The World Juniors have served as a coming-out party and a career launchpad for several prospects over the years.
That includes players drafted outside the first round, players passed over in previous drafts, and players eligible for upcoming drafts. All of whom were flying under the radar to some degree entering this tournament.
Here are the breakout candidates for each of the 10 countries in 2022:
The Canadians are well equipped heading into the tournament. A few players who could be breakout players on the team this year are Dallas Stars second-round pick Logan Stankoven, St.Louis Blues prospect Jake Neighbours and 16-year-old phenom Connor Bedard. Stankoven has been having a phenomenal season with the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League (WHL) so far. He currently has 32 points in 22 games and leads the Blazers. While Neighbours is an assistant captain this year, he has flown under the radar in comparison to forwards Shane Wright, Mason McTavish and fellow Oil Kings teammate Dylan Guenther. With a few NHL games in the bag for Neighbours, I expect a big tournament.
Bedard isn’t necessarily flying under the radar, but heading into this tournament there were some questions as to whether or not he would make the team, and he ultimately did – now the debate is how much will he be utilized on the ice. No matter what, Bedard will be an impact player for Canada for years to come.
Olen Zellweger is the player to watch on defence in this tournament. The Everett Silvertips defenceman was drafted in the second round by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2021 NHL Draft. He currently has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in the WHL and is among the top defenders in the league. The high-octane, mobile defenceman will surely bring his A-game to the tournament as he looks to compete in his first World Juniors. With Owen Power, and Kaiden Guhle running the blue line, be on the lookout for Zellweger.
Dylan Garand will be the goalie to watch as he looks to have a big showing at the tournament. Garand was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Rangers in 2020. He currently is the starting goalie on the Kamloops Blazers and has posted a 1.85 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .932 save=perecentage (SV%). He is also a returnee from last year’s silver medal squad and will be accompanied in net by a 6-foot-6 monster and Detroit Red Wings prospect, Sebastian Cossa.
For the Finns, all the hype is currently surrounding 17-year-old’s Joakim Kemell, and Brad Lambert. But, Kasper Simontaival looks to be a player who has breakout potential. The dual-threat winger is a third-round selection by the LA Kings in the 2020 NHL Draft. He boasts one of the best shots on the team. Another forward to watch is Montreal Canadiens prospect Oliver Kapanen, who is the cousin to Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen was a second-round pick in this past year’s NHL Draft and boasts an extremely high hockey IQ.
On defence, watch for Aleski Heimosalmi to play a key role on the blue line. The smooth-skating defender was a second-round selection by the Carolina Hurricanes in this past year’s NHL Draft. Another defender to keep an eye on is Red Wings prospect Eemil Viro.
Czechia will once again be looking to make an impact at the World Juniors. With the hype surrounding Montreal Canadiens prospect Jan Mysak, keep a close lookout for Minnesota Wild prospect Pavel Novak, and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jakub Brabenec to silently play key roles.
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Stanislav Svozil and 2022 NHL Draft prospect David Jiricek will be the focal point of Czechia’s blue line. Jiricek will try to prove to scouts he is first-round material. However, watch for undrafted defenceman David Spacek, the son of former NHLer Jaroslav Spacek to bring a strong game and try to win scouts over. He currently anchors the blue line for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and has 25 points in 27 games.
Unfortunately, Germany will not be getting Ottawa Senators forward Tim Stützle, nor Buffalo Sabres prospect John Peterka back from last year’s squad. This year, however, Josef Eham and Alexander Blank seem to be the breakout candidates for the Germans. With captain Florian Elias getting a lot of attention already, watch for these two to make an impact.
Watch for Edmonton Oilers prospect and 2021 third-round selection Luca Münzenberger to have a big impact on the German’s defence. Keep an eye on Adrian Klein as well.
Marco Kasper looks to have a strong tournament. He is ranked in the first round on some charts, but this is his chance to prove why he is a first-round selection at this year’s NHL draft. Keep an eye on Janick Wernicke, Oskar Meier, and Luca Auer.
Goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz will have his work cut out for him, he once again looks to impress scouts and get his name on the draft board.
