2022 NHL Draft Picks to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors

It’s December and you know what that means… The World Junior Hockey Championship. The tournament that everyone anticipates during the holiday season makes its return. There’s no summer tournament, there’s no cancellation, things seem to be back to normal as it’s time to witness some great and exciting junior hockey.

With the tournament comes a list of names that fans would love to get a glimpse of, particularly those that have recently had their name called at the 2022 NHL Draft. There’s a number of quality players to represent their nation, but I went ahead and selected one drafted player from each team to keep an eye on during the tournament. 

2023 World Junior Championship Guide
2023 World Junior Championship (The Hockey Writers)

Without further ado, here are the 2022 drafted prospects that you should keep an eye on at the 2023 World Junior Championship.

Austria- Vinzenz Rohrer

Detroit Red Wings first-round pick in 2022 Marco Kasper won’t be attending the tournament as he would’ve been the one to watch. However, there’s another player worth keeping an eye on in Vinzenz Rohrer. 

The Montreal Canadiens third-round pick in 2022 (75th overall) is going to lead the charge as Austria looks to remain in the top group. Rohrer is a highly energetic forward that plays an in-your-face style of hockey. He’s competitive and shows no quit to his game. After a respectable rookie campaign last season with 48 points in 64 games with the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League, he’s taken big leap forward with his play as he’s over a point per game and third in team scoring with 32 points in 26 games.

Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship

With his offense taking a jump in the OHL, the lone drafted player on the team is going to be relied on heavily at this year’s tournament. Will it be enough?

Canada- Shane Wright

Was there any doubt that it would be someone other than Shane Wright? The projected first overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft dropped to the Seattle Kraken at fourth overall. Known for his skilled and strong two-way play, Wright’s on a mission to prove everyone wrong. 

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After facing adversity at the draft, his NHL career didn’t get off to the best start either. He earned one assist and played over 10 minutes once in his first seven games, while also being a healthy scratch multiple times in the process. He was then sent to the Coachella Valley Firebirds on a conditioning stint, where he scored four goals in five games gaining more opportunities in the AHL. After that, he was called back up and scored against the team (Canadiens) that passed on him for his first NHL goal. 

Shane Wright Seattle Kraken
Shane Wright, Seattle Kraken (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

With the Kraken loaning him for the WJC, it’s the perfect opportunity for him to gain even more confidence and play a pivotal role for Canada as one of the top players on the team. Wright has shown to excel internationally as he dominated at the 2021 U18 Championship and played well at the shortened 2022 World Junior tournament. He’s been seen on a line with a familiar face in Brennan Othmann and 2023 top pick Connor Bedard, so expect the points and dominance to be on display. 

Czechia- Jiri Kulich

Jiri Kulich was extremely fun to watch at the summer tournament with eight points in seven games. If his play as a rookie with the Rochester Americans in the AHL is any indication, he’s going to be even more fun to watch this year. 

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Kulich’s draft stock rose throughout last season with his stellar play and well-rounded skillset. Sitting in the top-20 in rookie scoring with 16 points in 24 games, expect him to once again lead the way offensively for Czechia at the tournament. He’s an extremely skilled player who can do it all. He’s got soft hands, a high-end work ethic, a wicked release and an effective game without the puck as well. He plays at a quick pace and the opposition has a hard time to try and keep up with him.

Jiri Kulich Team Czechia
Jiri Kulich, Team Czechia (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Czechia has another deep roster that can look to make some noise this year with a lot of veteran talent. They upset the United States in the quarter-final and have no problem doing the same to another powerhouse. With Kulich leading the way, they might be able to achieve their goal of making another deep run and possibly winning a medal.

Finland- Brad Lambert

Brad Lambert was a very polarizing prospect in the 2022 Draft and will get his third chance to prove his worth. After a strong preseason and recording three points in his first four games with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL, he hasn’t registered a point in his last 10 games. Now that he’s attending his third World Junior tournament, is this the year where we see consistent play from Lambert? 

When the 2022 WJC was first cancelled, Lambert was on a massive tear with five points in two games. Many thought that this is the type of play that would put the doubt on Lambert to rest. However, the inconsistencies continued with his league play when playing for both JYP and the Pelicans. The Winnipeg Jets took a chance on him at the draft with the 30th overall pick, hoping that his skill and creativity would pay off over his questionable decision-making. His play remained less than stellar at the August tournament.

Brad Lambert Manitoba Moose
Brad Lambert, Manitoba Moose (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

All eyes will be on Lambert as the biggest thing for him this time around is to display the smarts and awareness more than rather just be a flashy player that he’s known for. With Finland coming close to winning gold, Lambert is going to see an increased role with his minutes now that names like Aatu Räty, Roni Hirvonen and Kasper Simontaival aren’t around. If Lambert can show that he’s going to be a responsible player for Finland, then they’ll compete for a medal. If not, then they’re will be more questions than answers with his overall play.

