Team Austria Players to Watch at 2023 WJC
At the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) in August, Team Austria went 0-4 while being outscored 21-4. Had it not been for the ruling from the IIHF that no relegation round was to occur at that tournament, they would most likely not be attending the 2023 WJC being held in Halifax and Moncton.
Anyone looking forward to watching Marco Kasper, the Detroit Red Wings’ eighth overall selection from the 2022 NHL Draft, will be disappointed as he will not be attending the 2023 WJC. He would have been the centerpiece of the Austrian roster, fighting to avoid the relegation round. Despite that, however, there are still some interesting players to watch.
The Montreal Canadiens were able to select winger Vincenz Rohrer with their 2023 third-round pick. In his draft plus one year this season, he has returned to playing for the powerhouse Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), scoring 11 goals and 36 points in 26 games played.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship
Rohrer is a capable two-way winger who takes pride in pursuing puck carriers in transition and breaking up opposition cycle plays. He is a strong skater who uses his edges to shift into any direction on a dime, without losing speed, and continues to pursue his target or create space when he has possession. He is used in all situations but is especially useful on the penalty kill.
This will be Rohrer’s introduction to international play as he joins Team Austria for the first time at the WJC. Despite that lack of international experience, he will still be looked to for leadership and two-way play as an 18-year-old NHL prospect. His experience playing in North America will be relied upon to support centerman Ian Scherzer on the top line.
Fans will want to keep an eye out for David Reinbacher. He is a smooth skating 6-foot-2 defender who is already competing at the professional level in Europe. He is one of the handful of returnees for Austria, coming off of two assists in four games played at the 2022 WJC, meaning he factored into 50 percent of the team’s scoring as a 17-year-old. The now 18-year-old right-hander plays a strong offensive game built off his mobility and puck movement, but can also use his size to handle the physical play of much older and stronger professionals.
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Reinbacher has climbed into Sportsnet’s projected first-round picks for 2023 making him his nation’s top draft-eligible prospect. This season, instead of joining the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, he chose instead to remain in Europe and play in the top professional league in Switzerland with the EHC Kloten organization. In 28 games he has played a top-pairing role for long periods while scoring two goals and 14 points. As such, look for him to play a significant role for Austria in 2023, as a strong performance could mean the difference between relegation and a spot in the 2024 WJC.
Ian Scherzer is another of Austria’s 2023 NHL Draft hopefuls. The 6-foot-0, 181-pound left-handed centerman has been playing for Sweden’s Rogle BK club mostly with their under-20 team where he has three goals and seven points in 18 games played. He is a returnee from the 2022 WJC Austrian club where he scored one goal and three points in four games (75 percent of their total offense). He did this as an underager, playing as the second youngest player at the tournament in August where only Canadian phenom Connor Bedard was younger.
Scherzer’s style is reminiscent of that of former Canadiens’ center Tomas Plekanec. Like Plekenaec, he relies on his work ethic and his high hockey IQ to read developing plays and react with the safest high-percentage play in all three zones. Even though he is still only 17 years old, he will be looked to as the top center and his performance will be essential if the team wants to be competitive.
Team Austria may not have much name recognition, but it still has some intriguing prospects to keep an eye on. While it is a nation that will be in a battle to avoid relegation, excellent performances from their top players may be enough to allow them to remain in the top tier of hockey nations. They will open the tournament on Dec. 26 against Sweden.
Blain is a regular contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a part time journalist and podcaster covering the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its affiliates. He has made appearances on various television and radio stations as well as podcasts to discuss the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the lessons on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has learned as a 29 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and applied them to his work as a journalist with the goal to be a trusted source of information and entertainment.