As fans anticipate the start of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships, it’s an opportunity for them to get a glimpse of their respective NHL teams top drafted prospects. It’s a also chance for them to get acquainted with some of the potential top names that will look to have their names called for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. That is slated to occur in Montreal on July 7th and 8th.
Related: THW 2022 WJC Guide
This year’s class appears to be a very skilled and talented group of potential NHL stars for the future. It’s time to highlight some of the players. Here is a list of the notable names to keep an eye on as well as a full list at the very end of this article.
Note: Only first-year eligible prospects are highlighted. Overagers and undrafted players won’t be included on this list.
Shane Wright, Team Canada
It’s always evident that the potential first-overall pick will gain a lot of attention. That’s no different for Kingston Frontenacs captain, Shane Wright. There’s a reason why he’s the consensus first overall pick in this year’s draft, as he holds the top spot in my latest rankings.
Wright excels in every aspect of the game. He has the smarts, speed, puck skills, vision and work ethic that makes him a highly touted prospect. He had a dominating performance for Canada at the World U18 Hockey Championship, finishing second in tournament scoring with 14 points and nine goals in only five games leading Canada to a gold medal. He possesses great composure and has a calm demeanour whenever he’s on the ice. He always wants to take advantage of every shift and be a difference maker every time.
After missing out on Canada’s roster last year, Wright is more determined than ever this time around as he’s aiming to be an offensive force on an already stacked forward unit. With his offensive mindset and ability to take control of every shift, he’s definitely going to be relied on as one of Canada’s key players up front.
David Jiricek, Team Czechia
David Jirircek is going to be the Czechia’s secret weapon, returning on the backend from last year’s tournament. At 18 years old, he doesn’t look out of place playing at the senior Czech League for HC Plzen, with five goals and 11 points in 29 games.
The right-handed, offensive-minded defenseman has an aggressive style of play, as he displays excellent speed and a smooth skating stride when in transition. He has excellent control when on the rush and vision to make a heads-up passing play. He’s always involved in the play, jumping in and even being extremely mobile in the offensive zone.
Jiricek isn’t afraid to take advantage of a scoring opportunity as he has a powerful shot from the point. He can wind up and unload a slapshot or even get a quick wrist shot through traffic. He already has an NHL-like frame (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) and isn’t afraid to use that to his advantage engaging in the physical battles and making a hit. That mix of offense and tenacity is a great blend of old and new school and teams would love to have a prospect like him in their system.
Joakim Kemell, Team Finland
With Anton Lundell leading the offense for Finland at last year’s tournament, there were questions of where the offense might come from in 2022. The answer? Joakim Kemell.
There was a possibility that the World Juniors might be in jeopardy as he suffered a wrist injury that kept him out for a month. He was off to a torrid start in the Liiga as he has 18 points in 21 games, including being tied for fifth in goals with 12. Impressive numbers for a 17-year-old in a men’s league where he’s been noticeable in every game.
Projected as a top-10, or even a top-five pick in this year’s draft, Kemell displays the confidence and work ethic to carry the offense. He’s active when attacking defenders, getting into lanes to pick off passes and even has good strength to challenge and create a turnover. He’s got excellent hands and control of the puck and is a great skater in transition, but it’s his NHL-like shot and release that is a major threat.
If Kemell’s goalscoring from the Liiga, carries over into this tournament for Finland, look out because he will be very dangerous. Finalnd already has some strong returning depth in Roni Hirvonen, Kasper Simontaival, Roby Järventie and Samuel Helenius. Having a sniper on board like Kemell gives them a great balance up front.
Brad Lambert, Team Finland
Brad Lambert was once viewed as one who could challenge Wright for first overall. However, he has been inconsistent in his play and production since entering the pro level as he only has six points in 24 games in his second Liiga season with JYP.
While the transition isn’t what we had all hoped for and he hasn’t found the kind of production like Kemell, Lambert still possesses the skillset to make him a top talent as a prospect. He has great mobility, displays great poise and confidence with the puck and great hands to maintain control. He has great vision and awareness to open up the ice and create space for himself and his teammates when in the offensive zone.
If there’s any time for Lambert to prove that he still belongs in the conversation to be in the top-10, now is the time.
Simon Nemec, Team Slovakia
Expect all eyes to be on Simon Nemec as he’s one of many players to come from and represent the next wave of talent from Slovakia. This will be his second tournament after he posted a respectable four assists in five games at the 2021 tournament. He previously captained Slovakia to a silver medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup tallying one goal and five assists in five games.
He’s a full package defender that plays a steady two-way game with excellent vision, smarts and work ethic. When Nemec is on the ice, you’re immediately drawn to his ability to take the puck and rush it up the ice– showing great confidence in his ability to do so while maintaining control. He has great movement to walk the blueline to get open for a point shot and get it through traffic without any issues. He’s also strong defensively, providing excellent coverage and has an active stick to break up plays on the rush or in front of the net.
Despite being only 17, expect him to provide a leadership role this time around and be a difference maker for Slovakia.
Juraj Slafkovsky, Team Slovakia
The hulking 6-foot-4, 225-pound winger is also part of the next wave of talent to come from Slovakia. He was dominant at the U20 level this season with TPS recording 18 points in 11 games and made the jump to pro level this year, tallying four points in 20 games.
