While the prestigious World Junior Championship draws the most attention when it comes to junior tournaments in December, there is another annual event that, while it might not have the same overall star power, presents a comparably good opportunity to scout some of the best draft-eligible prospects in advance of that year’s draft.
The World Junior A Challenge is a yearly Canada-based event that features two Canadian rosters, split into Canada East and Canada West, and teams from other countries. One of the goals of the WJAC is to showcase some of the talent playing in Canada’s Junior A leagues, such as the OJHL and the BCHL, as well as American players who aren’t a part of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
There’s no shortage of scouting opportunities at the tournament.
Some notable National Hockey League plaeyrs who have taken part in this tournament in the past include Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nikita Kucherov, Vladimir Tarasenko, David Pastrnak, Kyle Turris, Colton Parayko, Nikolaj Ehlers, Brock Boeser and Kyle Connor, among many others.
This year’s iteration of the event, hosted in Bonnyville, AB. from Dec. 9-16, will follow that same trend, featuring many names who are near the top of this year’s draft class.
Here now is a rundown of some of the most notable draft-eligible prospects to watch at this year’s WJAC:
Vasily Podkolzin, F, Russia, 6-0, 185, DOB 24-6-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 7
The electrifying Podkolzin turned heads and dropped jaws at this past summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, leading the event in goals with eight and finishing tied for the lead in points with 11, all in just five games played.
“Podkolzin possesses quick hands, great top speed and is very quick on his feet,” Future Considerations’ European head scout Dennis Schellenberg said. “He enters the offensive zone with speed and only has scoring on his mind. So good at splitting the ‘D’ and cutting breaches into opposing defenses. Able to attack the net directly and take the puck to the tough areas.”
Alex Newhook, F, Canada West, 5-10, 190, 28-1-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 26
A surprising cut from the roster that Canada sent to the Hlinka tournament, Newhook might have a chip on his shoulder heading into the WJACs. The BCHL’s leading scorer with 53 points in 31 games at just 17 years of age, the Newfoundlander is one of the best skaters in the entire draft and also possesses some of the best playmaking and creativity.
Artemi Knyazev, D, Russia, 5-11, 175, DOB 4-1-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 31
A Russian blueliner plying his trade in the QMJHL, Knyazev has 18 points in 29 games so far for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens thanks primarily to his excellent mobility and keen ability to read the play unfolding around him.
“He possesses some slick edges, great agility and an impressive top speed that helps him move around the ice at his will,” Quebec-based Future Considerations scout Andy Lehoux said of Knyazev. “He controls the action offensively for Chicoutimi with his great instincts, positioning and puck distribution. The Russian defenceman is very poised and he’s always moving to adapt to the play.”
Daniil Gutik, F, Russia, 6-3, 180, DOB 31-8-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 43
While his point totals in Russia’s top junior league, the MHL, don’t jump off the page (three goals and six assists in 22 games), Gutik can be a forced to be reckoned with out on the ice thanks to his enormous frame and soft hands.
“He possesses very good hockey sense and hands, and is good at creating scoring chances out of nowhere,” Future Considerations scout Konstantin Glazov said. “Needs to cut stupid penalties, and although he is big, he is not necessarily strong on skates.”
Matvei Guskov, F, Russia, 6-1, 175, DOB 30-1-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 52
Guskov has made a name for himself this season under a bright junior hockey spotlight with the OHL’s London Knights as an import, chipping in 18 points in 26 games and playing a responsible two-way game.
“Guskov‘s skating is the jewel of his game, as he has a fluidly rangy stride and crossover, and can gain speed carrying the puck, looking like a pro when he does so,” Future Considerations scout Zach Thomson said. “Guskov also seemed to do a good job using his big body along the boards to keep pucks in the zone. Overall, he has tools that show some high-end potential.”
Massimo Rizzo, F, Canada West, 5-10, 180, DOB 13-6-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 53
An injury kept him out of the Penticton Vees lineup for the first two months of the season, but Rizzo still remains one of the top Canadians to watch in this tournament. The captain of the Vees is a smooth-skating and savvy 200-foot pivot. His creative offensive mind, IQ and puck control help him control the tempo of play and make his teammates better.
Bobby Brink, F, USA, 5-8, 160, DOB 7-8-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 75
With quick feet, quick hands and a quick mind, Brink has been a standout so far in his first full USHL season, currently leading the league in points with 33 in just 19 games. Despite his diminutive size, he is dangerous around the net, assertively finding open space and loose pucks. He helped Minnetonka win Minnesota’s high school hockey championship last season.
Michal Teply, F, Czech Republic, 6-3, 190, DOB 27-5-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 85
A hulking forward who has been a staple for the Czechs at international tournaments over the past few years, he has been playing against men all of this season in his home country’s top two professional leagues.
“Michal Teply is a big body who possesses nice offensive skills combined with a good shot,” Czech Republic-based Future Considerations scout Jakub Mezlik said. “He can create space for himself to shoot and has a quick release. Although he is not a great skater, he has the ability to play with the puck with some speed, and his vision is good, too.”
Robert Mastrosimone, F, USA, 5-10, 160, DOB 24-1-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 86
An assistant captain with the USHL’s Chicago Steel and their leading goal-scorer, Matrosimone has a natural knack for filling the back of the net, something he has done at every level of hockey thus far in his career. Reads the play quicker than most opposing defenders and beats them thanks to his great acceleration, high compete level and deft puck skills.
Ilya Mironov, D, Russia, 6-3, 200, DOB 31-8-2001
Future Considerations Fall Ranking: 90
Another player who made a name for himself at this past summer’s Hlinka tournament, Mironov is a taut defender, using his large frame and long reach to protect his own zone from opposing offensive attacks. He’s primarily a defence-first blueliner, but still possesses good mobility for his size, a strong first pass and a heavy shot from the point.