3 Kraken Prospects to Watch at 2023 World Juniors

As Christmas approaches, that also signals the start of the World Junior Hockey Championship (WJC). Kicking off on Dec. 26, the tournament will run for nearly two weeks, closing on Jan. 5. The holiday tradition remains in Canada for the third consecutive tournament, taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Three Seattle Kraken prospects will make their way to eastern Canada to play for their respective countries. Shane Wright will represent Canada, and both Jani Nyman and Niklas Kokko will suit up for Team Finland. All three have had unique paths to their selections, so let’s take a look at how they all got here.

Jani Nyman – Finland

Nyman, the 49th overall selection by the Kraken in 2022, is having a decent season with Ilves of the Finnish Liiga. This won’t be the first time he has represented Finland on the international stage, most recently spending time on the Finnish under-18 team at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championship.

Jani Nyman Team Finland
Jani Nyman, Team Finland (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Nyman has played in 21 games this season for Ilves, tallying seven goals and three assists. He has also played two games for the Ilves under-20 squad where he registered five goals and one assist. The 6-foot-3 forward is beginning to live up to his pre-draft scouting report that named goal-scoring as one of his strengths. His strengths are most visible on the powerplay, and he should feature on one of Finland’s units. He typically sets up along the right side looking for a one-timer pass, but can also use his frame to work in the corners to free up the puck.

Nyman has a good opportunity to carve out a role for Finland, using both his skill and size to fill out a middle-six spot. He’s not going to wow you with his speed, but he makes the right plays and capitalizes on his special teams play. That’s the type of skillset that helps teams succeed in fast-paced tournaments like the WJC.

Niklas Kokko – Finland

Kokko has spent the bulk of his 2022-23 season with Hermes of the Mestis league in Finland. He’s played in 12 games this season in Finland’s second league, recording a .904 save percentage (SV%). He has also spent the past several years in the Karpat system, playing for their Liiga team and several junior leagues under the same name.

Kokko has had several successful seasons, most recently with Karpat U20 where he posted a .914 SV% in 29 games. That success put him on the radar in his draft year, leading to his selection at 58th overall in 2022. His 6-foot-3 frame isn’t overly imposing, but he uses as much of his reach as he can to help protect the top half of the net.

According to his prospect report, he plays a style that relies heavily on his ability to drop into the butterfly quickly. He tends to play very upright but has good mobility to eliminate the lower shots that come his way. Several aspects of his game require fine-tuning, but he should get a chance to play some games in this year’s tournament. Finland is carrying three goaltenders that have flaws but some major upside. With that being said, Kokko has a real chance to win the starting job through the pre-tournament games.

Shane Wright – Canada

After a tumultuous start to the season, Wright will look to get back on track with a strong WJC. In his eight games with the Kraken this season, he has posted one goal and two points. The point totals aren’t entirely indicative of his NHL performance this season, as he was unable to consistently establish a presence in the lineup, regularly finding himself as a healthy scratch for several games.

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

Despite the difficult start, Wright did find success with the Coachella Valley Firebirds in a short American Hockey League (AHL) stint, recording four goals in five games. The rough patch to start his professional career is not something he has dealt with in recent years. In his draft season, he posted 94 points in 63 games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

Points aside, this will be a phenomenal chance for Wright to assert himself as one of the best prospects in the world on a massive stage. Not only that, but he has also received the opportunity to represent Canada as their captain for the upcoming tournament.

Related: 2023 World Junior Championship Team Canada Final Roster

Fans will be in for a treat, as Wright is currently set to open the tournament on Canada’s top line beside New York Rangers’ prospect Brennan Othmann and projected 2023 first-overall pick, Connor Bedard. The three of them should treat hockey fans to an unreal display of speed and skill, and this can hopefully lead to Wright having a successful tournament appearance.

The 2023 World Junior Championship is only a week away, and it should be one for the ages. All three Kraken prospects have a chance to play major roles for their respective nations, which will only make the tournament more intriguing for fans. The three prospects open their pre-tournament schedule on Dec. 19, when Canada takes on Switzerland and Finland takes on the USA.

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