The World Junior Hockey Championship is one of the best parts of the holiday season. Canada is set to defend their title as they go for 6 straight gold medals. Sweden and USA look to be contenders this year. Don’t count out the Russians either, especially if Nikita Filatov is playing with something to prove instead of being bitter about not being in the NHL. Here are 10 player to keep an eye during this years tournament:
1. Taylor Hall (CAN) – Hall was cut last year so watch for him to have a big impact, as it is his year to shine. His performance will go a long way in solidifying his #1 overall spot in the next NHL Entry Draft. Hall is averaging just under 2 points a game in the OHL and has 90-95 point potential in the NHL.
2. Jacob Markstrom (SWE) – Last year Markstrom won 4 of the 5 games and finished with a shutout and a GAA of 1.61. If Sweden is going to contend this year he will need to put up similar numbers. Markstrom’s NHL upside is that of an elite starting goalie.
3. Jordan Eberle (CAN) – Eberle has been tearing up the WHL this season, his career high is 75 points, already this season he has 60 points in just 28 games. Eberle is an offensive wizard with incredible hands who scored 6 goals and 7 assists in last year’s tournament. Eberle will break the 100-point barrier one day in the NHL.
4. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (SWE) – Magnus can create 5-6 scoring chances a game and is capable of being a point a game player in the NHL. Last WJHC Magnus scored 7 points in 6 games; look for him to improve on those numbers this year as he takes on a bigger role.
5. Vyacheslav Voynov (RUS) – As an 18-year-old Voynov lead Manchester’s blueline in points and hits. Last season Voynov scored 23 points in 63 AHL games, this season he already has 6 goals and 11 assists in just 33 games. He joins a stellar list of young blueliners in LA where his potential is top 4 with power play time and could be top 2 on a team with less depth. Watch for Voynov to improve on the 4 points he scored last year and be Russia’s top dman.
6. John Carlson (USA) – Carlson is a big defensemen who can create offense and has a booming shot. This is his first WJHC and will play a key role for the Americans. Carlson and Mike Green combo for the Capitals power play is downright scary.
7. Tomas Tatar (SLV) – Tatar scored 7 goals and 4 assists in 7 games last year. Tatar has made a smooth transition to the AHL where he has 17 points in 22 games. His AHL experience should give him the confidence to be a dominant player in this year’s tournament. Tatar patterns his game after Martin St. Louis.
8. Nazem Kadri (CAN) – Kadri was very impressive during the Maple Leafs pre-season but was sent back to juniors. Instead of pouting he went back to the OHL where he has been on a scoring tear, scoring 20 goals and 38 points in 28 games. This is Kadri’s first WJHC and will play a key role for Canada as he can play all 3 forward positions and on play on the power play, he is a very dangerous offensive player.
9. Ryan Ellis (CAN) – Ellis ran Canada’s power play last year and was so exciting to see what he would do next. For a little player he has a very hard shot from the point and will be a strong power play quarterback in the NHL one day.
10. Jordan Schroeder (USA) – Jordan scored 11 points in 6 WJHC games last year and had a strong NCAA season, however he is off to a slow start this year scoring just 12 points in 18 NCAA games. Schroeder is small player but that doesn’t slow him down at all, he is very creative and offensive minded. Watch for Schroeder to use this tournament to get his season back on track.