Prospect Ramblings: Each Country’s Prospects to Watch — Group A

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-12-14

Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.

This week, as we’re approaching the most wonderful time of the year for draft analysts and scouts, I wanted to take a look at the World Junior Championship’s competing nations and which of their players you should keep an eye on in the upcoming weeks. I’ll be walking you through group A’s prospects to watch — Canada, Finland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic’s top players will be named below, and Mike Kosziecza will be introduce group B (USA, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, Switzerland) and their top prospects tomorrow.

Let’s start with the team to beat in this tournament:

Canada

Canada’s depth of talent was really hard to slim down to a shortlist of two players you should have your eye on, but I’m confident in this duo and how important it’ll be to follow their steps closely.

Connor Bedard, C/W — Regina Pats, WHL (2023 NHL Draft-eligible)

I’m not going to mince words: Bedard is a generational talent. I’ve written about it before, a long while ago, when I first got a chance to look at Bedard’s game under the microscope. He’s that good of a prospect. Mitch Brown recently released a video breakdown in which he perfectly explained what makes the forward so exceptional, and I wanted to share a quote from that video:

“The number of NHL players with Bedard’s pace, dual-threat scoring and inside play totals in the single digits. His path to superstardom is relatively straight-forward in the grand scheme of things.”

Despite “only” scoring a point per game through 24 WHL contests so far this year (I’ll remind you that he’s 16, and had 28 points in 15 GP last season), Bedard remains the most exciting prospect at this year’s World Junior Championship. His drop in production is mainly a matter of bad luck, as Brown also reports that Bedard leads his 1500-prospect sample, past and present, in expected goals per 60 minutes this season with the Pats.

If there’s any chance that Bedard under-performs at this tournament, it’ll be due to Team Canada’s historically strange roster and lineup decisions. We’ll see what role they have in place for him, especially given his recent chemistry with the next prospect on this list.

 

Shane Wright, C — Kingston Frontenacs, OHL (2022 NHL Draft-eligible)

Wright’s offensive production so far with the Frontenacs took a while to reach the level that was expected from this summer’s projected first-overall pick; his point-per-game pace through the team’s first eight contests of the season paled in comparison to other OHL prospects who aren’t even close to Wright’s level of skill.

However, Wright has clawed his way back up the scoring race and sits at 30 points in 22 matches, including eight in his last three games. He has dominated on both sides of the puck with poise and intelligence, and has maintai