Kevin Brown: With the World Junior Hockey Championships now all over our televisions, at least in Canada, which young players are you watching closely in the hopes of adding them to your future fantasy squads? The obvious answer here is Connor MacDavid, but I’m taking him off the table for the purpose of this discussion since he’s already a household name. Give us some players that fantasy poolies might not be familiar yet.
Michael Finewax: I really like the play of Nikolaj Ehlers of Denmark. He has unbelievable offensive skills and I think the Winnipeg Jets got themselves a heck of a player at number nine in the 2014 Draft. He plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL and had 49 goals and 105 points in 64 games last season. He was even better in the playoffs with 11 goals and 28 points in 16 games. Thus far this season he has 16 goals and 47 points in only 23 games. He is going to be a stud.
Ryan Dadoun: Nashville already has a gem in Filip Forsberg, but that might just be the start for them. They drafted Kevin Fiala with the 11th overall pick in 2014 and he has the potential to be another great top-six forward. He's 18 and has been playing in Sweden's top league where he has five goals and 14 points in 20 contests. He's also gotten off to a great start with Switzerland early in this tournament. Like Forsberg, he might need some time to adjust to North American hockey when it comes time to make that transition, but the two of them might be leading the charge for the Predators in a few years.
Corey Abbott: If McDavid is out of the picture then Jack Eichel is the next most obvious choice. He's viewed as a generational talent, just like McDavid, and the captain of Team USA has started the World Juniors impressively as well. However, if you are seeking talent beyond him then you don't have to look far as Auston Matthews is the early favorite to be the top pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He's been lighting up the stat sheet in the USA National Team Development Program while skating with the U-18 team. He has amassed 24 goals and 49 points in 27 games. He's certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Kevin Brown: Maple Leafs fans will be happy to know the future is bright thanks to Swedish youngster William Nylander, whom they selected with their first pick in last June’s draft. The 18-year-old has held his own playing with grown men for MODO in the Swedish Elite League this season and is one of the best players in this tournament. With two goals in two games early in the event, Nylander is already showing his skills on the world stage.
Michael Finewax: I'm going to go back to Denmark because I have been quite impressed as well by Ehlers’s linemate Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was a third round pick by Columbus in the 2013 Draft. He is playing for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL where he potted 50 goals and 109 points last season and has 21 goals and 40 points in 28 games this season. He has been the Danes’ best player thus far in the tournament with two goals and an assist in two games and it looks like the Blue Jackets got themselves a gem in the third round.
Kevin Brown: We have named a handful of players so far and we’ve yet to mention any Canadians so I’ll toss out Robby Fabbri, a player who sometimes gets lost in the shuffle behind bigger names like McDavid and Curtis Lazar. Fabbri was a first round selection of the Blues, a team that has recently hit on early round choices Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, so they know a thing or two about scouting prospects. The shifty center potted an incredible 45 goals in just 58 games with the OHL’s Guelph Storm last season and he has carried it over to this year by netting 18 in 22 contests. The sniper is undersized, but he oozes talent, making him a great target for keeper leagues.
Corey Abbott: Another Canadian forward who I have been impressed by since the pre-tournament games is Arizona prospect Max Domi. He's quick, he's creative and he's been on a tear offensively this season. He has racked up 17 goals and 58 points in just 27 games for London of the OHL and he already has two goals and one helper in two WJC contests. Domi should probably be on the Coyotes right now and I fully expect him to be in the NHL next year.
Ryan Dadoun: Canada naturally has such a deep team. If I could just pile on with one more name before we move on, defenseman Darnell Nurse has a ton of potential. He's both physically imposing and gifted with the puck. He doesn't have any points yet in the tournament, but I'm not concerned about that. The Oilers desperately need for Nurse not to be a bust, but fortunately for them, he should turn into the top-tier defenseman that they need.
Michael Finewax: Yeah, Nurse will give the Oilers a little TLC. I like the play of Domi, but want to see what he can do against better teams than Slovakia and Germany. I've enjoyed watching Canadian Nic Petan as well. I think the Jets have done a good job of drafting and he is a prime example. He should be in a Jets uniform for a long time.
Corey Abbott: I have no doubt that Domi will continue to be a factor against stronger squads. Another player who has caught my eye is Jakub Vrana of the Czech Republic. The 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Washington Capitals plays for Linkoping in the SHL, where he has 16 points in 23 games. He scored twice in a 5-2 loss to Sweden and had a lot of chances in another 5-2 defeat against Switzerland. Vrana has all the tools to be a successful top-six forward in the NHL.
Ryan Dadoun: We're covered a lot of players with potential star power already. Someone that's not as exciting, but still worth touching on is Mikko Rantanen. He's eligible for the 2015 draft and while he might not end up in the top-10, he should be selected in the first round. He's got the size to be an imposing player in the NHL and might develop into a good two-way forward.
Kevin Brown: Since we haven’t discussed any goaltenders yet, I think it’s a good time to mention Ilya Sorokin of Russia. The third-round pick of the New York Islanders is currently playing his third season with Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the KHL, but he might be better known in North America for stopping 52 of 53 shots and stealing a win against Canada in a 2-1 overtime decision in pre-tournament action last week. Projecting young goalies is a fool’s errand in general, but Sorokin is one who could definitely make some noise in the NHL if he comes across the pond.