The World Juniors is becoming more and more of a tournament for draft-eligible players with a record number of draft eligibles playing this year. Due to that this list is dominated by players you will see going early next June, but it also has a few exciting NHL prospects that should be all over the scoring charts this tournament. Here are the 10 players you should be watching in the coming weeks.
#11 Canada, LW
Lafreniere’s every move will be the watched intently by every scout, analyst and NHL team due to him being the one touted to go first overall next June. But you guys should keep an eye on him because, well he is just so fun to watch. Lafreniere has put up 70 points in 32 games in the QJMHL for Sidney Crosby’s old team Rimouski. He will be on Canada’s top line and will be seeing a lot more ice time than he did last World Juniors. The winger is a great skater, has Patrick Kane like hands and is a willing and able passer. Wingers rarely get picked first overall over centres, but Lafreniere is the exception in his draft battle with Centre Quinton Byfield. Mcdavid, Matthews, Dahlin were all number one picks who dominated the World Juniors in their draft years, Lafreniere will look to do the same.
All of this in one month!
#19 Canada, C/LW
Byfield has had an incredible season and has rocketed himself up the draft rankings into potentially even going ahead of Lafreniere. After putting up 61 points in 64 games last year for Sudbury in the OHL, Byfield has almost already surpassed that this year. The 6’4, 215-pound centre has 57 points in 30 games to start the year. He combines his size with not just high-end skill for his size, but high-end skill for any size. His long legs and powerful stride make him an incredible skater and his shot is NHL ready. Byfield reminds me of Evgeni Malkin, but he is an inch taller and already 20 pounds heavier. The Newmarket native will look to make his case as the number one pick and his size and skill combination should be very effective in this tournament. He is just such an intriguing player and will be big for Canada on their power play.
Yaro Askarov will be under a lot of pressure to guide Russia to Gold this year, but he is up for the challenge. The 17-year-old won’t be 18 until just a week before the draft, but he already has NHL teams mouths watering at the prospect of him being their goalie for the next decade. Askarov backstopped Russia to gold at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament last summer making 35 saves in the Gold Medal game against Canada. Askarov stands 6’3 and is projected to go in the top ten next June, with some scouts having him in the top five. His lateral movement is incredible already and he has a very strong glove hand. A strong tournament could tempt teams like Detroit or New Jersey to reach and take Askarov in the top three due to their lack of good goaltending.
#34 Finland, C
Aatu Raty would be battling with Lafreniere and Byfield for the top spot in the 2020 draft, but his birthday falls after the September 15th threshold so instead, he is among the top prospects for 2021. Raty will be key for a Finnish team that lacks scoring. He has a fantastic shot and he and his brother Aku Raty make a very talented duo. Raty is just starting to play with men and has two goals and four points in 12 games in Finland’s top league. He is a goal-scoring centre and although he will be back in the tournament in all likelihood in 2021, the Fin will want to put out a strong showing. There is not much tape on Raty so I implore you to watch him as much as you can this tournament.
#19? USA, D
Now onto our first NHL prospect of the list, K’andre Miller. Miller is a tantalizing prospect for the Rangers, many saw him being picked at 22nd in 2018 as one of the steals of the first round. It is obvious to see why, every time Miller hits the ice he commands the rink and the puck. The Minnetonka native knows how hard you have to work to make it and he has constantly improved his skating becoming a smooth, silky skater. Miller is 6’4, but his skill set can be likened to a player like Quinn Hughes, smart, skilled and calm. There is a certain poise about Miller whenever he touches the puck that makes you feel like he is going to do something positive every time he has it. Along with Adam Fox, Brady Skjei and Jacob Trouba, the Rangers are forming a formidable All American defence and Miller will look to show what he can add to it in the coming weeks.
