The best time of the year is upon us. No, not Christmas. It is the hockey tournament that is played over the holiday. The glorious World Juniors that captures the imagination of every Canadian, and maybe a dozen other people.
Many stars of the NHL have got their big start in this tournament, so here is a look at some of the top players in this year’s tournament. Take note of each and every name.
- Nail Yakupov – F – Russia
The next great Russian player, but unlike the previous generation, he has been seasoned in Canada. Yakupov is in his second season with the Sarnia Sting, and is taking over the OHL with more than two points a game this season.
He is going to spearheading the Russian attack this year in Alberta, and could provide the kryptonite to the Canadians hopes at capturing gold on home ice.
- Filip Forsberg – F – Sweden
Little is known of the next great Swede. In fact finding a clip of him playing can be difficult. But what we do know is
that despite not being related to him namesake Peter, he has flashes of his game.
He is young and playing amongst the men in Sweden, so his stats do not reflect his talent. But his stride and speed make him difficult to contain, and he could give Sweden a spark to get into medal contention.
- Mark Scheifele – F – Canada
The Jets first round pick from last year had his cup of coffee with the big club to start the year, but the teams brass decided that it was in their long-term best interest to send him back to the Barris Colts.
Advantage Team Canada. We will all get to see why the Jets went off the board and made him their first pick in their new home. He will be centering the first line, and could find himself on the all-tournament team when all is said and done.
- Mikhail Grigorenko – F – Russia
Some say he might be better than Yakupov. Another Russian dynamo who made his way to Canada this year, suiting up for the Quebec Remparts, has made a smooth adjustment to the North American game.
He will be paired up with Nail, along with Caps first rounder Evgeny Kuznetsov, to create one of the most explosive lineups in World Jr.’s history.
- Jack Campbell – G – USA
The Stars first round pick is back for his third kick of the can. He was one of the stars of the squad last year that barely fell to Team Canada in the semi finals.
You rarely see players compete twice in this tournament, never mind three times. So the pressure is unlikely to rattle Campbell and he could continue to build his name in hockey circles.
- Nick Bjugstad – F – USA
Another returning American player who was taken in the first round. Bjugstad is a power forward playing at the University of Minnesota who was taken in the first round by the Panthers.
He has an excellent combination of size and skill, and plays with an edge that will be vital against the Canadians. He plays well in all situations, and has great size that matches up well against some of the towering defenders he will be facing.
- Dougie Hamilton – D – Canada
Known almost as well for his on-ice talent as his involvement in the fateful Phil Kessel deal, Hamilton has emerged as a stud defender. He has flashes of former Niagara IceDog Alex Pietrangelo, and has similar size and offensive talent to his former teammate.
The Bruins were lucky to get him 9th overall in last years draft, and he will likely step into their stacked lineup next year and play serious minutes. He should anchor the Canadian line alongside a host of other former first round picks as they try to reclaim the elusive gold medal.
- Sven Bartschi – F – Switzerland
Watching a Swiss player? Yes, this is something that you must do.
He is without question the most dynamic Swiss player in recent memory and makes those boring games early in the tournament worth tuning into. The Flames may actually have a future after all. It does not matter how bad the rest of his team may be. The Flames first rounder is tearing up the dub this year, racking up more than two points a game.
- Mika Zibanejad – F – Sweden
Another first round pick? Boring, I know. But this guy is special. He rocketed up the boards at the draft.
He, like Scheifele, got a taste of the league at the start of the year, but the Sens decided that it was wise that he spend another year with Djurgardens in the Elite League. He will team up with Forsberg to create a dynamic offensive duo that could wreak havoc on the tournament favorites.ast year, and the Senators made a jump and took the Swede sixth overall.
- Ryan Murray – D – Canada
Arguably the best defenseman yet to be drafted playing in the tournament. He is working his way back from an injury, but could emerge as a top pairing guy by the time the tournament is all said and done.
He does not have great size, but he could bring the Ryan Ellis factor to Team Canada that could propel them to the glorious gold medal. Keep an eye out for him.