Draft eligibles set to shine in WJC

Dan Stewart2015 Draft Center, International Events

Typically, 19 year olds dominate the World Junior Championship. The 2015 edition may be the exception.

With Connor McDavid (Canada) and Jack Eichel (USA) headlining each country’s respective roster, there will be plenty of reason for fans and scouts alike to take notice of the tournament, set in Toronto and Montreal from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

But beyond the big two, there are plenty of prospects eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft to keep tabs on.

Here are 10 members of the 2015 draft class to keep an eye on at the World Juniors:

Connor McDavid, Center, Canada (Erie, OHL)
Future Considerations’ top draft eligible prospect will no doubt have the weight of the host country riding on his shoulders as he takes on the role of go to offensive contributor for a Gold medal starved Team Canada. His ability to create offense, his playmaking talents and ability to make jaw dropping plays with the puck at top speed will be on full display.

Jack Eichel, Center, USA (Boston University, NCAA)
The big, skilled, offensive producing center is Future Considerations’ second ranked prospect and is taking the college game by storm as a freshman this season after dominating the NTDP. He will be the key cog in the American’s offensive attack. He will be the straw that stirs the drink as he was many games last year at the World Juniors in Malmo, Sweden.

Noah Hanifin, Defense, USA (Boston College, NCAA)
A solid sized two-way blueliner who moves the puck well in transition and can skate his way out of trouble with the puck. He too has been impressive in his first season of NCAA play and will look to carry that over to the WJC as one of the American’s top blueliners.

Pavel Zacha, Center, Czech Republic (Sarnia, OHL)
This body bodied forward does all the little things needed to make his team successful. The Czechs will need those intangibles as well as his big physical frame and high-end skills to help compete against the world’s best 19-year-olds. Watch for his shot to be a real weapon on the Czech power play.

Ivan Provorov, Defense, Russia (Brandon, WHL)
The Blueliner will mean a lot to the Russian attack as he transitions the puck up the ice quickly and adds to the offensive attack as a trailing option. He will thrive in the fast paced game played at the World Juniors and could really see his draft stock rise with a strong showing.

Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing, Finland (TPS, Liiga)
Rantanen gives the Finns a big body with high-end skill. While not always physical engaged, this is his big opportunity to show he can use that size and contribute offensively by going to the net and screen a goaltender or bang home a rebound.

Roope Hintz, Center, Finland (Ilves, Liiga)
A surprise standout in the Finnish Liiga this season, Hintz has played well while still getting used to his impressive yet new size at 6-foot-3 and one-hundred and ninety pounds. He will be a key offensive player for the Finns who will look to create offense by committee.

Eric Cernak, Defense, Slovakia (HC Kosice, Slovakia)
The big bodied defenseman will see plenty of ice-time for the Slovaks and North American scouts will get to see his strong positional defensive game, powerful skating stride and underrated offensive abilities shine through. He will most likely see time in all situations for his nation.

Lawson Crouse, Left Wing , Canada (Kingston, OHL)
One of the top draft eligible prospects for 2015 was called upon by Canada after his impressive showing against Russia at the Subway Super Series. He is a big, strong kid who fearlessly attacks on the forecheck, works hard to win pucks and has soft hands around the crease.

Sebastian Aho, Defense, Sweden (Skelleftea, SHL)
The second year eligible, diminutive, blueliner has been impressive in views again this season and we can’t figure out why no NHL team took a shot at him last draft. He can help push the pace of offensive play from the backend and has the opportunity to show scouts that his size is not a limiting factor.

While we are highlighting only a few draft eligible prospects to watch at the World Junior Championship, others that are considered serious threats to be impactful for their rosters include American defenseman Zach Werenski; Czech forwards Michael Spacek and David Kase; Slovak defenseman Erik Cernak; Swiss forwards Denis Malgin, Timo Meier and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler; Finnish forward Aleksi Saarela and defenseman Sami Niku among others.