All the focus this time of year understandably narrows to the upcoming World Junior Championship. As the pinnacle of junior aged hockey this is a significant international event. However for draft eligibles the WJC typically only contains a few and even if they see the ice likely are in smaller roles. Therefore there are other events to keep track of with 2019 NHL draft eligibles sprinkled throughout.
World Junior A Challenge
This Under-19 tournament brings five teams from four countries together as Canada West, Canada East, Czech Republic, Russia and the United States convene in the Canadian province of Alberta over the course of a week. This tournament gives a chance to many of those playing in Junior A (BCHL, USHL) who might not get an opportunity on other teams to represent the United States and Canada. Also the event serves as exposure for a handful of Czech and Russian CHL players plus other young talents from overseas. The United States ended up prevailing over Russia 2-0 for the gold medal while Canada West took home the bronze.
Russia typically brings a strong roster of young draft eligible stars and the biggest name by far at this event was possible top five selection in the upcoming 2019 draft, right wing Vasili Podkolzin. He did not disappoint as captain of the squad scoring a share of the tournament leading eight points. All the hallmarks of Podkolzin’s game were present such as his tenacity, nose for the net, quick hands and responsible play.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) December 9, 2018
Another name from the Russian team to keep in mind but for the 2020 draft instead is 16 year-old goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. With a .954 save percentage and 1.40 goals against average in for games this tournament Askarov is already building an impressive resume and budding comparisons to Andrei Vasilevskiy at the same age.
A highly anticipated attendee was center Alex Newhook who as a BCHL player has not had the level of exposure as many of his Canadian peers in the CHL. Newhook did not make the Hlinka Gretzky squad in August and this was finally going to be his time to shine.p on a bigger stage against tougher competition. Newhook showed his quick hands and playmaking skills but just four assists in six games is not quite what many hoped to see from this highly touted prospect.
Moving over to the champion Americans, left shot defenseman Ryan Johnson is becoming a potential first round candidate. A native of California and grew up participating in youth hockey in Southern California, Johnson is now playing in the USHL for Sioux Falls. While his production of eight points in 18 games isn’t eye popping and he didn’t record a point in the WJAC, he was an important player who shut down the talented Russian squad to secure gold. Johnson is a six foot tall smooth skating two-way defenseman with a lot of potential at the next level.
Bobby Brink is the other player who scored the tournament high eight points and took home MVP honors along with his gold medal for team USA. The diminutive and quick right wing has also been quietly making noise in the USHL with a share of second in league scoring of 33 points in 19 games for Suoux City. In this first venture into major international competition Brink has firmly placed himself on the radar for early selection the 2019 NHL entry draft.
Bobby Brink gets USA on the board first after some nice passing between him and and Matt Brown. 8th point of the tournament for Brink, who's middle name happens to be Orr. Yes, Bobby Orr Brink. #WJAC pic.twitter.com/i5O9YYsPWJ
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisNHL) December 16, 2018
World Junior Championship Division 1A
There are several tiers to the WJC with five different groupings hoping to get promoted above or avoid relegation below. The tier just below the main event in Division 1A possesses one of the more intruiging draft eligibles.
Moritz Seider (pictured above) has gained momentum through the early season with his strong play in the top tier men’s league in Germany, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) with a goal in 16 games for Adler Mannheim. Seider even prior to this tournament was recieving some first round consideration among media lists. He is a big package at 6’4 and 198lbs of raw tools with good speed and the potential to be an impact two-way defenseman.
This tournament might just serve as his coming out party as Seider helped lead the German team as captain to a 4-0-1 record and tops in Division 1A for a promotion to the main event World Junior Championship next year. He was tied for second in the tournament in scoring with seven points in five games and first among blue liners. Seider was also named best defenseman of the tournament and best player of his team by the coaches.
#WJC: What a sequence for RHD Moritz Seider (#21 White). Skating obviously isn't an issue front or back, and how about the instincts to go from defense to offense a second after making a key stop. Shot was pretty good too, lol. pic.twitter.com/BeoO1kiDPw
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) December 9, 2018
World Junior Championship Watch List
As always, a few draft eligibles to keep an eye on and catch during the main event
Canada: LW Alexis Lafreniére (2020), Brett Leason (2019, overage)
Czech Republic: D Martin Hugo Has
Finland: RW Kaapo Kakko, D Anttoni Honka, D Lassi Thomson, D Mikko Kokkonen
Slovakia: RW Maxim Cajkovic
Sweden: D Philip Broberg
Switzerland: C Valentin Nussbaumer
United States: C Jack Hughes, G Spencer Knight
Keep track of all rosters and scores from the WJC HERE