The IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships is an annual tournament, showcasing many of the top prospects in the game of hockey. The day after Christmas, prospects from ten countries come together to battle for the WJC title. It is a wonderful opportunity for hockey fans to get to watch the stars of tomorrow play for country pride on a large stage.
Fifteen current Washington Capitals have World Juniors experience including five of their top six defensemen (Nate Schmidt was the exception), and eight of their top nine forwards (except Justin Williams). While Braden Holtby never made it onto a Canadian World Junior squad, his net-mate, Philipp Grubauer, played in two tourneys for Germany.
This year’s WJC will be played in Montreal and Toronto and features three Capitals prospects. There’s also more than a couple interesting draft-eligible prospects to keep an eye on.
Ilya Samsonov should see the majority of games for Team Russia in the tournament, though Russian goalie deployment can sometimes baffle even the experts. In 19 games for KHL Metallurg this year, Samsonov has been sensational, posting a 2.06 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
How can you watch
Four of Russia’s round-robin games will be televised on NHL Network in the US.
Jonas Siegenthaler and Damien Riat will suit up for the Swiss squad at the World Juniors and should see top minutes. Siegenthaler has only played in sixteen games for ZSC of the Swiss National League A accumulating only two points, while Riat has played in 30 games with ten points in the same league.
How can you watch
Three Switzerland games will be broadcasted on NHL Network in the US.
Several of the top draft-eligible players for the 2017 draft will not be playing in the tournament, including Nolan Patrick and Timothy Liljegren. A slew of others will be playing for their respective countries.
Their International Scouting Services ranking will be in parentheses after their name.
Jake Oettinger will be one of three goaltenders on the US roster, so it is unclear how much playing time he will actually get. Oettinger will be one of the first goalies off the board in the 2017 draft. He is a large goaltender at 6’4” and has been billed as positionally sound with good reflexes. He currently plays for Boston University.
Jack Ahcan went undrafted last year and his size may have a lot to do with that. He has always been able to skate very well and put up points from the backend. Team USA will hope to get some production from him. He is generally listed at either 5’7” or 5’8”, but either would make him one of the smallest defenders in the NHL.
Nico Hischier is one of the top young players in the QMJHL this year, putting up 48 points in 31 games for Halifax. He will almost certainly be in the conversation to be a top five pick in the 2017 NHL draft. Hischier will likely be playing top minutes for Switzerland at the center position and should stand out. He uses his speed and dynamite skills to create offense. Swiss games are looking like must-watch affairs for Caps fans.
The book on Martin Necas is that he is fast and skilled. He should see some quality minutes with the Czechs as they don’t have many top-end forwards at the tournament. He is on the small side at 5’11” and only 148 pounds, but his speed and skill will be fun to watch.
Finland will have a few draft-eligible players to keep an eye on in the tournament starting with Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen certainly has a knack for scoring goals from the wing, and he already plays in North America, which is a plus. He has scored sixteen goals so far this season in the USHL and will play next year at Boston College. His shot is one of the best in his draft year. Finland is littered with draft-eligible players this year, so look out for the big, skilled Kristian Vesalainen on the wing and smart two-way Miro Heiskanen on the backend.
Sweden, like its archrival Finland, has a few draft-eligible players in the 2017 tournament. Elias Pettersson and Lias Andersson are both forwards in the typical Swedish mold, responsible, skilled, playmakers. Pettersson is ranked thirteenth and Andersson twenty seventh on the ISS rankings. Pettersson has the better chance to shine in this tournament.
The crown jewel of showcases for the tournament is Rasmus Dahlin. He is eligible for the 2018 draft and is looking like a top choice. He has already gotten comparisons to Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson, and while those are large shoes to fill, he might be able to do it. He is fast, skilled, and reliable and is already producing in the SHL at the age of sixteen. This kid could be great.
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