The 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships start on Boxing Day in Buffalo, New York. Over the next two days, we will give a short preview of the tournament, looking at the top few players to watch on each of the tournaments squads. Today, a look at Pool B.
2018 World Junior Championships Pool B: Players To Watch
Andrei Svechnikov, Right Wing
Svechnikov has scored 14 goals and 21 points in 16 games for the Barrie Colts this year. Svechnikov has every offensive skill you would want in a player. He has a fantastic wrist shot with a bullet-quick release. He also has the ability to stick handle in a phone booth, beating defenders one-on-one, and in close to the net. Svechnikov has excellent vision and passing skills as well. Tie this together with elite speed, sublime edgework and agility, and tremendous power in his skating stride and it’s easy to see why he will be one of the top picks in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Svechnikov has been absolutely dominant at the international level. He had five points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka; eight points in four games at the U17; eight goals and 12 points in four games at the WJAC; and nine points in seven games at the Under-18 last season. His older brother was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings.
Klim Kostin, Left Wing
A first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2017 NHL Draft, Kostin is an excellent skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration. Kostin has the ability to beat defenders to the outside and then cut to the net. He also has very good lateral agility and edgework which also gives him the ability to cut inside on a defender if they are not in the proper position.
Kostin has the strength and size to play a powerful game, as he is strong on the puck; effective in maintaining possession down low; and difficult to contain when he drives the net. He is also highly skilled, with soft hands and excellent stickhandling ability and a fantastic wrist shot and release. Kostin has the moves to shed defenders to create a scoring opportunity; along with snipers shot to bury the puck once he gets that open. Kostin also has good vision and passing skills. He can make creative plays with the puck, feathering a pass to a teammate through very tight openings. Kostin also plays a gritty game, as he is not afraid to get to the front of the net and battle.
Vitali Abramov, RW/LW
A third-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2016 NHL Draft, Abramov is an undersized but dynamic winger. He has great speed and tremendous acceleration, allowing him to blow past opponents on the rush. He also has great agility, allowing him to make quick cuts and beat defenders one-on-one. Abramov marries his skating ability with soft hands and good stickhandling ability. This makes him very tough to defend one-on-one, whether it be off the rush or working the puck down low. He can stick handle in a phone booth, making Abramov a nightmare for defenders even when they try to take away his time and space.
Abramov is a pure goal scorer. He has an excellent wrist shot along with a quick release. Abramov also has a very good snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. He can also play the role of a playmaker with good vision and passing skills.
Artyom Minulin, Defence
Surprisingly undrafted, Minulin had 50 points in 70 games last season. This season he has five goals and 19 points 32 games for the Swift Current Broncos in the WHL. He starts the transition game by skating the puck out of dangerous areas and then making a good first pass in the transition game. He is particularly good with the “home run” pass, catching a streaking forward behind the defence. Minulin is willing to play a physical game in his own end as well.
Rasmus Dahlin, Defence
Currently, the clear top pick for the 2018 NHL Draft, Dahlin is an offensive dynamo. His passing ability is outstanding, with extremely good vision and the ability to thread the needle through the smallest openings. He can start the rush, make the long breakaway pass, and quarterback the power-play. He also has an outstanding slap shot and one-timer.
Dahlin is also effective defensively, utilizing his strong positioning as well as the good stick-checking ability to shut down forwards on the rush. He keeps them to the outside and has good gap control. He is not the most physical player, though that may come with more time, and added weight. Outstanding skating ties it all together. Dahlin has very good speed in both directions, as well as excellent edge work and agility.
Timothy Liljegren, Defence
A first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2017 NHL Draft, Liljegren is playing for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Liljegren has the poise and smarts to quarterback a power play. He has excellent vision and makes tape-to-tape passes through tight areas. He can also make the long breakout pass to hit a teammate streaking through the neutral zone. Liljegren is a very good stick handler. He can move the puck out of danger and avoid forecheckers when starting the transition game. He also has the ability to make plays leading the rush or to join the rush as a trailer. Liljegren’s has high hockey IQ, as he makes almost always makes the smart play with the puck.
