|Julius Honka (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
The Finnish team has announced their roster for the 2015 edition of the World Junior Championship, and Texas defenseman Julius Honka is on the initial roster. Honka competed last year for Finland and won gold with the club. This year's tournament will take place in Canada, co-hosted between Toronto and Montreal, from December 26 to January 5. The 10-team tourney pits international squads of players younger than 20 against each other in a round robin format that culminates in a single elimination playoff bracket for the gold.
For those of you keeping score at home, the tournament would be right in the middle of the Texas Stars season. Texas will play five games during that span and a sixth on January 6th that Honka would likely miss if his Finnish team made it to the gold medal game on the 5th. So now comes the question: does Honka go to the WJC?
Honka is going to get great experience in the tournament playing against a wide range of international competition. This year's tourney is even being played on NHL-sized ice at the Air Canada Centre and the Bell Centre, so there's no need to mentally switch between the two mid-season. The counter argument to this is that Honka is currently playing against some pretty good competition in the AHL and that was the reason he's in the AHL and not in Europe: the competition.
As an argument against, you could note that Honka already did this last year. He got the whole experience and even won gold last winter in the same tournament. What incremental value does playing in this year's version have for Honka's development?
Something else to consider is the defenseman thinning that has happened in the Dallas organization. A squad that originally started the year with John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka lost those players when Patrik Nemeth, Sergei Gonchar and Kevin Connauton departed the Dallas lineup in various ways. If those players were still around, I think Honka to the World Juniors would be a no brainer. He'd get top minutes there and play a lot of hockey very quickly. However, he might be needed more here in Cedar Park.
That being said, the Stars had no injuries this weekend on defense and still signed Connor Hardowa out of the ECHL as an 8th defenseman. If you were preparing to lose a top 4 defenseman for a week and a half, wouldn't you think about signing someone ahead of when you needed them to get them brought in on the system and comfortable with the team? Just a thought.