WEST­ERN CON­FER­ENCE

WORLD JU­NIOR TO WATCH

The Hockey News - - NHL -

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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.

eCaos­nis­lyidtehreinl­geah­doin­wgdsoc­mori­in­nag­not nceant­teear­mELoIAf mS PenET–TiEt’RsShSaOrdNthoab­se­blieeevne fho­er­pVlaaxy­jeo­da­j­susat­taeeb­ni­tap­gaerrt–inhe’s Swe­den’s fourth-place WJC fin­ish a year ago. The lanky sniper has world-class ac­cel­er­a­tion.

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.

FBi­ingngiso­halL-esacogrueer­sKlaRsItSyTeIAarNbVuEtShAaLsA­foINunEdN,haisletof­tuwch­in­wgi­etrh, wHPasKoin­vetrhme aLti­cighaedthi­ins tsheeasSowne. dTih­seh eaxnt­dra year of ex­pe­ri­ence will help him and Fin­land bounce back in a big way at the WJC.

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