Germany- Julian Lutz

It wasn’t the draft season that Julian Lutz had hoped for. After dealing with an injury where he wasn’t even able to participate in the WJC last year, he now has his chance to participate this time around now that he’s healthy. 

Lutz is going to be relied on heavily to be one of the top players for the Germans and he’s ready for it. When healthy, he was always noticeable when he was on the ice as he displays great energy and work ethic. He plays a strong and aggressive power forward-like game and has great speed to get in and be a force on the forecheck. He has a heavy shot and does a great job to open the game up with his positioning and awareness. He showed this and more at the World U18 Championship where he finished with four points in four games for Germany.

Related: 2023 World Junior Championship Team Germany Final Roster

With a lot of the top names from Germany graduating and flourishing at the pro levels, Lutz is definitely one that will follow suit.

Latvia- Dons Locmelis

Latvia was promoted to the top group after Russia was suspended for the invasion of Ukraine, and they didn’t disappoint one bit making it to the quarter-finals. They put up a great fight every single game and played their hearts out. Fans should expect another competitive team that won’t bow down easily. 

With some drafted NHL talent on the team, Dons Locmelis is definitely one name that could standout at the tournament as the leader of this team. Drafted 119th by the Boston Bruins in 2022 and committed to the University of Massachusetts, Locmelis is a towering forward with great IQ and a two-way ability that can translate to the next level. He’s well over a point per game amongst his age group in the J20 Nationell with 33 points in 27 games this season.

Locmelis thrives in puck possession, as he has great body position to protect the puck and keep defenders off him. He sees the ice very well to spot open lanes and make timely passes with his vision and does good job to anticipate plays without the puck. With Latvia showing that they can keep up in the top group, Locmelis is definitely going to make sure they have a repeat performance and be a thorn in the opponent’s side.

Slovakia- Simon Nemec

No matter where he’s played, Simon Nemec always seems to thrive. Already having success at senior events like the Olympics, World Championship and playing very well with the Utica Comets in the AHL, it isn’t a surprise that Slovakia gets their top defender and player for the 2023 tournament.

Simon Nemec New Jersey Devils
Simon Nemec, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Nemec has always a been a tremendous two-way defenseman. He’s got the skating and speed to lead an attack from the backend and shows great confidence with his decision-making and puck moving abilities. He’s always in the right spot at the right time, be it getting involved in the rush, making timely reads to keep plays or activating on the cycle. He can do it all offensively and is just as strong defensively, having great gap control and keeping players to the outside.

Slovakia is looking to improve on their ninth-place finish from the summer tournament. With Nemec at the helm and a lot of experience with great skill and speed, they’re looking to make their mark this time around.

Sweden- Liam Öhgren

You could pick anyone from the Djurgårdens IF team and you wouldn’t be wrong as they’re all going to be critical pieces to try and turn Sweden’s recent woes around. But Liam Öhgren is one to definitely watch at this tournament as his upside as a prospect is sky high. 

Related: Team Sweden Players to Watch at 2023 WJC

Öhgren was one of my favourite players during the 2022 draft for a lot of reasons but mainly it’s how close he is to playing at a professional level. Just before leaving for the WJC, he had seven points in his last five games and is starting to heat up in the HockeyAllsvenskan with 14 points in 26 games. He wasn’t a key player last year with one assist in seven games, but that is expected to change with his work ethic, leadership and pro-like mentality on the ice.

Öhgren’s always in attack mode playing with great energy and intensity. He’s hard-working, aggressive along the boards to winning battles and utilizes his size to his advantage very well. He’s always an offensive threat as he displays great awareness with his play-making and powerful release with his shot. He’s a great skater with strong edges to quickly evade opponents and get out of high-pressure situations and attack the middle of the ice. He’s always noticeable on the ice and never takes a shift off.

Liam Ohgren Minnesota Wild
Liam Ohgren, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Drafted 19th overall by the Minnesota Wild, they should be happy with what they see and what they’re going to see at the World Juniors. 

Switzerland- Lian Bichsel

The Swiss have always been known for being a gritty, in your face and tough team to always play against. The team’s top player and defenseman Lian Bichsel has all of that and more in his game as he’ll be a nightmare to play against.

Drafted 18th overall by the Stars, Bichsel is a defensive minded defender that plays a punishing style of play with a lot of energy and intensity. He’s extremely physical, not being afraid to lay a big time hit along the boards or the open ice. He does a great job to clog up the middle of the ice and break up plays with a timely poke check or using his body to block shots. He can make a strong outlet pass and jump into the play from time to time, but don’t expect to see it often. 