With attention surrounding Seattle Kraken prospect Matty Beniers, and Ducks prospect Sasha Pastujov, I’ll shine the spotlight on Maple Leafs’ prospect Matthew Knies, and Red Wings prospect Red Savage. Savage is a fourth-round selection and brings the type of play style that you despite to play against, he currently has seven points in 16 games with Miami Univerity (Ohio) in the NCAA. Knies is a second-round selection in this past year’s NHL draft and currently plays for the Univerity of Minnesota Golden Gophers, with fellow teammate Chaz Lucius, and has registered 16 points in 18 games. 17-year-old Logan Cooley will be another forward to keep an eye on as he is a projected top-10 pick at this year’s NHL Draft.
On defence, watch for Wild prospect Jack Peart, and Kings prospect Brock Faber to both have big tournaments. USA captain and Ottawa Senators prodigy Jake Sanderson, the son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson will be the quarterback on the blue line alongside Devils prospect Luke Hughes, and fellow Senators prospect Tyler Kleven.
Goaltender and Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso will be the go-to guy, but watch out for Dylan Silverstein as he looks to thrust his name higher on the draft board for 2022.
Winnipeg Jets prospect, and second-round selection Nikita Chibrikov will be looking to have another strong international tournament for the Russians. Keep an eye on the trio of Hurricanes prospects also representing Russia, Vasili Ponomaryov, Alexander Pashin, and Nikita Gulistov to also be impact players. The same thing with Bedard from Canada, Russia’s 16-year-old Matvei Michkov is a well-known name in the hockey industry already, if given the proper ice time and utilization I expect him to also have a prominent showing.
Watch for Sabres prospect Nikita V. Novikov to have a strong showing on the blueline, as well as Kings prospect Kirill Kirsanov. 18-year-old Vladimir Grudinin could exceed expectations on defence and thrust his name into first-round talks for the upcoming 2022 NHL Draft.
All eyes will be on the elite Yaroslav Askarov, a product of the Nashville Predators. But, watch for 19-year-old Yegor Guskov, and 18-year-old Maxim Motorygin to have strong starts. Overall, the Russians are well equipped in the net.
Fabian Lysell, Alexander Holtz, and Oskar Olausson will be running the show upfront for the Swedes. Watch for Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson, as well as Hurricanes prospect Zion Nybeck to have a strong tournament. Torgersson is a second-round pick in 2020 and brings great size to the Swedish forward group.
Red Wings prospect Simon Edvinsson will head up the defence core. Watch for Hurricanes prospect Joel Nystrom to bring a strong game, as well as Kings prospect Helge Grans. 19-year-old Mans Forsfjall, who has been passed over twice now, looks to get his name on scout’s radars. Also, keep an eye on 2022 prospect Victor Sjoholm.
With Jesper Wallstedt the number one goalie for the Swedes, keep an eye on Golden Knights prospect Jesper Vikman to bring a big game if he gets any starts ahead of Penguins prospect Calle Clang.
Assuming everyone already knows about 2022 top-prospects Juraj Slafkovsky, and Filip Mesar – I’ll shift focus to Golden Knights prospect Jakub Demek who has taken the WHL by storm. Demek, a fourth-round selection in 2021 currently has 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 28 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Superstar defenceman and top-prospect Simon Nemec will run the blueline, alongside captain, and Blue Jackets prospect Samuel Knazko. With those two being the key components, watch out for 17-year-old Jozef Viliam Kmec to prove his worth, as well as Marko Stacha, who has been passed over twice.
Simon Latkoczy will likely be the starting goalie for the Slovaks, the undrafted netminder currently plays in the United States Hockey League (USHL). Also, watch for fellow USHL netminder Rasitslav Elias to have a good showing. He helped Slovakia capture a silver medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Simon Knak, a Predators prospect will man a lot of responsibility, but Attilio Biasca, and Louis Robin both of the QMJHL could play major roles within the lineup. Additionally, keep an eye on 19-year-old Keanu Derungs.
2022 prospect Lian Bichsel will likely see his fair share of ice time, the 6-foot-5 defenceman currently plays for Leksands of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Also watch for Philadelphia Flyers prospect Brian Zanetti to have a big impact on the blue line, as well as Noah Meier and Maximilian Streule.
Undrafted prospect Noah Patenaude will be the goalie to watch.
These sleepers are all draft-eligible — be it first-timers or overagers — but aren’t expected to be selected in the first round as of today.
