There’s only a matter of days to go until the 2018 World Juniors get underway in Buffalo, New York, and while a lot of focus will be on the big countries and skaters already drafted into the NHL, it’s always good to focus on some of the players who are yet to be drafted, and will be looking to make their case for a higher draft ranking, or for most just put up a little bit of a challenge against the consensus number one overall pick in 2018, Rasmus Dahlin.
So without further ado, he’s the list of Group B for you to get familiar with some prospects names, but also with Christmas a few days away, feel free to use this article (and the one on Group A that will be coming soon) as an opportunity to stare blankly at your device of choice in an effort to avoid awkward family conversations.
Last seasons Division 1A champions Belarus come into this years World Juniors just hoping to stick around with the big boys for next year. The favourites for relegation have no draft eligible prospects as far as I know in their line-up, that features players who mostly ply their trade in their home country.
They do have one NHL prospect in their ranks however. Maxim Sushko was the 107th overall pick in last years NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Philadelphia Flyers. He comes into the tournament as one of the few currently playing outside of Belarus as he plays in the OHL for the Owen Sound Attack. This season, Sushko is nearly on a point-per-game pace, with 26 points in 28 games with his 16 goals being good for second in team scoring, behind Nick Suzuki and tied with Aidan Dudas.
It’s no surprise to see a whole host of talent in the Czech team that have already been drafted by NHL teams and are either playing professionally back in the Czech Republic, in the AHL or playing in Canada’s top major junior leagues.
Filip Zadina – F – Halifax Mooseheads – QMJHL
Leading the Czech’s draft eligible players will be Filip Zadina of the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL. The 18-year-old from Pardubice is in his first year in the QMJHL after spending last season in his hometown with HC Dynamo Pardubice and also with their junior team.
A player who’s projected as a top-5 pick, he’ll be looking to prove his worth when the tournament gets underway on boxing day. So far Zadina has adapated perfectly to life in the Q, leading his Mooseheads team with 46 points in 32 games.
Jakub Skarek – G – HC Dukla Jihlava – Czech
Skarek is probably the highest rated goaltender going into next summer’s NHL draft, and he’ll be competing alongside Josef Korenar for the starting spot in this month’s tournament.
He’s currently playing in his hometown for HC Dukla Jihlava where he’s posted a 2.60 GAA and .900 save percentage in 17 games this year.
As a 17-year-old he featured in three of the Czech Republics games in last years World Juniors, so it’s likely that he’ll get more of a nod this year as the Czechs look for their first World Junior medal since securing bronze at the 2005 World Juniors.
Filip Kral – D – Spokane Chiefs – WHL
The lone prospect defenseman in the Czech lineup, Filip Kral will be looking to continue his impressive season for the Spokane Chiefs with 15 points in 22 games, including 12 assists.
He’s expected to go late in the fourth to sixth rounds at the moment, and he began the season back in his native Czech Republic before joining the Chiefs in October. He won’t be one of the Czech’s most important players this month, but he’ll be looking to impress in his first appearance for the Czech’s under 20s team, after playing for both the U17 and U18 teams in recent years.
Krystof Hrabik – F – Bili Tygri Liberec – Czech
Another forward prospect for the Czech’s this month, Hrabik has suited up for three professional teams this season, featuring nine times for Liberec and being held without a point in the Czech league (however scoring one goal in five Champions Hockey League games) but he’s also had loan spells in the Czech second division.
In 19 games for HC Benatky nad Jizerou he’s posted eight points including six assists while picking up just one assist in his two appearances for HC Litomerice.
Martin Kaut – F – HC Dynamo Pardubice – Czech
Another player like Filip Zadina who’s a product of the Pardubice junior system, Kaut comes into the tournament expected as a mid to late second round pick.
After splitting time between Pardubice’s Under 20s and senior team last year, he’s a regular in the senior league this year, posting six points in his 24 appearances.
In 2014-15 he had the most goals in the Czech Under 16s league with 37 and he’ll be looking to help the Czech’s long World Juniors medal drought.
Jakub Lauko – F – Pirati Chomutov – Czech
Another potential second round talent coming out of the Czech Republic, and another member of the Czech senior league, Jakub Lauko has been great playing in the Czech junior system over recent years, but has little trophies to show for it.
This season however, he did help the Czech’s t a silver medal at this years’ Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, losing 4 -1 to the Canadians in the final game back in August. In that tournament, Lauko had four goals in five games, and he’ll look to continue his form when the Czech’s drop the puck on their tournament against Russia in the first game of the tournament on Boxing Day.
Speaking of Russia, they’ll be out to keep their streak of medals alive when they get to Buffalo. Since a devastating 6th place finish in the 2010 tournament, the Russians have picked up three bronze medals (including one last year), three silver medals and one gold medal over the last seven tournaments.
With final cuts still to be made official (or for me to find where they have been) some of the players listed below may not actually be on the final rosters.
