The World Juniors are always a fantastic tournament to watch for hockey fans. They are really the one true great international competition for hockey, with players from around the world fighting to bring gold back to their country.
The tournament is reserved for the best of the best U20 players from each country and virtually every NHL star has taken part in this tournament. Because of that, there are always breakout performances by players that really set the tone for the rest of their career in the NHL.
Last year, for example, Patrik Laine was a huge standout for Team Finland and brought them back the gold with 7 goals in 10 games. In case you missed it, this year he has 19 goals in 36 games for the Winnipeg Jets in what seems to be the start of a hall of fame career.
Not only are there many great players from around the world, but there are three great prospects from the Nashville Predators’ system:
Nashville Predators Prospects
Dante Fabbro, Canada (Right Defense)
Nashville’s first round pick in 2016, Dante Fabbro has been a solid two-way performer for Boston University this season. With only 3 goals and 3 assists in 15 games for the Terriers, he hasn’t been overly productive, but he has played a key role at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.
Fabbro will play a smaller role than he does at BU on Canada’s very deep defensive corps, but his reliability as a smart and decisive decision maker will make him a very valuable asset. He has spent most of his time on the third pairing with Kale Clague (Los Angeles Kings, 2016 2nd Round, 51st Overall) and that will supposedly not change as Canada takes on Russia tonight at 7 PM CT.
Patrick Harper, USA (Left Wing)
When Patrick Harper was drafted by the Predators in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, my only question was: “Patrick who?” Now that we know a little bit more about the 5’9” forward, we can say what a story he has become.
After being a standout in the Predators development camp, he headed to Boston University and started his first two preseason games with Boston University with 8 goals in 2 games. Going into the season he just kept on rolling with team highs in the goal (7) and point (20) categories in 17 games. This success didn’t go unnoticed by the US National Team staff as he was invited to the final selection camp that took place over the last two weeks after not receiving an invitation to the camp this past summer.
One of six Boston University players on team USA, Patrick Harper is currently listed as their 13th forward. However, with developing team chemistry being such an important factor in this tournament it would make sense for the coaching staff to plug him in alongside one or two of his Boston University teammates up front. In particular, he played very well alongside the big, mean power forward Jordan Greenway this season.
Harper and the rest of team USA kick of the tournament against Latvia today at 2:30 PM CT. All of Team USA’s games are on the NHL Network.
Yakov Trenin, Russia (Center/Left Wing)
After being one of the final cuts for team Russia’s 2016 World Junior squad, Yakov Trenin has made the roster for this season’s team. He will be accompanied by some very talented forwards in Kirill Kaprizov, Denis Guryanov, and German Rubstov.
After coming back from a broken leg over the summer, Trenin got off to an understandably slow start. Though he has not been an outstanding producer in the typically highly productive QMJHL, his size and skill is undeniable. His power forward game and defensive reliability could be a fantastic asset on Team Russia’s roster.
It remains to be seen where Trenin will fit in on the line combinations and on special teams play. You will be able to catch both he and Fabbro tonight for the Canada-Russia game.
Players to Watch from Every Team
Alexander Nylander, Sweden
Sweden has a pretty stout roster with Joel Eriksson Ek, Jacob Larsson, Elias Pettersson, Oliver Kylington, and Jonathan Dahlen. Leading that roster offensively will likely be brother of Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander, Alexander Nylander. Alexander Nylander has already shown how offensively dominant he really is with Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. As offensively dynamic as Nylander is, he should be a blast to watch.
Olli Juolevi, Finland
Vancouver’s 5th overall pick from 2016, Olli Juolevi was widely considered the smartest defenseman of the draft. Because of this and his great all around abilities he will likely be the most relied upon figure on Finland’s roster.
Nico Hischier, Switzerland
The 2017 draft-eligible forward has emerged as a dominant presence for team Switzerland in the World Juniors and will likely be relied upon heavily. The highly skilled center is viewed as a likely top ten pick in the 2017 draft with a very impressive 48 points in 31 games for the Halifax Mooseheads. He should definitely turn a few heads at this tournament.