If the draft were held tomorrow, they wouldn’t crack the top 31, but some of them could be knocking on that door following this tournament should they excel on the international stage. Others are just hoping to catch the eye of scouts and play their way onto the radar for the later rounds.
Here are the sleeper prospects for each of the 10 countries in 2020:
Brett Brochu, an undrafted 19-year-old goalie and current starter for the OHL’s London Knights hopes this tournament will help his resume heading into his final draft-eligible year. Brochu earned his spot with Canada after battling hard and proving to be the best goaltender in the OHL.
Brochu has a current record of 16-5-1 while posting a 2.48 GAA and a .921 SV%. This is his chance to solidify his draft stock. Some scouts see Brochu as a third, or fourth-round selection, but others are taking a wait-and-see approach. While Brochu’s role will be limited, he’s the sleeper for Canada.
Undrafted forwards Roni Karvinen, Olli Nikupeteri, and Joel Määttä could be major factors for the Finns offensively. Karvinen is a two-way forward who currently has 16 points in 10 games in the U20 SM-sarja league, and has seen 21 games of action in the Finnish Men’s League (LIIGA). He is taking over Aatu Raty’s spot, as Raty is sidelined with an injury. Nikupeteri plays in Sweden and has bounced around between the SHL and the HockeyAllsvenskan. Maatta on the other hand has been playing in the NCAA for the University of Vermont. Keep an eye on defenders Ruben Rafkin and Karri Aho as well.
Jiri Kulich is the prospect to watch for Czechia. The 17-year-old 2022 prospect will surely use this tournament to boost his draft stock. He is considered by many scouts in the industry to be a second-round selection, but the young prospect will be looking to etch his name as a first-round selection.
Related: Czechia Players to Watch at 2022 WJC
He is considered by many in the scouting industry to be the best 2004 born forward in Czechia. He is very confident with the puck and can bring it into the offensive zone with ease, he’s elusive and has a lot of 1-on-1 moves up his sleeve that he can use to undress defenders.
The Germans captain, Florian Elias will be heading into yet another year of draft eligibility. He currently has four points in 21 games with Alder Mannheim of the DEL. Keep an eye on Yannik Burghart and Thomas Heigl, as well.
For Austria, it’s Marco Kasper’s time to shine and prove why he should be selected in the first round. The speedy Austrian is currently playing for Rogle BK of the SHL and has picked up six points in 24 games. He is listed in the first round on some rankings, but he can use this tournament to solidify himself as a first-round prospect.
One of the youngest goalies in the tournament, 17-year-old Dylan Silverstein will be the sleeper for the Americans. A 2022 prospect, scouts have him ranked in the middle of the crop, if he gets the start time he deserves, he can use this tournament to thrust his name higher on the goalie rankings. Also, keep an eye on University of Minnesota-Duluth forward Dominic James, he is one of the overagers available and has nine points in 17 games this season in the NCAA.
Russian defenceman Arseni Koromyslov could use this tournament to get his name in first-round talks. He is a patient defender who walks the blueline with poise, he possesses a heavy shot and if Ruissa utilizes him, he could be a big threat on defence. He had three points at the under-18 World Junior Championships this past April. Also, keep an eye on Pavel Tyutnev, and Ivan Didkovsky to also play major roles offensively.
Swedish defenceman Måns Forsfjäll is one of the lone undrafted members on the team, he could play a big role for the Swedes defensively. Keep an eye out for 19-year-old forwards Åke Stakkestad and Elias Stenman to also contribute offensively.
As we talked about earlier, Slafkovksy, Mesar, Demek, Chromiak and Dvorsky are the focal points of Slovakia’s offence. Servac Petrovsky is a name to keep an eye out for, he is ranked in the second, and third rounds by scouts but if he has a breakout performance he could get his name in first-round talks. Also, watch out for 19-year-old’s Oleksii Mykluhka, and Matej Kalsik of the QMJHL to make a big impact. Mykluhka was passed over twice and is still looking at making his NHL dreams come true.
For the Swiss, keep an eye on 2022 prospect Lorenzo Canonica. He currently plays for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL and has recorded 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games so far this season. He was passed over in the draft last year and is looking to make a big comeback.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.