Alexander Alexeyev – D – Red Deer Rebels – WHL
A potential first round pick next summer, Alexeyev is in his second year for the Rebels of the WHL and is already well on his way to eclipsing his rookie point totals.
Last year, the native of St. Petersburg registered 21 points in 41 games, he’s already on 18 points in 25 outings this time around.
He’ll be making his first appearance in the World Juniors this year, but he’s previously represented his country at the U16, U17 and U18 levels, winning a silver medal for the U17 team, finishing with four points in the U17 World Championships.
He’s projected to go anywhere between late first round to mid-second round when the draft gets underway in Dallas, but if he makes the final roster for this years’ tournaments (Which is likely) he’ll likely be a solid contributor on the backend for the Russians in what should be their group to take.
Vitali Kravtsov – F – Chelmet Chelyabinsk – VHL
Like Alexeyev, another potential first round according to some rankings, but likely will fall further down the list, Kravtsov will have more of a minor role if he’s kept on the final roster this year.
He’s split time between Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL and Chelmet Chelyabinsk of the VHL this year, and whilst his point totals leave a bit to be imagined, he’ll likely show flashes of his potential if he’s given a roster spot.
In 24 KHL games this year he’s been held to six points, while he’s only played twice in the VHL and secured two assists.
Andrei Svechnikov – F – Barrie Colts – OHL
Potentially the second overall selection behind Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden this year, Svechnikov isn’t guaranteed his spot in the tournament this year, but if he does make the final team he could be a difference maker for the Russians.
The younger brother of Yevgeni Svechnikov, the 19th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings, Andrei will has a great winning history both internationally and at club level, and he’d be a welcome addition to the Russian lineup.
After spending years playing for the Ak Bars Kazan junior system, Svechnikov joined the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL last year, registering 58 points in 48 games, and this year he’s totalling 21 points in 16 games for the Barrie Colts in the OHL.
For a team with such a good junior system such as Sweden, it’s crazy to think they’ll be hoping to snap a three-year streak without a medal at the World Juniors this year.
After picking up a gold and two silvers in three consecutive tournaments, the Swedes have lost in the Bronze Medal games in the past three years, but you’ll have to pick them as a potential medallist this time around.
Rasmus Dahlin – D – Frolunda – SHL
All eyes will be on Dahlin this year as he comes in expected without much challenge to go number one in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
A dynamic defensive player who can pull of highlight reel goals at 17-years-old that most veteran forwards struggle to achieve, Dahlin will be making his second appearance at the World Juniors, and he’ll hope that this year goes better than last.
Dahlin was part of the team that lost to Russia in the Bronze Medal game last year, and he had a part to play in that loss. After trying to make a drop pass in overtime, Denis Guryanov picked up the puck off a weak back pass and finished the game off to earn Russia the medal.
One play can’t and won’t define Dahlin though, as this year he’s posted 11 goals in 26 games for Frolunda in the SHL, as well as two goals in seven Champions Hockey League games this year as well, while still not even 18-years-old yet. He’ll be one of the key players for the Swedes this year, along with forward Alex Nylander who’s been loaned to the team from the Buffalo Sabres organisation.
Jesper Sellgren – D – MODO – Allsvenskan
An 19-year-old eligible for the draft next year, Sellgren will be making his first appearance for the Swedes at the World Juniors after representing his country at the U17, U18 and U19 levels, picking up a silver medal for the U18 team in the 2015-16 season.
Playing for MODO in the Allsvenskan, he’s put up seven points in 24 games this year and will likely be a player going quietly about his business at this years’ tournament, but an important piece of the Swedish puzzle as they look to break their slump.
David Gustavsson – F – HV71 – SHL
Touted as a potential fourth round pick in the 2018 draft, David Gustavsson may not be considered on the Swedes final roster, but he could be a useful spare forward for this year. At 17-years-old he was part of the Swedish team who picked up Bronze at this years Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and he’ll be carrying on a tradition of representing his country after playing from the U16 level up to the U20s.
If he doesn’t crack the team this year, he’ll have plenty more opportunities over the next couple of seasons.
Glen Gustavsson – F – Orebro HK – SHL
Geln Gustavsson comes in as a 19-year old making his first impact on the Swedish international scene having never played for his country before.
Playing for both Orebro in the SHL as well as in the Under 20s team, and he’ll likely be a quieter player on the team if he’s included in the final roster. He’s picked up five points in the SHL this year, as well as picking up just one point in seven games for the Under 20s side.
Isac Lundestrom – F – Lulea – SHL
At 18-years-old, Lundestom is performing well for Lulea in the SHL so far this season, reaching double digits in points in an SHL season for the first time in his career, and this is his third season making appearances in the SHL, and his first being a full time member of the Lulea senior team.
He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in next summer’s draft and will be making his first appearance at the World Juniors, after enjoying medal success at the U17 and U18 levels with a bronze and silver respectively.