Filip Chlapik, Czech Republic
Filip Chlapik has had a breakout season for the Charlottetown Islanders. Drafted in the second round by the Ottowa Senators, Chlapik has put up a whopping 44 points in 26 games this season. Not only is his solid defensively, but he boasts very good playmaking and goal scoring instincts, as well. He will likely be relied upon in all situations for the pretty solid Czech Republic team.
Alexander True, Denmark
Denmark definitely isn’t the same team that surprised a lot of people with offensive powerhouses Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Alexander True is likely their best skater with a lot of size at 6’4” and a bit of productive ability. There likely isn’t enough talent to go around to make Denmark a top team in the tournament.
Dylan Strome, Canada (Center)
As per usual, Canada is not short of talent in their roster. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Noah Juulsen, Tyson Jost…the list goes on and on. However, if there’s one player that is expected to set the tone for this team it is Dylan Strome, the Arizona Coyotes’ 3rd overall pick from the 2015 draft. The big center spent seven games in the NHL this season before being sent back down to the Erie Otters. Canada will no doubt rely on his NHL and international experience, as well as his ability to drive the play into the offensive zone, as Strome attempts to captain Canada to gold.
Kirill Kaprizov, Russia
There is a lot of young talent in this tournament, but the Russian winger Kirill Kaprizov could be the most dominant of them all. With 15 goals and 15 assists in 37 KHL games, the Minnesota Wild 5th round pick from the 2015 draft should find the competition in the World Juniors elementary at best. I expect nothing less but a dominant performance from the speedy undersized Russian offensive dynamo.
Charlie McAvoy, USA
Clayton Keller might be the most dominant offensive force Team USA has on their roster, but as far as players who will be relied on most to lead USA to gold, Charlie McAvoy will be most key. With a relatively weak defense, USA needs the Boston University/Boston Bruins product to be on his game. The assistant captain has certainly been that this season with BU, where he has been a solid contributor in all three zones.
Kristaps Zile, Latvia
Defenseman Kristaps Zile has bounced around the KHL and MHL for Latvia’s Dynamo Riga. With that experience against top competition, Zile will likely be relied upon to be a big contributor for Lavtia.
Radovan Bondra, Slovakia
Slovakia definitely doesn’t have the most solid team in the tournament but Radovan Bondra provides a pretty solid presence. At 6’5”, the hulking power forward has gone a point a game for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL.
Ways to Watch
U.S. Schedule (Eastern Time)
|Mon., Dec. 26||Latvia||3:30 p.m.||NHL Network|
|Wed., Dec. 28||Slovakia||7:30 p.m.||NHL Network|
|Thur., Dec. 29||Russia||3:30 p.m.||NHL Network|
|Sat., Dec. 31||Canada||3:30 p.m.||NHL Network|
NHL Network Broadcast Schedule
|Mon., Dec. 26||Latvia vs. USA||3:30 p.m.|
|Finland vs. Czech Republic||6:00 p.m.|
|Russia vs. Canada||8:00 p.m.|
|Tues., Dec. 27||Switzerland vs. Czech Republic||1:00 p.m.|
|Russia vs. Latvia||4:00 p.m.|
|Finland vs. Denmark||6:30 p.m.|
|Slovakia vs. Canada||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed., Dec. 28||USA vs. Slovakia||7:30 p.m.|
|Thurs. Dec 29||USA vs. Russia||3:30 p.m.|
|Sweden vs. Finland||6:00 p.m.|
|Canada vs. Latvia||8:00 p.m.|
|Fri., Dec. 30||Denmark vs. Switzerland||5:00 p.m.|
|Latvia vs. Slovakia||7:30 p.m.|
|Sat., Dec. 31||Canada vs. USA||3:30 p.m.|
|Switzerland vs. Finland||6:00 p.m.|
|Slovakia vs. Russia||8:00 p.m.|
|Mon., Jan 2||Quarterfinal #1||1:00 p.m.|
|Quarterfinal #3||5:30 p.m.|
|Quarterfinal #4||8:00 p.m.|
|Wed., Jan 4||Semifinal #1||3:00 p.m.|
|Semifinal #2||7:30 p.m.|
|Thurs., Jan. 5||Bronze Medal Game||3:30 p.m.|
|Gold Medal Game||8:00 p.m.|
A fantastic full tournament schedule was created by SB Nation’s College Hockey site and can be seen here.