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The World Juniors have been awesome so far and you've probably learned a lot about the players competing this year already, but in case you've been watching them like a zombie in the early morning and missed something, here are some of the players to watch for at the 2013 World Juniors:
Rickard Rakell of Sweden has always been a dominant defensive player and at one point looked like he would be the next Sammy Pahlsson for the Ducks. However, as his offensive game has improved in the OHL this year he looks more and more like a dominant two-way force Jere Lehtinen.
Boston has five players at these World Juniors, and the guy with the least pressure on him is Anthony Camara. Look for him to be a good depth player for the Canadians and chip in a surprising amount of offense.
Zemgus Girgensons (who has a male pornstar name) was cut from the Latvian team before the tourney due to injury concerns, however, Joel Armia will still be an elite offensive player to watch for on Team Finland. Look for him to put up some solid numbers.
After hearing Flames fans complain that Canada won’t invite NCAA players and that Mark Jankowski should have made the team, they'll still have some fun prospects to watch. Canada's Tyler Wotherspoon of the Portland Winterhawks is a great defensive d-man and although he will never be an all-star he is a very dependable guy. Johnny Gaudreau of Team USA is also worth a watch if you can find the small guy on the ice.
Ryan Murphy will have to prove himself on the world stage as he’s been a good offensive d-man for the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL. Murphy's flaw (just like Ryan Ellis) is that he doesn’t have much of a defensive game. Questions surround him on whether he’s a bust already.
Phillip Danault and Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen will be the guys Chicago scouts will be watching a lot, but personally I’d watch Mark McNeill who has a lot to prove after being an injury replacement for Team Canada.
Sadly my Avs don’t have anyone at the tournament, but Matt Duchene did help Canada win the Spengler Cup these holidays!
Columbus Blue JacketsAfter a season ending injury to Ryan Murray the Blue Jackets won't get to watch their top draft pick, but they'll get a good look at Boone Jenner after returning from suspension for a late hit in the pre-tournament games. I'd also suggest watching playmaking defenceman Mike Reilly on Team USA.
Dallas StarsRadek Faksa is the Stars top prospect and he’s playing for the Czechs however Brett Ritchie has grown into his body and has scored 27 goals in 32 games in the OHL this season. He will be playing alongside Niagara Ice Dogs teammate Ryan Strome and look for those two to make some magic out there for Team Canada.
Detroit Red WingsEvery year I watch the World Juniors I feel like the Red Wings only send players to the European teams. This year they sent Martin Frk to the Czech Republic and he should help out their offense and maybe get them to the medal round.
Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should be battling it out for the point lead at this tournament. I will be watching Nugent-Hopkins to see if he dominates this tournament like Brayden Schenn did back in 2011.
Jonathan Huberdeau will be playing on the top line and should put up huge point totals. If the NHL wasn't locked out he would be playing for the Florida Panthers and might have even grabbed the 2nd line centre spot.
Los Angeles Kings
Thomas Hyka of the Czechs is the only player the cup winners have in the World Juniors and he’s had a big sophomore slump in the Q and needs to prove himself now.
The Habs top prospect Alex Galchenyuk is the big stud to watch for Team USA. He is dominating the OHL and looks ready or the NHL. If Galchenyuk has a great tournament there is a chance you will see Team USA in the Gold medal game.
Christoph Bertschy and Mario Lucia are the only two players repping the Wild this year after being the team that sent the most last year. Bertschy will be a very interesting guy to watch as he is losing playing time in the Swiss National League A with NHL players have come over.
I will be watching Miika Salomaki closely at this tournament. He will be a top 6 forward this year for the Finns and counted on big time. Last year at this tournament he put up 3 goals and 3 apples in 7 games.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils won't be represented at the World Juniors as Team USA forward Stefan Matteau was a late cut.
New York Islanders
Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart are both recent top 5 picks for the Isles and are suiting up for Team Canada. Don't expect much offensive from Reinhart, but Strome should be one of the point leaders.
New York Rangers
John Gibson and J.T. Miller will be playing for the Red, White and Blue. J.T. Miller will be getting top line minutes and John Gibson should be playing goal for every Team USA game.
The Senators were unsure if they were going to let last years gold medal hero, Mika Zibanejad, play this year at the tournament, and then he got hurt. So that leaves Mikael Vikstrand as the only Sens prospect in Russia for the Holidays, and his nickname is the Viking so that’s great.
Shayne Gostisbehere is the only prospect the Flyers have over in Russia this year. Look for him to play on the bottom two lines for Team USA and play a solid two-way game.
Connor Murphy on Team USA will be relied upon for lots of minutes and in all situations. He was drafted 20th overall back in 2011 and he’s one of many excellent D prospects in the desert so enjoy him.
Speaking of teams with tons of defensive prospects, Scott Harrington will be a solid stay at home D for Team Canada and Olli Maatya will help run the power-play for Team Finland.
San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl is the best prospect in the San Jose organization after being drafted 17th overall last June. Hertl should be an over point-per-game player for the Czechs playing a top 6 centre role.
St Louis Blues
Dmitri Jaskin has torn up the QMJHL offensively this season with 50 points in 31 games. The 2nd round pick from the 2011 draft faces a true challenge now at the World Juniors, if he can prove himself here he can push himself up the deep list of Blues prospects.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay is doing what the Red Wings did in the 90s and have gone heavy with the Russians. Nikita Nesterov, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vaslievski and Artem Sergeev will all be fun to watch. Nesterov should be their top defenceman with Andrei Vaslievksiy getting most of the starts in net.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Reilly is the most dynamic Leafs prospect in years and Leafs fans will be watching their new defensive stud prospect closely as he patrols the blueline for Team Canada.
The Canucks won't be represented at the tournament and it looks like everyone is just hanging out at the Sedin's cottage over the lockout.
Filip Forsberg is the captain of the Swedes and will need to be their best player if they want to go anywhere. I can’t wait to see him play with Backstrom, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov in a few years.
Mark Scheifele, the Jets 7th overall pick in 2011, will be playing on Canada’s top line and should provide a lot of offensive chances. Jacob Trouba drafted 9th overall last June had some of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen in the pre-tournament games and I hope they continue as he will be the go to guy on the backend for Team USA.