Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Players To Watch At The 2014 World Juniors

We were inspired to fill you in on some players to watch at this years World Juniors after reading a 10 Players To Watch article by the National Post. It was published today and features two players not even in the tournament (William Nylander and Kaspari Kapanen) and a goaltender who might serve as Canada's backup. Sure it's nice to write about former NHLers sons, but do some research. The tournament may not feature the top U20s in the world with many teens sticking with their NHL clubs through the holidays, but there is some talent other than the beautiful girls in Sweden that you might want to keep an eye on over the next two weeks.

Here's our 10 guys to keep an eye on at the 2014 World Juniors in no particular order:

Mikhail Grigorenko, Russia

There are some people out there that are convinced Grigorenko is actually 22-years-old, but he has the right paper work and will suit up again for Russia in what will be in his third World Juniors. Grigorenko comes into the tournament with the most NHL experience having already suited up for 43 NHL games and should be an offensive spark for Russia's top line.

Jonathan Drouin, Canada

Tampa Bay’s 3rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is expected to be one of the more dominant players at this tournament. Drouin hasn’t had much game action since a check from behind by USA's Adam Erne left him with a concussion earlier this month. Canada needs Drouin to be at the top of his game if they want to end their Gold drought and from his pre-tourney games he looks to have his offence going.

Sam Reinhart, Canada

Reinhart has 50 points in 33 games so far in the WHL and could end up being the first overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft next June. He joins his brother Griffin on this year’s world junior team (although he'll serve a 3-game suspension from last year) and will build on his U18 success. Playing with Connor McDavid and Bo Horvat, Reinhart will have more than enough chances to be a standout player in Malmo.

Leon Draisaitl, Germany

The 18-year-old German is the leading scorer for the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL with 51 points in 33 games and will be one of the few bright spots on a weak German team. The 6’1” centre has scouts drooling wit his potential and could end up being a top 10 pick in next years NHL Draft. Draisaitl led the German team in scoring last year as a 17-year-old so look for him to build on his point-per-game performance.

The Chicago Blackhawk first rounder from 2012 lit up the tournament last year with 5 goals and 11 points in 6 games for 4th in tournament scoring. Teravainen with his slick hands and creative playmaking ability will be carrying the load offensively for Finland this year who don't want a repeat of last year where they didn't make the playoff round. Teravainen looked dominant in the pre-tournament games (especially against Canada) so we're expecting big things from the Finn.

Lindholm is a great all-round player and a big addition for Sweden on loan from the Carolina Hurricanes. Taken 5th overall lastJune, Lindholm has put up 7 points in 21 NHL games so far and will be one of the top players for Sweden as they go for gold at home this year. We're expecting big things from Lindholm and hopefully a highlight reel goal or two.

A 6th round pick in 2012 by the Washington Captials, Barber is turning into one of the steals of the draft. Last year he put up 39 points for Miami University (Ohio) and is on fire this year with 28 points in 18 games. Barber is a returning player from last years team and will captain Team USA in their quest for repeat gold although he might miss Alex Galchenyuk's giving spirit around the holidays.

Marko Dano, Slovakia

Playing with men in the KHL for HC Slovan Bratislava should help Dano build on last year's 9 points in 6 games. While he may not be putting up the offensive numbers other 19-year-olds playing in junior are, Dano is getting valuable pro experience and gets to play in his home country. The Slovaks will have it tough and Dano will have to step it up for battle against the Czechs and Germans to see who will qualify for the playoff round. Book 'em Dano!

Andrei Vasilevski, Russia

Vasilevski should get the bulk of Russia's games (although you never know with them) as he enters his 3rd World Juniors and with the way he's been playing in the KHL (2.31 GAA, .923 SV%) he should be one of the top goalies. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect has been representing Russia internationally since age 15 and should be no stranger to some of the competition he'll be facing. As usual, if Russia wants to win gold it starts in the crease as they have no trouble finding goals.

Aaron Ekblad, Canada

One of the top draft prospects for the 2014 Draft, Ekblad is already a 17-year-old man. Listed at 6'4", 217lbs, Ekblad has a bomb of a shot and can grow a Henrik Zetterberg beard already. He's a big boy who can generate offence and we're excited to see how he follows up his solid performance at this year's Ivan Hlinka tourney where he had 5 points in 5 games en route to Canada gold. 

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