Dec 22, 2014
Ten players to watch at World Juniors not named McDavid
The spotlight will be on Connor McDavid at the world junior championship, but here are 10 other players to watch in the tournament.
The Canadian Press
The spotlight will be on Connor McDavid at the world junior championship. But here are 10 other players to watch in the tournament:
Jack Eichel, centre, United States
Even though McDavid is the front-runner to be picked first in June's NHL draft, Eichel could give whoever's selecting second another franchise player. At six foot two and 194 pounds, Eichel has earned comparisons to Mario Lemieux for his reach and use of his size. He's tearing up the college ranks at Boston University and could put on a show at the world juniors.
William Nylander, forward, Sweden
The Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round pick this year, Nylander flashed plenty of offensive skill at training camp. Back home in Sweden playing for MODO, the 18-year-old has eight goals and 11 assists in 19 games. Nylander still has to polish his all-around game, but international hockey suits his style well.
David Pastrnak, winger, Czech Republic
Pastrnak is more than a point-a-game player in the AHL and has the Boston Bruins hoping he's part of their next generation of stars. He played at this tournament last year and had a goal and two assists. Pastrnak is part of an intriguing group of Czech forwards that also includes Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting and Washington Capitals first-rounder Jakub Vrana.
Josh Morrissey, defenceman, Canada
With the likes of Samuel Morin, Joe Hicketts and Darnell Nurse, Canada's blue-line has a nice mix of size, skill and puck-moving ability. Morrissey, one of the Winnipeg Jets' top prospects and a returing player from last year, can provide offence and get Canada out of some trouble exiting the defensive zone. Morrissey is also a well-spoken leader on an older team.
Ivan Barbashev, winger, Russia
After saying at the scouting combine that the KHL is not for him, Barbashev has produced in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats. In three seasons, he has 179 points. Barbashev, a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, brings size at six foot one and offensive ability.
Juuse Saros, goaltender, Finland
Saros led Finland to world junior gold last year in Malmo, Sweden, with a 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. There's no reason why he can't be the key to another Finnish run through this tournament. A fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2013, Saros has continued his strong play in Finland's SM-Liiga this season.
Auston Matthews, centre, United States
Remember this name for the 2016 draft, as the native of Scottsdale, Ariz., is the early favourite to be the first overall pick. Assuming it's McDavid over Eichel in 2015, that would make Matthews the first American to go No. 1 since 2007. Matthews is a playmaking forward who puts up points and dominates wherever he goes.
Robert Hagg, defenceman, Sweden
The big defenceman (six foot two and 203 pounds) is part of the blue-line of the Philadelphia Flyers' future. But Hagg is getting a break from playing in the American Hockey League to help Sweden at the world juniors. Hagg isn't a lead-the-rush defenceman, but he's strong all around and can spring players like Nylander on breakouts.
Kevin Fiala, winger, Switzerland
The Predators' first-round pick in June, Fiala is a shifty skater who has proven he can hold his own against men in the Swedish Hockey League. Switzerland will need some help just to get past the quarter-finals, but Fiala has the kind of game-breaking offensive skills that can make the difference. He's joined by a handful of CHL players on Switzerland's roster.
Curtis Lazar, forward, Canada
If opposing teams try to shut down Canada's other returning players, like Sam Reinhart and Nic Petan, and McDavid doesn't take over, it might still be OK. That's because Lazar, released by the Ottawa Senators to play in another world junior tournament, could be Canada's best player. Coach Benoit Groulx could choose to put him on McDavid's wing, which would be entertaining.
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