We continue our dive into the upcoming World U18 Hockey Championships. This is the last major scouting event for most 2000-born draft eligible prospects and features some prominent names and some others looking to improve their position leading up to the June Entry Draft.
Earlier this week our lead European scout, Jokke Nevalainen treated you all to a behemoth of a preview digging into the Finnish and Swedish clubs, and today, I’ll be showcasing the talent from the Canadian, American and Russian squads.
As with Jokke’s piece, I’ll put the rankings of each player next to their names from my most recent Top 100 Rankings from mid-March. Those rankings will be updated next Friday just in time for the draft lottery the following day.
The 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship tournament (or U18 Worlds for short) will be played in Russia in the Chelyabinsk area which is near the Ural Mountains. The tournament starts on April 19th and ends on the 29th. There are a total of 10 teams in the tournament, and they’re divided into two groups in the preliminary round. One group plays their games in Chelyabinsk while the other group plays their games in Magnitogorsk.
The Canadians and Americans are in what should be considered the more difficult grouping with Sweden while the Russians play over in Group B with the Fins, Czechs and Slovaks.
Normally an international powerhouse, the Canadians are without a gold medal at this competition since 2013 and have just two bronze medals over that span. They finished a disappointing fifth a year ago and fourth back in 2016.
So what needs to happen for the Canadians to return to podium in 2018? In a word: skate.
Most of these players will be unfamiliar with the European-sized ice surface but they brought a group that can fly and they’ll need to use the space and their wheels to get in on the fore check and use their physicality along with their skill to produce turnovers and capitalize.
Of course some strong goaltending is always a necessity to any squad succeeding in a short tournament like this.
The forward corps for Canada is a mixture of some likely-first round selections and some elite looking 2001-born players who will be very high selections in 2019 and 2020. The team has been boosted by the recent arrival of Joe Veleno (#12) who will no doubt anchor their top line and power play unit.
Jack McBain (#38) will be a key player to watch. The powerful forward has made a habit of showing up when wearing the Maple Leaf – including a strong showing at last fall’s Ivan Hlinka tournament (five points in five games) and six points in four games at the World Junior A U19 Championships for Canada East.
In a centre-lite class, McBain’s blend of size, strength and skill will be tempting for many. Unfortunately his decision to stay in a tier two junior circuit with minimal progression from the year prior raises some questions. Next season at Boston College will be illuminating in assessing his future potential.
Power winger, Serron Noel (#23) will be counted to provide speed, physicality and finishing ability. The 6’5 right-winger can fly for a man his size and is looking to display some consistency to finish his year after struggling a bit down the stretch.
Cameron Hillis (#51) and Allan McShane (#61) will vie for the second line pivot spot and should provide strong secondary offense. Both are strong puck distributors.
The wild cards come via the youth. The first pre-tournament game featured an entire line 2019 draft-eligible players: Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, and Graeme Clarke, the former two are gearing up to be top 10 selections in their draft year.
Additionally, QMJHL rookie of the year and burgeoning superstar, 16-year-old Alexis Lafrenière who just post