The World Junior Hockey Championship is one of the most exciting hockey tournaments. Aside from the Olympics, for now, there is no other hockey that is best on best (for the most part). Imagine if NHL teams were forced to release their U-20 players as well. This, of course, will never ever happen but we can still imagine.
Sweden: Magnus Paajarvi scored ten points for Sweden last year and was one of their best players. Paajarvi has scored 14 points this season for the Edmonton Oilers but needs to play with more consistency. Paajarvi could score 95 points one day in the NHL and is one of the key pieces for the rebuilding Oilers.
Sweden: Oliver Ekman Larsson was one of Sweden’s top defensemen last year scoring five points. Currently Larsson is playing for the Phoenix Coyotes and averaging close to 17 minutes a game. Larsson is a puck moving offensive defenseman who has the potential to score a lot of points. Larsson has bounced between the NHL and AHL this season. In the NHL Larsson has just six assists in 24 games but in the AHL he has scored two goals and eight points in 10 games. So he just needs a little more time to develop.
Russia: Alex Burmistrov who scored three goals for Russia last year is currently playing for the Atlanta Thrashers. Burmistrov has scored five goals (two GWG) so far this season, including a highlight reel goal against Washington. Burmistrov is a two-center with an offensive side to his game. Burmistrov should develop into a point-a-game player who is defensively responsible.
USA: Cam Fowler was been born in Canada but played for Team USA last year, which was a golden decision. Fowler averages over 22 minutes a game for the Anaheim Ducks, which is third highest on the team. Fowler gets a regular shift on the powerplay and is averaging a point every two games. Fowler should develop into a player who will average 15 goals and 55 points a season.
Canada: Evander Kane was a late addition to Canada in the 2009 tournament and scored six points. Kane is a power forward in the making who half way through his sophomore season has already matched his rookie point total (26). Kane averages 17.5 minutes a game for the Atlanta Thrashers and has the potential to be a 40-goal scorer.
Canada: Taylor Hall scored six goals and 12 points last year for Canada. Hall is averaging 18 minutes for the Oilers and has gotten better as the season has progressed. Hall is the leading goal scorer on the Oilers with 12 goals (two GWG) and has 22 points so far this season. Hall is a game changer and has superstar written all over him. Once these young Oilers develop watch for Hall to consistently score 95-100 points a season.
For all the great players to ever suit up for the Canadian squad there are always players that don’t ever get a chance to play in this tournament. Canada is so deep that not many 17 year olds make the WJC team but then they make the NHL as an 18 year old and don’t get released to play in the tournament.
Tyler Seguin who was failed to make the squad last year made the Boston Bruins this year and has six goals and 13 points in 36 games. Then there is Jeff Skinner who is leading all rookies in scoring with 11 goals and 28 points. Finally there are two Colorado Avalanche who could have played last year and this year. Ryan O’Reilly who is a defensive minded center who scored 26 points as a rookie last year and Matt Duchene who scored 24 goals and 55 points as an 18 year old. This season Duchene has scored 16 goals and 40 points and is the Avs leading scorer right now.
Canada has played in the Gold Medal game for ten straight years showing that Canada consistently puts together a strong team. Just imagine how dominating Canada would be if these six players were released to play! Just imagine.