In 2016-17, despite only having 6 points in 43 SHL games, he had the most points by a junior player, and he’ll likely be an electric forward on an impressive roster for Sweden in this year’s tournament.
Jacob Olofsson – F – Timra – Allsvenskan
Yet another potential first rounder who could be on the final roster for Sweden at the World Juniors, Jacob Olofsson is just 17-years-old so may be one that gets cut before the Swedes begin their tournament against Belarus on boxing day.
With 10 points in 24 games for Timra IK in the Allsvenskan this season, Olofsson will have plenty of chances to prove his abilities on an international stage over the next few years, but I fear he’ll have to watch on TV this year.
Last year, Switzerland made it all the way to the Quarter Finals, before a 3 – 2 loss to the USA in the Air Canada Centre. I was in attendance that night and saw how Nico Hischier really showed why he ended up going first overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, with a two-goal performance that nearly derailed the US train on their way to a gold medal.
This year, Switzerland won’t have some familiar names like Hischier, or Jonas Siegenthaler on defence, but they’ll look to some potential mid to late round picks to try and get them out of the group stage again, after they battled relegation for the three tournaments that preceded last year.
Davyd Barandun – D – EHC Chur – SRL
It’s unsure where/if Davyd Barandun will actually be selected in the 2018 Draft, but he’s been around the Swiss junior programme through the U16 level and now making his first appearance at the U20 level.
He’s split time between HC Davos of the NLA, as well as Davos’ Under 20 team this year, but see’s himself with EHC Chur on loan right now where he’s just made one appearance.
He was held pointless in his 11 games for HC Davos this year, but showed his potential with 9 points in 22 games for the Davos Under 20 side. When the final roster is announced, don’t be surprised to see his name there but also don’t be surprised to see him with limited ice time.
Tim Berni – D – ZSC Lions – NLA
Again, like Barandun, Tim Berni may not be selected in the draft but if he can earn a roster spot he’ll be trying to earn the right to be a 2018 draft pick.
He’s spent most of the season in the Swiss second division for GC Kunsacht Lions where he posted an impressive 15 points in 25 games, and he’s shown his playmaking abilities already this year but may not be the one the Swiss are looking for this time around.
He’ll have plenty of time to show make the World Juniors if he doesn’t this year, after playing for Switzerland at every level since U16, captaining the U16 team in his first appearance, also captaining the Swiss U18 team already this season.
Nico Gross – F – Oshawa Generals -OHL
Nico Gross has a bit more of a chance at being drafted than the Swiss players already mentioned, and he’s the first playing in North America on this list.
In 29 games for the Oshawa Generals, he’s posted eight points but has shown his ability to be a solid defenseman which the Swiss may be looking for.
He was one of the youngest guys on the Swiss team in last year’s tournament at just 16-years-old, and he will still be when he makes his appearance this time around.
He had just one point for the Swiss last year but could have a bit more of a role this time around which could help his point totals.
Nando Eggenberger – F – HC Davos – NLA
One of the highest rated Swiss players ahead of the draft, Nando Eggenberger will be out to prove he’s more than just an interesting name.
At 18-years-old he’s set to make his second appearance at the World Juniors after a one goal performance last year, but with his name expected to be called in the second round he will be a leader on the team, having already had the C on his jersey for the Under 20s this year.
Currently playing for HC Davos in the NLA, he’s posted four points on the season so far while only playing once for the Davos Under 20s team. In his one junior appearance he had a hat-trick and three assists so will look to try and emulate that at this year’s tournament.
Philipp Kurashev – F – Quebec Remparts – QMJHL
The second of two Swiss players playing in North America on this list, Philipp Kurashev is also the Swiss’ best hope at a first-round pick, not quiet in the same vein as Nico Hischier, but he could be a late first rounder but most likely in the second round like Eggenberger.
He’s putting on a fine display in the QMJHL for the Quebec Remparts with 31 points in 33 games so far, on pace to pass his season totals last year of 54 points in 65 games.
He made an appearance for the Under 20s last year, but not at the World Juniors, but given his form recently it’s hard to see that he won’t be part of the Swiss line-up this year, but also one who could be a top performer when the Swiss get things underway against Belarus on December 27th.
*2019* Valentin Nussbaumer – F – ECH Biel-Bienne – NLA.
One player to keep tabs on if he does make the final roster is 17-year old Valentin Nussbaumer who’s a prospect eligible for the 2019 NHL draft.
He’s made 19 appearances for EHC Biel-Bienne in the NLA this year he’s posted five goals on the year, whilst also adding eight points in nine games for the Under 20s side.
He may be one to watch in next years’ tournament, but will be interesting to watch for when the Swiss finalise their roster.
So, that’s Group B wrapped up on potential draft eligible players in this years’ tournament, keep an eye out for the Group A list with Canada, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and hosts/reigning champions USA.