Just 10 more days to go before the 2019 U18 World Championship tournament starts! That means most European teams are arranging a training camp of some sorts, and there’s plenty of useful information in those training camp rosters. I’ll go through the rosters for Finland, Sweden, Russia and Czech Republic. I’ll make my lineup projections for Finland and Sweden as those are the teams I’m most familiar with. But I’ll also highlight a few names to keep an eye on for Russia and Czech Republic.
There were no major omissions from Team Finland’s training camp roster but I was a bit surprised forward Marcus Kallionkieli (2019) didn’t get invited there. I wouldn’t have had him on my final roster but I figured he’d be a camp invite at least. Other players who could have been invited were forward Wiljami Myllylä (2019) and goalie Eetu Randelin (2020) but they wouldn’t have been on my final roster either.
Henri Nikkanen (2019) and Kasper Simontaival (2020) have been dealing with injuries but luckily it appears both are healthy enough to play.
In case someone is wondering where Kaapo Kakko (2019) is, he informed over a week ago he’s focusing on making the men’s national team instead of playing at the U18 level.
Here’s my projected lineup for Team Finland:
Leevi Aaltonen (2019) – Anton Lundell (2020) – Antti Saarela (2019)
Patrik Puistola (2019) – Henri Nikkanen (2019) – Kasper Simontaival (2020)
Veeti Miettinen (2020) – Aatu Räty (2021) – Tuukka Tieksola (2019)
Roni Hirvonen (2020) – Juuso Pärssinen (2019) – Aku Räty (2019)
Santtu Hakanen (2019)
Mikko Kokkonen (2019) – Ville Heinola (2019)
Santeri Hatakka (2019) – Antti Tuomisto (2019)
Iivari Räsänen (2019) – Kalle Loponen (2019)
Topi Niemelä (2020)
Roope Taponen (2019)
Kari Piiroinen (2019)
Joel Blomqvist (2020)
This lineup would mean the final cuts from the camp roster would be forwards Aarne Intonen (2019), Mikko Petman (2019), Matias Mäntykivi (2019) and Joona Kiviniemi (2020) as well as defensemen Atso Lehtinen (2019) and Samu Koskenkorva (2019).
Up front, the names in my top-nine could be switched around quite easily. Lundell and Puistola are likely to be the top forwards for Finland but there’s a lot of talent in that group, so they can definitely have three scoring lines with the fourth one being more defense-minded.
On defense, Finland has three locks for top-four roles in Heinola, Kokkonen and Tuomisto. My choice for that fourth spot here is Hatakka mostly because he played with Tuomisto at the latest U18 tournament. That would mean either Heinola or Kokkonen would have to play on the right side despite being left-handed shots but both have played on the right side in the Liiga at times, so I don’t see it being an issue.
The one major omission from Team Sweden’s camp roster is forward Noel Gunler (2020) who has had an incredible season in Sweden, playing both in the top junior league as well as in the SHL this season. He’s a top 10 prospect for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and as a 2001-born player, this is his final chance to play at the U18 Worlds.
No one seems to be able to understand why he wasn’t included on this roster, especially considering Sweden doesn’t have a ton of elite skill up front. But their head coach did confirm Gunler is likely the first player to be added in case there’s an injury, so there’s still a chance he gets to play and prove that coach wrong for leaving him off the roster to begin with.
Sweden’s top forwards are all wingers, so the lucky centers who get to play with those talents are likely going to increase their draft stock during the tournament. Sweden’s top line is likely going to be built around Lucas Raymond (2020) and Alexander Holtz (2020) who are both top-five prospects for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. They have a lot of history playing together in international tournaments. Even as underagers, they’re some of the top forwards in this tournament. Karl Henriksson (2019) is likely going to be the center who gets to play between these two.
Simon Holmström (2019) and Albin Grewe (2019) are their top forwards from this group for the upcoming draft, and both are potential first-rounders. I could see the second-line being built around these two wingers. Arvid Costmar (2019), Albin Sundsvik (2019) and Oscar Bjerselius (2019) are likely going to be the other three centers behind Henriksson but at this point, it’s a complete mystery who plays on which line. Zion Nybeck (2020) is an obvious choice for third scoring line wing but the guy on the other side is harder to pin down. (This is where an elite goal-scorer like Gunler would have been a nice fit.)
On defense, Sweden has three studs in Victor Söderström (2019), Philip Broberg (2019) and Tobias Björnfot (2019). Those three will be playing huge minutes for Sweden, and they are some of the best defenders in the tournament. In addition to those three potential first-rounders, I’ll be keeping an eye on Albert Lyckåsen (2019) and Albert Johansson (2019) in this tournament.