Liljegren also has an excellent shot. His slap shot has great power, and he has the ability to get it through traffic and on the net. He can really hammer a laser when he is given a good pass for a one-timer. He also can vary things up with a quick release and accurate wrist shot. Liljegren usually keeps his shot low, looking for teammates to get deflections and rebounds.
Alexander Nylander, Right Wing
A 2016 first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Nylander is also playing in the AHL this season. An excellent playmaker, Nylander handles the puck well and makes precise passes while moving at top speed. His wrist shot features a quick release but lacks some power right now. Nylander possesses soft hands. He finishes plays in tight to the net. He also has the instincts to get open in the zone and get his shot off. Nylander’s great vision and good hockey sense also make him a dangerous player when the play is in the offensive zone. He almost always makes the right play with the puck and can thread the needle through small openings when passing to teammates.
Elias Petterson, Centre
A 2017 first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, Petterson has very good offensive instincts and makes smart plays with the puck. His hockey IQ is his biggest weapon, as it seems that Pettersson almost always makes the right play with the puck on his stick. Pettersson is very good at give-and-go type plays, dishing the puck and then skating to open ice. He shows off his intelligence by spotting the open areas of the ice and getting himself open to make plays.
His stick handling and puck possession are also extremely good, and he can create plays off the rush or in the offensive zone. He can make plays with the puck while moving at top speed. He also controls the puck well down low. Pettersson shows a very good work ethic. He is tenacious in puck pursuit, and with his forechecking, despite his slender frame. Pettersson is also extremely hard to stop if he gets a defender one-on-one. He also has excellent vision and passing skills. To top it off, he has a strong and accurate wrist shot and quick release.
Lias Andersson, Centre
Drafted by the New York Rangers, the first thing you notice about Andersson is his tenacity. He plays the game with a non-stop motor, digging for loose pucks and trying to make plays in all three zones. He gets to the front of the net and plays in the dirty areas of the ice. Andersson is strong on the puck and has a low centre of gravity. He is able to fight off checks and drive to the front of the net, both on the rush and in the cycle game. Andersson has the soft hands to finish plays in close to the net, to get tip-ins and deflections and to pounce on rebounds. When he gains control of the puck in the corner, he moves the puck quickly to open teammates. He has decent vision and passing skill. Andersson also has a very good wrist shot and release.
Filip Zadina, Left Wing
Another possible top-five pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Zadina is another outstanding skater. He has very good top end speed as well as great agility. He also has the power necessary to fight through checks and take the puck to the net. All of this makes him very strong one-on-one and off the rush. He can take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has very good balance and can control the play down low on the cycle.
Zadina also has a very heavy shot, with a good release. He can combine this with his skating and power game to be a real threat off the wing. An absolute sniper, he can score with his wrist shot, snapshot, slap shot and one-timer. He even has a strong backhand. Zadina also has the soft hands to score in close to the net. As a playmaker, he needs to make better decisions with the puck. Zadina can sometimes hold it too long and get himself into trouble instead of moving it or shooting early.
Filip Chytil, Centre
A first-round pick of the New York Rangers, Chytil is willing to play a gritty and physical game. He gets in quickly on the forecheck, pressuring defenders into mistakes, and getting to loose pucks. He can create offence by digging the puck out of the corner and getting it to the front of the net. Chytil is not afraid to throw his weight around, or play in the dirty areas of the ice.
Chytil is also very skilled. He has a heavy wrist shot. He gets that shot off quickly as well as accurately, with a lightning quick release. It can fool goaltenders from further out with its quickness. Chytil can also play the role of playmaker. He can create openings with his skating and has the stickhandling ability to control the play. He is also a very good passer. Chytil can see openings that others do not, and also possesses the skill necessary to take advantage of those openings.
