejšová, Defense | Czech Republic
I was a big fan of the Czech Republic’s young blue line, which is why Dominika Lásková made the U25 First Team. But I also had highlight the play of 19-year-old Daniela Pejšová. She was really a delight to watch with the puck on her stick.
Alena Mills with a DIVING EFFORT to move the puck to Daniela Pejšová and the Czechs score!!! With the goalie pulled. One goal game. pic.twitter.com/2hT69pbqt8— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) August 30, 2021
Pejšová has been honing her skills in the SDHL for the past three seasons and it really showed in Calgary. Playing in one of the top leagues in the world helped prepare her for a heavy workload in her first senior Worlds. She averaged 19:27 TOI/GP for the Czechs, which is over 27 shifts each game. That is a ton of ice time (in all situations) for a teenager.
Like so many of her standout teammates, Pejšová was a big reason why the Czechs were so impressive in the group stage. She had two goals and a secondary assist at evens for her team and put 17 shots on goal from the blue line. Her Game Score would look better if not for the two trips she took to the penalty box playing for a team that crushed the opposition in possession in the group stage.
As she continues to develop, I think we’ll see Pejšová show more discipline on and off the puck. She just started her fourth season with MODO in the SDHL and that is a great place for her to hone her skills and test herself against the best European players in the world. She is going to be a big part of the Czech national team for years to come.
Klára Peslarová, Goalie | Czech Republic
I’ve already written and said a lot about Peslarová here at The Ice Garden and elsewhere but she absolutely belongs on this squad. Before I had a chance to really process how great Keisala was in the aftermath of the bronze medal game, I had already voted for Peslarová as the Best Goaltender of the 2021 Worlds. That’s how good I think she was and is.
Peslarová had four wins and two shutouts in six starts for the Czechs. She finished with a .933 save percentage and a 0.369 GSAA/60 (goals saved above average per 60 minutes). She did have a light workload — facing just 17.5 SA60 — but made a bunch of critical saves in the Czech’s biggest games. When her team’s offense failed to deliver in the knockout stage, Peslarová was their best player.
She turns 25 in November, so Peslarová has a ton of hockey left in her tank. Watch for her to be the steady presence between the pipes for the Czech national team as the team’s young core continues to emerge over the next few years. With Peslarová in the goal crease, the Czechs have the potential to do big things.