The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship got underway on Wednesday and Chicago Blackhawks fans have plenty of reasons to pay attention to this year’s showcase of hockey’s top players under the age of 20. The Blackhawks, along with the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers, have the most prospects in the tournament with seven.
Barratt’s Breakout Season Continues on Team USA
Evan Barratt was selected by the Blackhawks in the third round (90th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. His sophomore season at Penn State University has been a great one as he leads the NCAA with 29 points in 17 games. He is the first-ever Penn State hockey player to make a WJC roster.
While many Blackhawks fans are dreaming of seeing his teammate and projected future number one overall pick Jack Hughes play, Barratt has been higher on the depth chart during the team’s pre-tournament games. He has been centering the second line while Hughes has been down the middle on the third line.
Here are the projected lines for Team USA. It appears Kyle Keyser (BOS) will be making his first start for Team USA. pic.twitter.com/abOnCfefSR
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 26, 2018
Entwistle & Mitchell Look to Lead Canada’s Repeat Efforts
MacKenzie Entwistle is one of the newest Blackhawks prospects. He was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes last summer in the trade that sent Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa’s contract west. The former third round pick has the frame for NHL success, but the offensive numbers have yet to show up in the OHL.
He is enjoying a breakout season in the OHL with 15 goals and 27 points in 29 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs. He has already surpassed his previous career-high in goals and is 11 points shy of tying his best season in terms of points. He could turn out to be the prize of the trade with Arizona.
Ian Mitchell is surpassing the numbers he put up during his great freshman season at the University of Denver in 2017-18. The Blackhawks’ 2017 second round draft pick leads all Denver defensemen with 11 points and both of his goals have been game-winners.
Mitchell has been playing big-time minutes and his leadership has been noticed by Team Canada as he will be an alternate captain for the tournament. He is expected to sign an entry-level contract once his NCAA season ends in the spring.
Jokiharju Takes Time Off for WJC Gold
Finland enters the tournament as one of the favorites to win gold and Henri Jokiharju will play a large role in their quest. He will be one of the players with the most NHL experience in the WJC. He has 11 assists in 32 games with Blackhawks while playing big minutes. He was named an alternate captain and will be a leader for one of the top teams.
“It’s a great opportunity, we think, for him, but also for our team,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton told NHL.com last week. “We’re thinking about what kind of player he’s going to be months down the road and years down the road. It’s a chance for him to go there and be, if not the top player then one of the top players and lead them to success, be a leader and being a top guy. You don’t get those chances very often.”
Boqvist Leads an Exciting Crop of Swedish Defensemen
When the Blackhawks used the eighth overall pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft on defenseman Adam Boqvist, some fans were upset that the team did not go with one of the centers left on the board. Much of that anger was alleviated after he had a solid training camp and made the front office think twice about sending him to the OHL.
Boqvist’s season with the London Knights got off to a slow start due to an early injury. He has since rebounded with nine goals and 25 points in 23 games before heading to the WJC. This will be his first time in the U-20 tournament after he was named the best defenseman of the U-18 tournament last year.
Boqvist recently shared with NBC Sports Chicago about how much former Blackhawk Brian Campbell has helped his game this season.
“He’s helped me a lot,” Boqvist said. “He’s played in 1,000 games in the NHL, so he shows me video of games, clips, of what I can do better. It’s everything. If I need to have a tighter gap or play the puck quicker, more give and go, all that stuff. He’s been a good guy to help me.”
Galvas & Kurashev Looking to Make Names for Themselves
Defenseman Jakub Galvas is back for his second straight WJC with the Czech Republic. He had a pair of assists last year, both of which came versus the United States in the bronze medal game. He has two goals and 10 points in 26 games for HC Olomouc in the Czech Republic’s top league this season. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (150th overall) and will serve as an alternate captain.
Phillipp Kurashev was selected with the 2018 fourth round pick the Blackhawks received in the Ryan Hartman trade. He looks like he could be a mid-round gem with 18 goals and 43 points in 33 games with the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL. This will be his second WJC. He had a goal and two assists for Switzerland in last year’s tournament.
While the 2018-19 edition of the Blackhawks has been a disappointment, we can spend the next few days watching some of the team’s top prospects while dreaming of brighter days ahead.