There’s always a ton of focus on the upcoming draft in the hockey world. Right now, hockey fans have their mouths drooling at the chance to get the likes of Alexis Lafrenière, Quinton Byfield, Jamie Drysdale, and Yaroslav Askarov on their team in the 2020 NHL Draft. But what some fans may not know, is that there is plenty of talent coming up through the ranks in the drafts in the following years as well. The 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (WHC) will highlight some of those players.
The WHC takes place Nov. 2-9, and many of the top prospects in the coming years will be taking part. The tournament will feature three Canadian teams (Black, Red, and White), the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
If you’re excited about the 2020 NHL Draft, just wait to see what the following drafts have in store. For those who aren’t familiar with some of the talent that is coming up, and will be on display in the WHC, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are the players to keep an eye on when the puck drops. There’s a ton of players in this tournament that I’ll be watching and you should too. In order to not have this piece be endless, I’ve limited it to nine players for you to keep an eye on.
Canada Black: Brandt Clarke, Barrie Colts (D)
After scoring 35 goals and 113 points in 73 games for the Don Mills Flyers in the Greater Toronto Minor Midget Hockey League, Brandt Clarke has made the jump to the OHL’s Barrie Colts where he’s made his mark early. He collected eight assists through his first 13 games with no signs of slowing down.
It’s looking more and more likely that Clarke is a top-two ranked prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft. He’s an excellent skater with a great shot. He has incredible patience with the puck for his age, as he waits for the perfect opportunity to present itself. The fact that he’s a defenseman with these skills and the points listed above should be reason enough to make sure you watch him at the WHC.
Canada Black: Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs (F)
There are three players already vying for the title of top prospect in the incredible 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Another Don Mills alumni, Shane Wright is one of those players. It just so happens that we’ll get to the other two in this piece and at the WHC as well. Currently playing for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs under Exceptional Status as a 15-year-old, Wright is definitely one to keep an eye on.
The first-overall pick in the 2019 OHL Entry Draft is one of those players that takes control of the game every time he steps on the ice. He has elite vision and just seems to know where everyone is and will be on the ice. He has great speed and his edgework is already some of the best in the OHL. It’s hard to look at him and remember he’s just 15 because this young player plays way above his age – which is clear based on his Exceptional Status.
Canada Red: Joshua Roy, Saint John Sea Dogs (C)
The first-overall selection by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2019 QMJHL Draft, Joshua Roy, is a top-prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft. Roy is an offensive weapon, leading the QMAAA in scoring in 2018-19 with 88 points in 42 games, winning most outstanding player and helping his team, Lévis Chevaliers, to a 41-1-0 record. That’s not a typo.
He’s at his best running the power play, where nearly half of those 88 points came from. He’s extremely creative with the puck and has a deadly shot. He can also dish it out and play in his own end. You should watch him in the WHC but follow along with his rookie season with the Sea Dogs as well. You won’t regret it.
Canada White: Dylan Guenther, Edmonton Oil Kings (LW)
The first-overall selection in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Dylan Guenther impressed everyone when he not only won freshman of the year in the CSSHL, with 32 goals and 58 points in 28 games, but he also debuted in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Once there, he added another three goals and four points in eight games.
This season, he’s already up to four goals and nine points in 14 games. He didn’t skip a beat making the jump from the CSSHL to the WHL, which is a great sign. He’s got great edgework, is extremely creative with the puck, and he seems to always be skating as hard as he can on the ice. If you get the chance to watch him this weekend, you’ll like what you see.
Canada White: Matthew Savoie, Winnipeg ICE (C)
The second player in consideration for the top prospect of the 2022 NHL Draft is Matthew Savoie. The Winnipeg ICE centerman was taken first overall in the WHL Entry Draft (are you seeing the pattern?) Despite being denied Exceptional Status, Savoie is still playing in a handful of games in the WHL this season. The rest of the time he’s with the Rink Hockey Academy Prep in the CSSHL – where he is currently dominating.
Savoie never quits, giving his all every time he hits the ice. He’s got elite acceleration and can blow past defenders with his speed and edge work. He’s got a sniper’s shot with a power forward’s size (5-foot-9, 179 pounds at 15-years-old) and presence. His hockey sense is right there with Wright’s and the third elite prospect in the 2022 NHL Draft, who just so happens to be up next on this list.
Finland: Brad Lambert, HIFK U20, (F)
Brad Lambert stole the show in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Tournament and now he’ll have the chance to do it again. The third member of the highly-anticipated 2022 NHL Draft group, Lambert is excelling early with HIFK U20 – at 15 years old.
As I wrote in the above Hlinka Gretzky article: “(Lambert) was not out of place at all, scoring a hat trick against Switzerland. Lambert showed off an incredible shot, great playmaking and quick feet throughout the tournament.”
Lambert stood out at the Hlinka – an under-18 tournament. Imagine what he’ll do at a U17 tournament in mid-season form.
Sweden: Fabian Lysell, Frölunda HC J18 (LW)
Fabian Lysell has been absolutely on fire for Frölunda HC J18 in the J18 Elit, with 11 goals and 25 points in just nine games. The 2021 draft-eligible prospect is near the top of players eligible, and with good reason. He’ll have a chance to showcase his skill in front of the world in this tournament.
He should be a very exciting player to watch in the WHC. As I wrote in the above Weekly Prospect Report: “Lysell is a speedy forward with the skill to go with it. He has a quick, hard shot that can fool a goaltender but he can also dish it out for a highlight-reel assist. He doesn’t give up, always battling for the puck and usually winning. He’s creative offensively and deadly one-on-one.”
United States: Luke Hughes, U.S. National U17 Team (D)
The third and final Hughes brother. If you’re a fan of Quinn and Jack, you may have already heard of the youngest of the trio. If not, you’re in for a treat: you still have a chance to have a Hughes on your team. Well, actually two chances – but the younger Jack “Not That Jack” Hughes isn’t actually related.
The youngest member of the elite hockey family will bring more of that skill that everyone has grown accustomed to watching. He’s drawn comparisons to his defensive brother, Quinn, but I’ve also seen some who think Luke could be even better. He’s a smooth skater, great in his own end, and can drive the rush. There’s not much to critique about his game, which is impressive at just 16 years old.
United States: Jeremy Wilmer, U.S. National U17 Team (C)
Last, but certainly not least, is another member of Team USA in Jeremy Wilmer. Get ready for the “he’s too small” critics to come out. Sure, he’s 5-foot-6, but Wilmer knows how to put up the points. Nearly everywhere he plays, he’s between a two- to three-point per game player.
He’s dominant offensively, largely due to his creativity, and his skating is a big strength. He has a good top speed and gets there fast through excellent acceleration. Some even think he could be the next Johnny Gaudreau. Another interesting fact about Wilmer? He committed to Boston University at just 14 years old. Yeah, you’re going to want to check him out.
Of course, there’s lots more talent to watch in this tournament. Unfortunately, I had to stop writing at some point. Make sure to keep up with the tournament this weekend, and get a glimpse at some of the elite talent coming up in the next few drafts that will be in the NHL before you know it.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.