Slafkovsky is definitely going to be relied on heavily for Slovakia after showing his skill and physicality in last year’s tournament. While he went pointless, you noticed the skillset and power he possesses in his game as he’s a player to keep an eye on this year. That is definitely going to change this year as he has the experience under his belt.
Slafkovsky’s blend of skill and physical play makes him a force. Whenever he’s on, he bullies his way to the middle of the ice, while displaying his strong puck control and hands as he’s able to make moves in tight spaces. He’s a great skater for his size and is always showing a high level of compete, engaging in puck battles along the boards.
As Slovakia looks to take a big step forward this year, Slafkovsky is going to be at the forefront to help be a part of that success.
Danila Yurov, Team Russia
Since last year, I’ve been really high on Danila Yurov. While he hasn’t produced in 21 KHL games, don’t let that be a reason to count him out as a top prospect as he only averaged 4:37 of ice time per game and about seven shifts. Not the kind of utilization you want to see for a talented winger.
When given the ice time and opportunity, Yurov shines and is a dominant factor when he’s on the ice. In six MHL games (Russia’s junior league) with Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, Yurov’s production skyrocketed posting nine assists and 12 points in six games.
Yurov plays a very responsible game with great pace. He’s a very strong skater with great mobility and edges. He uses that to his advantage to push defenders back and easily get by them, either with control or chasing after the puck. He distributes the puck very well, always looking for the open lane to find his teammates. Russia has a lot of talent up front and Yurov makes them even more dangerous.
Logan Cooley, Team USA
Even though Team USA has a top centre returning from last year’s gold medal team in Matty Beniers, Logan Cooley is going help out tremendously with the team’s depth down the middle. If anyone from the National Development Team Program could make the Junior team, it was Cooley.
A smart and reliable two-way centreman and a lot of upside to his game, Cooley is looking to make a significant impact with the National Junior team just like he has with the NDTP. In 20 games so far this season, Cooley is third in points with 30 and second in goals with 14. He has great situational awareness, offensively and defensively, and is a strong skater with great speed. When he doesn’t have the puck he’s always in position to apply pressure and force the opposition to make a mistake.
The fact that Cooley is a natural centre, it gives him an advantage to make the team. He’s been seen on a line with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Matthew Knies and Florida Panthers 2021 first-round pick Mackie Samoskevich.
With the amount of skill, speed and offensive potential, that could be a line that may catch teams off guard. They play with intensity and when they get control, they can do some serious damage offensively.
Bedard vs Michkov: Round 2
They took over as the starring attraction at the World U18 Championships– each with their own dominant performance– and now, Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov will have even more eyes on them as the top two 2023 prospects will duel it out once again at the World Juniors.
Bedard was selected to Canada’s 25-man roster, becoming the first 16-year-old since Connor McDavid in 2014 to make the team. He joins a long list of hockey greats to wear the maple leaf at that age along with; Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, Jason Spezza, Jay Bouwmeester and Sidney Crosby.
Bedard is a highly touted and dynamic centreman with elite level hockey sense, awareness, hands and speed. He’s a catalyst when he’s on the ice as he’s always making something happen when he has the puck. He’s an excellent passer but he has no problem with keeping the puck and wiring it on net. If you need a refresh, here’s a wicked backhand goal he scored against Russia in the gold medal game at the U18s.
For Michkov, anything is possible when it comes to scoring goals and being an offensive threat. He has an elite level vision when it comes to finding the back of the net, potentially leading the way for the next wave of snipers in the NHL. Similar to that of Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews, he has pin point accuracy, a lightning quick release and power behind his shot. He’s extremely elusive down low and has great strength to protect the puck and drive out in front of the net.
He tallied 12 goals at the U18 World Championship, two shy of tying Ovechkin and Cole Caufield for most goals in one tournament (14). In the MHL last season, he finished with 56 points and has already recorded 28 total points so far in 11 games this season. He’s only 17 years old and is already scoring like a pro NHLer. Recently, he surpassed Ovechkin’s record as youngest player to play for Russia’s men’s national team.
While the 2022 draft prospects will get a great look, both Bedard and Michkov are probably going to steal the show as fans are going to be in for a treat if they have a repeat performance just like did back in April.
Full List of Draft Eligibles at the World Juniors:
- Connor Bedard, Team Canada (2023)
- Lian Bichsel, Team Switzerland
- Logan Cooley, Team USA
- Dalibor Dvorsky, Team Slovakia (2023)
- Rastislav Elias, Team Slovakia
- Vladimir Grudinin, Team Russia
- David Jiricek, Team Czech Republic
- Marco Kasper, Team Austria
- Joakim Kemell, Team Finland
- Jozef Viliam Kmec, Team Slovakia
- Arseni Koromyslov, Team Russia
- Jiri Kulich, Team Czechia
- Brad Lambert, Team Finland
- Filip Mesar, Team Slovakia
- Matvei Michkov, Team Russia (2023)
- Simon Nemec, Team Slovakia
- Servac Petrovsky, Team Slovakia
- Vincenz Rohrer, Team Austria
- Dylan Silverstein, Team USA
- Juraj Slafkovsky, Team Slovakia
- Maxim Strbak, Team Slovakia (2023)
- Adam Sykora, Team Slovakia
- Danila Yurov, Team Russia
- Shane Wright, Team Canada
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.