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Switzerland might be in a tough spot this season, but they’re always competitive. With Bichsel on the team, that mentality won’t change at all.

United States- Lane Hutson

Lane Hutson was definitely an interesting name during the 2022 draft as he has the speed and skill to be a highly effective puck-moving defenseman. Unfortunately, he has a 5-foot-8, 148-pound frame. He landed into the Canadiens hands at 62ndoverall and is looking to be a big-time steal. 

While names like Logan Cooley or Rutger McGroarty will garner attention up front, Hutson has been absolutely dynamic as a freshman this season as his hot play looks to carry over to the tournament. He’s over a P/G with Boston University with 18 points in 16 games and leads all freshman defenders at the collegiate level. He’s very creative and deceptive with his movements as a defender and displays great confidence when moving the puck. He’s an explosive and agile skater with great agility and has great hands for control.

While eyes will be on Luke Hughes on the blueline, Hutson gives the Americans another highly skilled defenseman that’s quick in transition and can lead an attack from the backend. He shouldn’t be overlooked as fans will see why he shouldn’t have fallen down the draft board as he did. 

Full List of 2022 Drafted Prospects

Marek Alscher- CZE (FLA- Rd 3, 93rd overall)
Lian Bichsel- SUI (DAL- Rd 1, 18th overall)
Filip Bystedt- SWE (SJ- Rd 1, 27th overall)
Seamus Casey- USA (NJD- Rd 2, 46th overall)
Ryan Chesley- USA (WSH- Rd 2, 37th overall)
Kenny Connors- USA (LA- Rd 4, 103rd overall)
Logan Cooley- USA (ARI- Rd 1, 3rd overall)
Adam Engström- SWE (MTL- Rd 3, 92nd overall)
Nathan Gaucher- CAN (ANA- Rd 1, 22nd overall)
Cutter Gauthier- USA (PHI- Rd 1, 5th overall)
Tomas Hamara- CZE (OTT- Rd 3, 87th overall)
Petr Hauser- CZE (NJD- Rd 5, 141st overall)
Lane Hutson- USA (MTL- Rd 2, 62nd overall)
Ludvig Jansson- SWE (FLA- Rd 4, 125th overall)
David Jiricek- CZE (CBJ- Rd 1, 6th overall)
Noah Laba- USA (NYR- Rd 4, 111th overall)
Aleksanteri Kaskimäki- FIN (STL- Rd 3, 73rd overall)
Joakim Kemell- FIN (NSH- Rd 1, 17th overall)
Niklas Kokko- FIN (SEA- Rd 2, 58th overall)
Kevin Korchinski- CAN (CHI- Rd 1, 7th overall)
Jiri Kulich- CZE (BUF- Rd 1, 28th overall)
Brad Lambert- FIN (WPG- Rd 1, 30th overall)
Jonathan Lekkerimäki- SWE (VAN- Rd 1, 15th overall)
Dons Locmelis- LAT (BOS- Rd 4, 119th overall)
Julian Lutz- GER (ARI- Rd 2, 43rd overall)
Rutger McGroarty- USA (WPG- Rd 1, 14th overall)
Filip Mesar- SVK (MTL- Rd 1, 26th overall)
Simon Nemec- SVK (NJD- Rd 1, 2nd overall)
Jani Nyman- FIN (SEA- Rd 2, 49th overall)
Calle Odelius- SWE (NYI- Rd 2, 65th overall)
Liam Öhgren- SWE (MIN- Rd 1, 19th overall)
Noah Östlund- SWE (BUF- Rd 1, 16th overall)
Servác Petrovský- SVK (MIN- Rd 6, 185th overall)
Elias Pettersson- SWE (VAN- Rd 3, 80th overall)
Oskar Pettersson- SWE (OTT- Rd 3, 72nd overall)
Vinzenz Rohrer- AUS (MTL- Rd 3, 75th overall)
Topi Rönni- FIN (CGY- Rd, 2, 59th overall)
Otto Salin- FIN (LA- Rd 5, 148th overall)
Reid Schaefer- CAN (EDM- Rd 1, 32nd overall)
David Spacek- CZE (MIN- Rd 5, 153rd overall)
Matyas Sapovaliv- CZE (VGK- Rd 2, 48th overall)
Adam Sýkora- SVK (NYR- Rd 2, 63rd overall)
Jimmy Snuggerud- USA (STL- Rd 1, 23rd overall)
Klavs Veinbergs- LAT (TB- Rd 7, 224th overall)
Sandis Vilmanis- LAT (FLA- Rd 5, 157th overall)
Fabian Wagner- SWE (WPG- Rd 6, 175th overall)
Shane Wright- CAN (SEA, Rd 1, 4th overall)
Adam Zlnka- SVK (ARI- Rd 7, 204th overall)