#13 USA, RW
It was surprising when it happened to see Cole Caufield slip down to 15th in last year’s draft, but now? Now he is just making everyone that passed on him look stupid. Caufield is just 5’7, but his skill and goal-scoring ability are already elite. Some have tried to label Caufield as one dimensional or predictable, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Is he really good at one thing? Yes, but he is also very smart and talented. For me, I am reminded of a young Patrik Laine when I see Caufield. Someone who is always looking for space to get open for a shot when he doesn’t have the puck and when he does have the puck, he has one mission, score. Like any great goal scorer, Caufield can score any way you’d like. One timer, wrister, sneaking behind the defence, even finding an open space in the blue paint and banging one in. He certainly can develop his all-around game more, but the fact he is already scoring whenever he wants is frightening. Watch out for his one-timer on the USA power play.
#17 Czech Republic, LW
The Czech Republic is quite loaded upfront and Mysak is one of the bigger names they have. The 17-year-old has been consistently projected in the first round for the upcoming draft and will look to push himself into lottery contention with a big tournament on home soil. Gotta be honest here, finding highlights for Mysak was not easy, but from what I have seen and heard he is a goal scorer of the highest order. In his U16, U18 and U19 years Mysak scored a goal a game or better in all of them. He will be exposed to pretty much the whole hockey world as again not many have seen him play so it will be interesting to see how dominant he is. If Czechia are going to go far, they are going to need him to score… a lot.
#26 Sweden, RW
I cannot wait to watch Lucas Raymond play. If you want a dynamic winger, this guy is it. So skilled it is disgusting to watch, so smooth you can’t take your eyes off the screen whenever he has the puck and so deadly that every time he does have it, you feel like its ending up in your net. Raymond will almost certainly be a top-five pick next June and if your team has a young elite centre to go with him, GET EXCITED (Looking at you CBJ and Pierre-Luc Dubois). His hands are terrific, he can go inside-outside on you in a second. He has that Swedish knack of stripping the puck from sloppy defenders and he is tenacious on the forecheck. He is by no means a peripheral player and is always looking to make stuff happen. His shot and passing ability make him a threat no matter what position he is in and it really adds to his unpredictability. The Swede is just so refined offensively that I can’t help but get excited. I would compare him to a guy like Mitch Marner.
Just watch the 3 goals against Russia in the GMG, that is all you need.
#53??? Germany, D
When Mo Seider was picked 6th overall last year by the Red Wings, many people criticized the move. It was said to be a reach and that they could’ve waited or traded down. Turns out the Red Wings had done something everyone else forgot to do, actually watched Seider play. Seider wasn’t a nobody, he was expected to go in the late first round, but no one except Stevie Y and the Red Wings did enough scouting. Seider has jumped right into the AHL this season and hasn’t missed a beat. He is so mature and smart for a kid his age, it is quite unbelievable to watch and see how good this guy is. Skating, poise, smarts, decision making, shot, it is really hard to come up with a weakness for Seider. It won’t be hard to watch Seider, he will probably play half the game every time Germany steps on the ice, if not more. It will be interesting to see if Seider sees NHL action this year or if the Red Wings wait to burn off the first year of his ELC. An NHL comparable for Seider is Roman Josi.
#8 Sweden, D
Last, but certainly not least, we have Leafs Prospect Rasmus Sandin. Sandin is the only one on this list with NHL experience. He had 2 points in 6 games for the Leafs before being sent down, but don’t be surprised to see him back with the big club by the end of the year. Sandin is similar to Seider in that they just do so many things well. The 29th overall pick in 2018 immediately jumped to the AHL last season and was arguably the Marlies’ best player at 18. Logging nearly 30 minutes a game most nights. Sandin is a polished defenceman already, he never panics and is always looking to make something happen. He is deadly on the power play always knowing when to take the big one-timer (which he has) and when to find a teammate in a better spot after freezing the penalty killers. Leafs fans should be trying to watch Sandin as much as possible because he will be playing a lot for them next year. John Carlson would be an adequate NHL comparable.