In goal, Sweden has two great options in Hugo Alnefelt (2019) and Jesper Wallstedt (2021). I could see either one stealing the starting job. Wallstedt is much younger but he’s a potential franchise goalie.
So all in all, Team Sweden’s lineup could look something like this.
Lucas Raymond (2020) – Karl Henriksson (2019) – Alexander Holtz (2020)
Albin Grewe (2019) – Arvid Costmar (2019) – Simon Holmström (2019)
Max Wahlgren (2019) – Albin Sundsvik (2019) – Zion Nybeck (2020)
Isac Andersson (2019) – Oscar Bjerselius (2019) – Oscar Lawner (2019)
Rasmus Järvelin (2019)
Tobias Björnfot (2019) – Victor Söderström (2019)
Philip Broberg (2019) – Albert Lyckåsen (2019)
Samuel Sjölund (2019) – Albert Johansson (2019)
Alex Brännstam (2019)
Ludvig Hedström (2019)
Big thanks to Christoffer Hedlund (@ChrHedlund) for his help with some of the bottom-of-the-lineup decisions.
From players playing in Russia, they have three interesting omissions in forwards Daniil Gutik (2019) and Alexei Tsyplakov (2019) as well as defenseman Ilya Mironov (2019). They also don’t have some players who play in North America like forwards Yegor Afanasyev (2019), Vladislav Firstov (2019) and Oleg Zaitsev (2019) as well as defenseman Artemi Knyazev (2019). No one seems to know why those players aren’t on the camp roster.
Vasili Podkolzin (2019), Ilya Nikolayev (2019) and Yegor Spiridonov (2019) are expected to be Russia’s top forwards in this tournament but I’m also keeping a close eye on Yegor Chinakhov (2019) and Danil Gushchin (2020) who are very talented offensive players. I don’t know how their lines will shake up but it’s pretty easy to see Podkolzin and Nikolayev on one line, and Spiridonov and Chinakhov on another because those were the pairs they used at the U18 Five Nations tournament in Russia in February. But as to who plays left wing on those lines, that’s much harder to say. Gushchin is definitely one option, though.
On defense, Semyon Chistyakov (2019) is an interesting name to keep an eye on. He could be Russia’s number one defenseman. I’m expecting a big tournament from him, although I have doubts about his NHL potential. Another name for the watch list is Roman Bychkov (2019). In general, they don’t have many household names on defense, and that part of their team doesn’t appear to be at the same level with Finland and Sweden who both have potentially three top-50 picks on their blue lines.
Yaroslav Askarov (2020) is an underager but he could be the best goalie in the entire tournament – and yes, I do know USA has Spencer Knight who is also a great goalie prospect. Askarov is a potential franchise goalie who could go in the top 20 in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. If Russia wants to go far in this tournament with their weakish defense, they need a huge performance from Askarov – and he’s capable of delivering just that.
I asked Twitter account @RUSProspects if there are any other names worth watching, and I got a bunch of names from there. Forwards Dmitri Sheshin (2019), Arseni Gritsyuk (2019), Yegor Bryzgalov (2019), Marat Khusnutdinov (2020), Yaroslav Likhachyov (2019), Rodion Amirov (2020) and Maxim Groshev (2020), defensemen Dmitri Tyuvilin (2019) and Pavel Yelizarov (2019), and also goalie Vsevolod Skotnikov (2020). These guys haven’t received a lot of hype outside of Russia, so they could be interesting sleepers.
Team Czech Republic
Michal Teplý (2019) is a potential first-rounder this summer but underager Jan Mysak (2020) might just be the most interesting forward on this team. Mysak is looking like a top-15 pick for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. They’ve both played pro hockey already this season, so I would expect them to be the top forwards for the Czechs. If they want to load up their top line, they could have these two at opposite wings with someone like Jaromir Pytlik (2020) down the middle. Other interesting forwards include Adam Raska (2020) and Adam Najman (2019).
On defense, I would assume Hugo Has (2019) is their top dog. He’s been playing on the local junior team here in Tampere over the past two years, so I’ve seen him more than any other player on this team. I have him as a third-rounder but a strong tournament could push him even higher than that.
I’m not familiar with most of the goalies on the roster but Jan Bednar (2020) is definitely interesting. He’s a big (6-4, 185) 16-year-old who has already played at the top level in Czech Republic this season – with good results.
I also asked Twitter account @CZprospects if there are any other prospects worth keeping an eye on, and I got these names: forwards Jonas Peterek (2019) and Ondrej Psenicka (2019), defenseman Simon Kubicek (2020), and goalie Nick Malik (2020). So those names are definitely going to my watch list now.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of IIHF.com