Top draft talent set to compete at World Juniors

Dan Stewart2018 Draft Center, IIHF, International Events, NCAA, OHL, QMJHL, USHL, WHL

Photo by Frolunda | Tommy Holl

Hockey fans love the World Junior Championship.

Hockey scouts, too.

With plenty of potential first round picks set to dot rosters at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, scouts will get an up-close look at the top prospects eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft.

On the biggest stage of the season, no less.

Here’s who they’ll keep an eye on.

D Rasmus Dahlin – Frolunda (SHL) – SWEDEN
Dahlin, the darling of the 2018 draft, will garner the majority of the attention as he looks to lead team Sweden to its first World Juniors gold since 2012. The two-way blueliner is an outstanding skater with strong offensive instincts, makes creative plays the puck and the confidence to pull high-skill high-risk to generate scoring chances. In his own end, he doesn’t shy away from physical play and isn’t afraid to play the body along the boards to separate his man from the puck. He has good awareness in the defensive zone, and does a good job reading his opponents.

RW Andrei Svechnikov – Barrie (OHL) – RUSSIA
Svechnikov has an enormous opportunity in front of him as he looks to go head-to-head against Dahlin, the draft’s consensus top prospect, as the two continue their battle to go No. 1 in 2018. The power forward with a dangerous shot has all the tools to be a multi-faceted offensive player in the NHL. Svechnikov is an elite skater and strong stick handler, and he possesses excellent hockey sense and leads his team with his hard working example.

LW Brady Tkachuk – Boston University (NCAA) – TEAM USA
Tkachuk could play a variety of roles for Team USA, and could see his duties expanded based on an intriguing skill-set. Tkachuk is a big, hard-working forward plays a gritty power-forward game with excellent offensive skills and overall smarts. Bloodlines play a role here as he plays a hybrid game with elements taken from both his father Keith and brother Matthew.

LW Filip Zadina – Halifax (QMJHL) – CZECH REPUBLIC
Expected to be one of the offensive leaders for the Czech squad at this event, Zadina has the chance to push his draft stock past some of those ranked ahead of him with a dominating performance in Buffalo. He is a smart, creative offensive player with great vision who sets up dangerous scoring chances. Zadina has a nose for the net and possesses a shot that he can get off quickly. Overall, he is a highly skilled player with quick, smooth hands that can contribute offensively in multiple ways.

D Quinn Hughes – Michigan (NCAA) – TEAM USA
Hughes should see solid minutes, especially on the power play, as he is one of the better puck moving options for the host team. Hughes has elite skating abilities with excellent speed, acceleration and edge work, allowing him to do everything at a high pace. He has strong puck skills, vision and carries the puck with a lot of confidence. Hughes is small, but plays a defensive style based on excellent skating and stick work, keeping tight gaps and clearing pucks quickly.

C Rasmus Kupari – Karpat (Liiga) – FINLAND
Kupari’s role is still up in the air with Finland, but whatever he’s asked to do will be done well. He is an offensive catalyst who skates well, has a strong shot and can set-up his teammates and that is where he excels best but he can also succeed in a two-way role. He is always anticipating potential passing lanes and positions himself for a quick transition game.

C Isac Lundestrom – Lulea (SHL) – SWEDEN
Projected as a support player, Lundstrom has the ability to step up into a scoring role as a playmaker if need be. Playing and contributing all season in Sweden’s top men’s league, Lundestrom is an excellent skater with solid puck skills and outstanding hockey sense. He plays a mature, two-way game contributing all over the ice. He shows excellent awareness of his responsibilities and supporting the defense.

LW Nando Eggenberger – HC Davos (NLA) – SWITZERLAND
No single draft eligible will have more to gain at this event than Eggenberger as the Switzerland winger could impress with his blend of size, skills and determination. He plays a modern power-forward type of game and positions himself dangerously around the crease where he can release and elevate the puck in a hurry using his dangerous shot. He also displays strong vision and awareness of his line mates.

G Jakub Skarek – Jihlava (Czech Extraliga) – CZECH REPUBLIC
Skarek is a big goaltender who is developing his game while playing and playing well against men in the Czech Extraliga. He is expected to see plenty of crease time in Buffalo. Skarek has athleticism on his side, and he seals off the ice and lower portion of net while also letting his natural size cover the net up top. He could use this tournament to cement his status as the top goalie in 2018.

F Martin Kaut – Pardubice (Czech Extraliga) – CZECH REPUBLIC
Kaut should see some prominent scoring line time — possibly with Zadina whom he has played with previously — at this U20 tournament as he has shown an ability to contribute in that role at other successful events. Kaut is an intelligent offensive player who plays a mature game showing smart decisions with the puck, displaying strong hockey smarts and understanding of the overall game. He can both distribute pucks as well as finish with a powerful shot.