Every holiday season, many Canadians watch the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) U-20 World Junior Championships, cheering on the nation’s best young players. The tournament is an exciting time for NHL fans. For those supporting teams near the bottom of the standings, the World Juniors provide an opportunity to scout draft-eligible players that—if the draft lottery works out in their favour—may soon bolster their struggling teams’ ranks. While there were no undrafted players on the Canadian roster, other nations displayed their fair share of young talent.
Rasmus Dahlin — Sweden
Without a doubt, Dahlin was the biggest name of the tournament in terms of draft-eligible players. Dahlin played a huge role on a Swedish squad that dominated its opponents at the tournament, falling only to Canada in the final. Individually, Dahlin made the tournament all-star team, and was named best defenceman of the tournament with a total of six assists. That performance showed that in addition to being a solid defensive player, he also has tremendous offensive capabilities as a puck-moving defenceman. He is pegged by virtually all scouts as the top pick in the 2018 NHL draft, and his performance at the tournament did nothing but reinforce his reputation.
Brady Tkachuk — United States
A skilled and irritating forward, Tkachuk was an integral part of the American attack, scoring three goals and six assists. In addition, he proved to be a versatile player, defensively responsible and a key component of the American penalty kill unit. When the situation demanded it, Tkachuk proved he could come in clutch: He scored the tying goal in the outdoor game against the Canadians, forcing the game into overtime and allowing the Americans to nab the game in an overtime shootout. While the Americans were ultimately defeated 4-2 by the Swedes in the semi-finals, Tkachuk scored the second American goal in a late-game comeback attempt. Tkachuk is a gritty forward that can get in the face of opponents; however, he has the skill to back up his antics, and is projected to be selected in the top five.
Andrei Svechnikov — Russia
Svechnikov, a Russian winger, is another forward projected to be a top pick. Many rankings have him positioned to be drafted second overall. Unfortunately for those who hoped to see Svechnikov at the tournament, his playing time was limited as a 17-year-old on a team of mostly 19 year-olds. Nevertheless, he displayed his offensive prowess in the ice time he was given, adding five assists and tying for second in team scoring. Svechnikov has undeniable speed and skill, and the potential to bring tremendous offensive power to whichever team selects him.
Filip Zadina — Czech Republic
Filip Zadina was a key member of a Czech team that surprised many with a substantial upset win over Finland in the quarterfinals. The speedy forward exhibited his high level of skill throughout the tournament, tallying seven goals to reach second in scoring, and was named to the tournament all-star team. In the semi-final game against Canada, Zadina displayed his offensive mastery on a beautiful shot that beat goalie Connor Hart cleanly to score the first goal of the game. His performance wasn’t enough to carry the Czechs to the finals, but, in Zadina, teams can expect a defensively accountable, highly-skilled forward with a nose for the net.
While Canada walked away with the gold, hockey fans around the globe enjoyed an exciting tournament that showcased the game’s elite up-and-coming players. Canadians who were exuberant about the win but support currently-struggling NHL teams—such as the Oilers, Senators, Canadiens, and Canucks—may see a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of these young stars.