WORLD JUNIOR TO WATCH
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Second-rounder FILIP WESTERLUND was named a top-three player for Sweden at last year’s world under-18s and will play a supporting role at the WJC. The defenseman has split his time WbeittwhefievneFbrlouleulnindear’ss gjurandiourastqinugadfroamndlathsteymeaern’s’sUte.Sa.mgoalndd-mpeladyaslatecaomm,ptohseeodn, uinstieslloigneAntDgAaMme. fFoOrcXet.oThpeicHk aurpvathrde ssolapchko. mOnoereohf ajussatvtewraogreedtuarnninasgsDis-tmpeerno, Fuotixngwiinll bheisa4l0e-agdaemr aenNdCoAffAencasriveeer.
TIM SODERLUND’S career path freakishly mirrors Viktor Arvidsson’s. Both are feisty 5-foot-9 speedsters, both went 112th in the draft, both played for Skelleftea and both were passed over in their first draft year. Soderlund will be a key veteran pivot for Sweden in his second WJC.
CALE MAKAR’S offense didn’t immediately translate to the NCAA, which is understandable when you’re a 5-foot-11, 190-pound blueliner playing against men for the first time at 19. He’ll get his offense cooking as Canada’s top puck-mover and power play specialist at the WJC.
Towering JAKE OETTINGER is no stranger to pressure. He backstopped the U.S. to gold at the 2016 world under-18s and plays for a Boston U. program that’s always expected to contend. He’ll platoon with Joseph Woll for the defending WJC champs, just as they did at the under-18s.
Right winger OSTAP SAFIN is big, skates well and has a booming shot. The knock on him is intensity and consistency, but those haven’t been issues as an 18-year-old QMJHL rookie. He’s averaging more than a point per game for Saint John. He’ll be a go-to player for the Czechs.
KALE CLAGUE finished tied for third in defensemen scoring at last year’s WJC (six points in seven games) and is one of three returnees on Canada’s blueline, alongside Jake Bean and Dante Fabbro. Clague is more a speedy, crafty playmaker as opposed to a heavy shooter.
Don’t let DMITRY SOKOLOV’S draft slot of 196th fool you. The right winger fell in 2016 due to conditioning and maturity concerns but has since lit up the OHL with Sudbury and gotten himself into better shape. His deadly skills will earn him a scoring-line assignment with Russia.
The 2017 WJC was a disaster for Finland, but it could’ve been way worse without left winger EELI TOLVANEN, who had six points in six games and scored in the Suomi’s relegation-game win over Latvia. This year, Tolvanen will be counted upon as his team’s go-to sniper.
Defenseman JOSH NORRIS and center SCOTT REEDY played on U.S. U-18 and U-17 teams the past two seasons and now they’re both NCAA freshmen. Norris, drafted 19th overall, has been an instant hit at Michigan, while Reedy, picked 102nd, is getting broken in slowly at Minnesota.
Steal alert. Swift playmaker JORDAN KYROU would be a first-rounder, not the 35th pick, if 2016 redrafted today. He went wild to start 2017-18 with 17 goals and 43 points in 19 games for OHL Sarnia. Canada, lacking mega star power this year, needs him to be a primary scoring threat.
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Take your pick. The Golden Knights will have a murderers’ row of blue-chippers at the WJC. Centers NICK SUZUKI and CODY GLASS lead the charge for Canada. Suzuki had a three-point night in a CHL-Russia Series game and was on pace to top his 96 OHL points from a year ago.
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