Well it’s December now, which means Christmas is coming fast, and with it the World Junior. Teams are starting to name preliminary rosters as Finland and the United States have recently done so, let’s start there.
Looking back at the World Junior summer showcase, the American top line of Logan Brown, Casey Mittelstadt and Kailer Yamamoto was dynamic and dominant at times and projects as the first line for the defending Gold Medal Americans. Both Brown and Yamamoto carried that momentum into NHL training camps and earned some NHL regular season time at the start of the season before being returned to junior. Mittelstadt is in his freshman year of college hockey with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and has been impressive posting five goals and 15 points in 17 games. Since returning to the OHL Windsor Spitfires, Logan Brown has 11 goals and 21 points in 13 games, while Yamamoto has a goal and nine points in ten games with Spokane in the WHL. Based on the chemistry this trio demonstrated in the summer, look for them to be a force at the WJC in Buffalo starting on Boxing day, and all be regulars in the NHL as soon as next year.
Other drafted prospects to watch include Trent Frederic (Boston Bruins), Riley Tufte (Dallas Stars) Max Jones (Anaheim Ducks), Kiefer Bellows (New York Islanders), Josh Norris (San Jose Sharks) and Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens).
Also of note in the forward ranks are 2018 NHL draft eligible prospect Brady Tkachuk, brother of Matt Tkachuk (Calgary Flames). Older brother Matt was a surprise rookie sensation last year straight from his own draft and has quickly established himself as a fantasy must own player in leagues with hits and blocks. His little brother Brady is more of the same and at this stage of his development, some scouts think he is better than Matt was in his draft year. Brady is also a freshman in the NCAA, playing for the Boston Terriers where he has two goals and 12 points in 17 games.
On defense the players to watch for your future fantasy roster should include Adam Fox (Calgary Flames), Ryan Lindgren (Boston Bruins), Andrew Peeke (Columbus Blue Jackets), Reilly Walsh (New Jersey Devils) and another 2018 NHL draft eligible prospect in Quinn Hughes.
The other team to announce their preliminary roster was Finland.
NHL drafted forwards highlighting the roster include Kristian Vesalainen (Winnipeg Jets), Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville Predators), Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers), Eetu Tulola (Calgary Flames). Tolvanen is absolutely tearing up the KHL in an unprecedented manner as an 18-year-old, and he will surely be looked to to carry the load for Finland in goal scoring. Heponiemi is also dominating his league, the WHL where he is shooting out the lights with a staggering 66 points in 27 games. But the real strength for the Finnish team is on their defense.
Miro Heiskanen (Dallas Stars) headlines a powerhouse which includes Olli Juolevi (Vancouver Canucks, Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames), Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks, and Eemeli Rasanen (Toronto Maple Leafs). Finland boasts arguably the best crop of defensemen in the tournament and will be looking to bounce back after last years disaster performance which saw them fighting to avoid relegation.
After failing to make the NHL last year and being returned to junior for his final year of eligibility, some fantasy owners may have been disappointed in Dylan Strome. Then when he started the year in the AHL they may have been further let down, but after tearing up the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners to the tune of eight goals and 26 points in just 15 games as a rookie, and was named the AHL Rookie of the month in November. He was recalled to the NHL. In six games so far he has only posted the one goal, so keep a close eye on his play in the next few games as an indicator if he is here to stay or not.
The Vancouver Canucks prospects are the talk of the town with plenty of buzz surrounding names like Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, and for good reason. But don’t forget about Nikita Tryamkin. Our Canucks writer Cam Robinson just posted an update on him that’s worth a read. Tryamkin is under contract in the KHL for two more years where he has been a monster for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, recording seven goals, 21 points and 60 penalty minutes in just 34 contests. He has been named the KHL Defenseman of the Month for both October and November. There is some talk that Tryamkin may be willing to return before his contract expires in the KHL…
St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou has been named the OHL Player of the Month for the second consecutive month. The OHL leading scorer has been dominating the OHL this year and has 54 points in only 27 games. Look for Kyrou to play a prominent role for Canada at the World Junior, and possibly even at the Winter Olympics.
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