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Thursday, 27 December 2012

10 Players to Watch During the World Juniors

The World Juniors are upon us once again. This tournament is one of the highlights for every hockey fan and this year it may be the biggest highlight due to the lack of NHL hockey. This years tournament will feature some extra talented players many of whom are NHL-Calibre, but in addition to players well on their way to their NHL career there are also several prospects playing to help improve their stock for the 2013 draft. So while the following list may not be the biggest names, they are players who have a lot to play for and don't always get the recognition they deserve.

10. Joel Armia- Finland

I'm not just saying this because he's a Buffalo Sabres prospect, but Armia does not get the recognition and respect he should for his talent. Finland is flying
high after defeating both Canada and the US in the pre-competition games and one major reason for their surging play is Joel Armia. He is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons for Finland and is extremely dangerous on the powerplay. Since he has not made the jump over to North America yet he has the added benefit of knowing the international style of play.

9. J.C Lipon- Canada

J.C Lipon is the underdog that you fall in love with. After not being selected in either of the last 2 NHL drafts, Lipon is hoping the 3rd time is the charm and now that he's made team Canada, he may just fulfill his dream and hear his name on draft day. After being dubbed a "late bloomer" Lipon is finally starting to turn heads and garner some interest. While he wont play a huge role with team canada (3rd or 4th line) he will be a key player while killing penalties and is one of those players that are crucial to every winning team.

8. Aleksander Barkov- Finland

Although Finland is sometimes considered a 2nd tier team at this tournament they have a serious chance of bringing home a medal from this years World Junior tournament. They have some high flying offensive players one of which is Aleksander Barkov who many are saying could be the highest scoring European in the tournament. He is also ranked as the highest European for the upcoming draft, with a big tournament he could challenge Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones for the first overall pick. This will be Barkov's second crack at the World Junior tournament and he'll look to provide more of a leadership role and lead the talented Finish squad to a gold medal.

7. Jonathan Drouin- Canada

Before the tournament almost nobody expected the young 17 year-old to even crack the Team Canada squad, but team Canada saw something special and made him a member of the team. But he's now slated in on the 2nd line and ranked ahead of teammate MacKinnon. If you've read my last articles about team Canada you'll know how excited I am to see Drouin play in the tournament, strong play will significantly help his draft stock. Drouin may be one of the underdogs on the Canadian squad and could play a big role in the end.

6. Olli Maatta- Finland

I said Finland had a solid team this year and the addition of first round pick Olli Maatta doesn't exactly hurt their cause. He played in just 1 game for the Finish team at last years World Junior Championship but will undoubtedly have a much bigger role this time around. He will be relied on to be the top shutdown defenceman and help calm down a offensive focused squad.

5. Jake McCabe- United States

Now if you're not familiar with the NCAA and the Wisconsin Badgers chances are the name Jake McCabe means nothing to you. But that should be changing within the next week. The US junior team named McCabe captain for this years World Junior tournament ahead of fan favourite J.T Miller. It's a smart move by the Americans naming their captain as a defenceman since their team is focusing on a strong defence this year. McCabe along with Jones will both be key leaders on the backend and the captain should help with Jones' game.

4. Elias Lindholm- Sweden

Elias Lindholm is another top notch European player looking to up his draft stock for the upcoming draft. He's playing against older and stronger men in the swedish elite league but has still managed 21 points in 32 games and currently sits 4th in the draft rankings. He'll be responsible for replacing the offence of Mika Zibanejad who will not be suiting up for team Sweden. Leading the team will be no easy task for the un-drafted prospect but considering he's already drawing comparison's to Peter Forsberg he should have a big tournament.

3. J.T. Miller- United States

Despite being drafted in the first round in 2011 and playing in the AHL. J.T. Miller is one of the most unknown players for the United States. Despite not being given the captaincy of the US national team, he was given the role of alternate captain. Miller will be called upon to lead the offence for the Americans and help score goals for the defensive minded squad.

2. Mikhail Grigorenko- Russia

The Russians have some fantastic offensive talent and having Buffalo Sabres first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko at their disposal wont hurt their chances of making it to the finals. Grigorenko is a big, tough natural goal scorer, he's 2nd in QMJHL scoring with 29 goals and 21 assists for 50 points. While he may have to sit in the passenger seat while Nail Yakupov leads the team it doesn't mean he won't be a productive scoring leader for the Russians. After last years 5 points and a silver medal, Grigorenko is hungry to add a gold medal.
1. Andrey Vasilevskiy- Russia

Vasilevskiy was the first goaltender selected in the 2012 draft ahead of team Canada's starter Malcolm Subban. He helped lead Russia to a silver medal in last years tournament and finished the tournament with the highest save percentage (95.31). He was also the netminder who surrended 5 goals against Canada in the nail bitting 6-5 Russia win. Because of his poor play against Canada he was benched during the finals but this year he's looking to avenge last years benching and help lead Russia to a gold Medal. Vasilevskiy will need to shut things down in net and keep opponents goals total to a minimum or face losing his job to Sabres prospect Andrey Makorav who took over in the finals for Vasilevskiy and played exceptionally well.





  1. Team USA's Matt Grzelcyk is another watch for. He's managed nearly point-per-night production at Boston University. He's competing with Sieloff for a roster spot now, but he has great hands and amazing acceleration. The Bruins drafted him, and I expect it'll only be a few years before we start hearing the comparisons to Bobby Orr, another defenseman who could accelerate and burst into the zone with ease.

  2. Caitlin Campbell4 January 2013 at 07:45

    Thanks for bringing his name to my attention, It’s a shame he didn’t crack the roster sounds like a very solid player. I’ll be keeping on eye out for him!