In my Prospect Ramblings last week I talked about how the NHL draft and the World Juniors are the two biggest prospect events of the year. As a result I was invited to guest on NHL Game Day with Steve Kouleas on Sirius XM Radio, and you can listen to that segment here
You can listen to more prospects at the World Juniors on the latest episode of DobberProspects Radio as Paul Zwambag and I were joined by Aysley Scott and discussed a variety of players from each nation, from draft eligible players, to returning players, to undrafted prospects.
Listen to the episode!
After pouring over prospects and all the nations preliminary rosters in preparation for those shows it seems like a good fit to look at the top five competing teams in Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden and USA and give you a sure-fire, breakout, and sleeper pick to watch from each.
Sure-Fire – Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes
When looking for a sure-fire star player who will find success in the NHL and in fantasy hockey on Canada, most of the choices are already in the NHL. Fortunately for Canada, Dylan Strome was returned to the OHL for his fourth and final season of junior. Since his return he has dominated as expected with four goals and 15 points in the six games he has played with the Erie Otters. Strome is a lock to play first line center for Canada as the go-to player and could lead the tournament in scoring when it’s all said and done.
Breakout – Tyson Jost, Colorado Avalanche
After dominating for Team Canada last year at the U-18 in North Dakota as team captain posting 15 points in seven games Jost is a rare NCAA addition to team Canada. Jost is a freshman at the University of North Dakota where he is producing just over a point per game offence there. He is a solid two-way player and has drawn comparisons to Jonathan Toews in his playing style. Toews had his coming out party for Canada at the World Juniors as a NCAA prospect, look for Jost to do the same.
Sleeper – Taylor Raddysh, Tampa Bay Lightning
It is hard to pick a sleeper of Canada, and as the OHL leading scorer I am not sure if he qualifies. But Taylor Raddysh was not in the discussion to make this team in the summer, and he was not invited to the summer training camp. However, with 23 goals in 28 games with 61 points to lead the league it is difficult to ignore. Raddysh was also in the Canada Russia series on Team OHL and scored two goals and three points in the single game he played, that’s hard to ignore as well! Raddysh has good size, has an excellent shot and scoring instincts and has improved his skating. He could not only play his way onto the roster, but play his way into a top six scoring role on a line with his Erie Otters teammate Dylan Strome for some built in chemistry in a short tournament.
Sure-Fire – Olli Juolevi, Vancouver Canucks
Juolevi will be one of the returning players for Finland and he was a force on the blue line as a draft eligible player last year posting nine points in seven games to help win the Gold Medal on home soil. At 18-years-old his resume already boasts a World Junior Gold Medal, OHL Championship, and Memorial Cup Championship. The fifth overall selection from the 2016 draft will be the anchor for the Finnish defence and the backbone of the team.
Breakout – Eeli Tolvanen, 2017 NHL Draft
The USHL is a developing junior league that is on the rise. However, it is still relatively unknown at the moment and that has allowed Finnish sniper Eeli Tolvanen to slip under the radar a little. Tolvanen is currently the USHL leading scorer with 16 goals and 27 points in 23 games for the Sioux City Musketeers. He will be a top ten selection in this summer’s draft and has committed to play for Boston College next season.
Sleeper – Petrus Palmu, Undrafted
Here are some things you need to know about Palmu. He has been passed over in two NHL drafts because of his size. Currently listed at 5-7, 179 pounds on elite prospects but was 5-4 in his first draft year, so he is growing. Last summer he was invited to the Montreal Canadiens prospect camp and I asked our Montreal scout Mike Barrett about him and this is what he had to say
“Worked hard along the boards and was definitely not afraid of traffic, more than just a skilled player. He had that typical Finn grit and compete level. Looked passionate, very focused.”
In his third season in the OHL as a 19-year-old he is producing points and has 23 goals and 44 points in 32 games with seven points in the last three games and a six game point streak. This tournament will give him an opportunity to showcase himself against elite competition in an effort to earn an NHL contract this summer.
Sure-Fire – Mikhail Sergachev, Montreal Canadiens
After dominating the rookie tournament with Montreal, looking impressive in NHL preseason he made the NHL roster to start the season, but was shortly thereafter returned to the OHL where he plays for the Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. Sergachev was a leader on the Russian U-18 roster which was the U-17 roster due to a doping scandal. He was a good soldier for Russia and a leader then, and he will be dominant for them again at the World Junior. He is poised to have a monster season and is a lock to play for Montreal next year.
Breakout – German Rubtsov, Philadelphia Flyers
As mentioned in the podcast, Rubtsov is my candidate for breakout prospect for Team Russia. He showed flashes of brilliance and dominance in the Canada Russia series where he scored two goals. He is a very complete player who skates, shoots and passes well. He plays a two-way game and can play a physical game. He is very versatile and should see lots of minutes.
Sleeper – Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
Kaprizov is lighting up the KHL as a 19-year-old and setting under 20 scoring records in that league. Look for this sniper to have a monster performance playing a top six offensive role. He could be coming to North America as soon as next season and is only 9.5% Fantrax owned. Don’t sleep on this kid!
Sure-Fire – Alex Nylander, Buffalo Sabres
This was an easy choice. He dominated for Sweden last year at the WJC after his big brother William Nylander went down with a concussion in the first game. This year he is playing in the second best league in the world, the AHL as a 19-year-old and has four goals and 14 points in 22 games on a bottom feeder team. Nylander should improve on his offensive numbers from last year of nine points in seven games.
Breakout – Carl Grundstrom, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs second round pick in the 2016 draft is playing pro hockey in the SHL as a 19-year-old and is the U-20 leading scorer in that league. He is big, strong and competes hard and plays a physical power game. His offensive upside has come under scrutiny, but this tournament could be his opportunity to quench those concerns.
Sleeper – Rasmus Dahlin, 2018 NHL Draft
The 16-year-old wonder kid needs to make the team, but if he does it should put his name on the map as a top prospect for the 2018 draft. Already 6-1 and 165 pounds he is playing pro hockey in the SHL. Watch this kid, and remember his name!
Sure-Fire – Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
I went with DeBrincat over Keller here for two reasons. Keller is coming off an injury, and DeBrincat will be looking to atone for his brutal showing at the WJC last year. Scoring only one goal and 25 penalty minutes in five games last year, DeBrincat will be looking to prove he belongs.
Breakout – Jeremy Bracco, Toronto Maple Leafs
After not making the cut last year Bracco is tearing up the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers and is currently riding a 26 game point streak! Bracco has dynamic offensive vision, creativity and skill and can make plays that make you say “did you see that”, “wow” and “how did he do that?” Bracco looks to be the Leafs next super rookie and is only 16% Fantrax owned.
Sleeper – Adam Fox, Calgary Flames
The Flames snagged Fox in the third round of the 2016 draft and he is a rookie with Harvard where he has 16 points in 11 games. Remember he is a defenceman! He is undersized at 5-10 and 185 pounds and needs to add strength and improve his skating are the scouting notes on him. But with his offensive upside it is going to be hard to keep this right shooting defenceman off the roster and the score sheet.