Eligibles shine on World Junior stage

Dan Stewart2015 Draft Center, International Events

The World Junior Championship is some of the best and most intense hockey action you will get to see during the calendar year and the 2015 edition did not disappoint.

With national pride, a couple feel good Cinderella stories and the big draft showdown between Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, this year’s event was packed with everything that makes us love this time of year.

Below are some of the top 2015 NHL entry draft eligible prospects who we felt had the strongest showings:

Connor McDavid, Center, Canada (Erie, OHL)
Future Considerations’ top draft eligible prospect lived up to the billing after a bit of a slow start. No doubt he needed to shake off the rust after a five-week absence from game action, but by the time the games were win or go home he was back to making those same edge of your seat plays for Canada that he was in Erie earlier this season. McDavid’s showing really helped nail down his status as the draft’s top prospect.

Lawson Crouse, Left Wing, Canada (Kingston, OHL)
The big, physical winger did not blow any of our scouts away at this tournament with slick hands or fancy puck tricks but what he did do was impress with how he utilized his size and strength advantage, protecting the puck down low, causing havoc on the forecheck, blasting a few dangerous shots and even set-up a teammate a time or two while on fourth line checking duty. We are hearing that there are more than a few NHL head scouts who love his game.

Ivan Provorov, Defense, Russia (Brandon, WHL)
While he was not a lead character on team Russia’s defense that rolled three pairings pretty evenly, Provorov was effective in the role he played as he made smart passes to start the transition and showed poise as he cleared the puck out of danger areas. Provorov continues to show us his strong pro-potential in making quick and correct decisions managing the puck.

Alexander Dergachyov, Center, Russia (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, MHL)
The big Russian had an on-again off-again showing as he had games where he looked like a potential top-30 guy using his frame and hands to make some impressive plays, but also plenty of times where he was less effective, being easily pushed off the puck or bodied out by far smaller opponents. He is really a draft day wildcard at this time.

Denis Godla, Goaltender, Slovakia (Team Slovakia U20, Slovakia)
The plucky Godla was the Cinderella story of the tournament adored by fans as he kept his team in games they really had no business being in. He became a crowd favorite as they applauded his exciting, athletic game and flashy saves. He could be on an NHL teams list as a potential late round project pick after this showing.

Eric Cernak, Defense, Slovakia (HC Kosice, Slovakia)
Cernak was effective at playing a strong, physical and yet simple game, staying home defensively more often than not and using his size, positioning and reach to disrupt. He also was able to get his frame in front of shots and made some heady passes out of his own zone to start his squads attack.

Sebastian Aho, Defense, Sweden (Skelleftea, SHL)
The second year eligible Swede had a both hot and cold showing as he moved the puck exceptionally well for Sweden, quarterbacking the power play and leading the offensive rush many times but what positive aspects he brought offensively he also had his negatives. He was often overpowered in board battles and was even beat off the rush a few times. Will NHL teams see draft value in this offensive minded rearguard with some defensive/strength issues to work on?

Jens Looke, Right Wing, Sweden (Brynas, SHL)
Was neither a primary offensive guy nor cast as a defensive specialist for Sweden but he made the most of his chances as he scored some timely goals utilizing a quick shot and solid positioning, generally going to the net and open areas in the offensive zone. He showed that he does not need big minutes to make a difference, similar to how he has played with Brynas of the SHL.

Jack Eichel, Center, U.S.A. (Boston University, NCAA)
Eichel had a less successful tournament than most anticipated, especially considering how good he looked last year in Malmo for the Americans, as his squad failed to make the medal round and his performance personally left much to be desired. While he did show some good play off and on, utilizing his puck protection and strong shot, Eichel was often pushing too much and trying to do too much on his own which is always a recipe for disaster.

Mikko Rantanen, Right Wing, Finland (TPS, Liiga)
Rantanen gave the Finns a true sniper who was dangerous from the top of the circles in and did his share of the heavy lifting for a disappointing Finnish squad. His shot proved extremely dangerous and he really made a strong case for cementing his mid-first round ranking.

Roope Hintz, Center, Finland (Ilves, Liiga)
The solidly built Finn played a solid two-way game where he used his size and speed to create chances and chase down pucks. While he did not show us any elite level skills he was able to show off a well-rounded game and will likely hear his name called by an NHL Team this June.

Timo Meier, Right Wing, Switzerland (Halifax, QMJHL)
Most loved the big Swiss wingers willingness to get his nose dirty and play a hard, physical game. While he was not overly flashy he was able to consistently possess the puck deep in the oppositions end and generate chances off that strong board play.