Martin Necas, Centre
A 2017 first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, Necas is an outstanding skater with a good stride along with excellent agility and balance. He has very good speed and good acceleration. Necas has a powerful lower body, allowing him to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. Once he gets a step, his ability to change speeds and quickly accelerate allows him to drive to the front of the net.
Necas can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. His hands are quick and soft; he protects the puck well. This makes him extremely dangerous on the rush. Necas has excellent vision and makes tough passes through tight areas. He is very creative with his passing game and can find openings that other players would not try. He can also be dangerous as a shooter with a quick release on both his wrist and snapshots.
Libor Hajek, Defence
A Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, Hajek moves the puck well, transitioning quickly out of his own end and making a strong first pass. He is not a huge producer at the blue line on the power play, but he has shown some ability to make plays. Hajek has shown good vision and passing ability, but could stand to work on his stick handling. His slap shot is decent but could use some work on his power and accuracy. Hajek is also a strong defensive defender. He is difficult to beat off the rush and forces attackers to the outside. He has good gap control and can land a big hit if an opponent tries to beat him wide outside but does not go around chasing hits and getting himself caught out of position. His positioning in his own end is a real strong point.
Tobias Geisser, Defence
A 2014 fourth-round pick of the Washington Capitals, Geisser is a big and mobile defenceman. At 6’4″ tall, with a long stick, and excellent skating ability, he is very tough to beat in one-on-one. Geisser has excellent positioning and cuts down shooting and passing lanes very well but is not a physical defender. He has very good vision along with the poise and passing skills to quarterback the powerplay. He also moves the puck quickly and can make a long breakaway pass to a teammate. Geisser has a bomb of a shot from the point and can be a deadly threat on the powerplay.
Philipp Kurashev, Centre/Left Wing
A potential first or second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kurashev has eight goals and 31 points in 33 games for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL this season. Kurashev has a strong lower-body and low centre of gravity. He protects the puck extremely well down below the faceoff dots and working the cycle game. He also has the vision and passing skills to find an open teammate while he is extending the play. Kurashev can be a goal scorer, with a strong wrist shot and an excellent release. Like many Swiss trained hockey players, he plays an excellent two-hundred-foot game, as he is as good in his own zone as he is in the offensive end.
Nando Eggenberger, Left Wing
A possible first or second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Eggenberger has good size at 6’2″ tall. He uses that size to play a power game, getting to the front of the net, where he screens goalies, tips in pucks, and pounces on rebounds. He is also very strong on the wall, winning battles for pucks and extending possession in the cycle game. Eggenberger is strong on the puck and his lower body strength gives him excellent balance. He has decent vision and can set up a linemate out of the cycle. He brings a tenacious work-ethic in all three zones and is strong in his own end as well.
Valentin Nussbaumer, Centre
Eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, it’s not clear how much ice time he will get or what type of role he will be given. He is really young for this tournament. While his real coming out party is likely the spring Under-18, it will be interesting to see if he can show any flashes of the skill that has scouts intrigued during this tournament. He was very good at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, showing excellent stickhandling ability and a good wrist shot. Nussbaumer is not a speedster, but he is a good skater with above average speed and acceleration. He is another smart player with a strong two-way game for his age, but really needs to add muscle to his frame.
Vladislav Yeryomenko, Defence
Undrafted in 2017, Yeryomenko is making a case to be a redraft in 2018. The Calgary Hitman defenceman has eight goals and 26 points in 31 games this season. He has a long stride which is very good for generating straight line speed but could use some work on his agility and edgework. Yeryomenko is poised with the puck and makes smart decisions, both in the breakout and on the powerplay. He has very good vision and passing skills, starting the rush and quarterbacking the powerplay. He also has a very good slap shot and one-timer from the point. Yeryomenko should be Belarus best player and will need to have a monster game just for the team to be competitive and have any chance of an upset against the other four nations in the group.
MONTREAL, QC – JANUARY 05: Rasmus Dahlin #8 of Team Sweden skates the puck during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game against Team Russia at the Bell Centre on January 5, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Team Russia defeated Team Sweden 2-1 in overtime and win the bronze medal. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)