With the World Juniors starting in a week, who are some prospects we should be watching?
Wyatt Zieger: Like every World Juniors there is a lot of NHL talent both current and future.
I’ll save the breakdown of each player and just give you some to look for.
Already drafted: Maxime Comtois, (ANA), Canada, Evan Bouchard, (EDM), Canada, Filip Zadina, (DET), Czech, Martin Necas, (CAR), Czech, Aleksi Heponiemi, (FLA), Finland, Rasmus Kupari, (LAK), Finland, Vitali Kravtsov, (NYR), Russia, Adam Boqvist, (CHI), Sweden, Isaac Lundestrom, (ANA), Sweden, Quinn Hughes, (VAN), USA, Oliver Wahlstrom, (NYI), USA.
Undrafted: Alexis Lafreniere, (2020), Canada, Brett Leason, (2019), Canada, Vasili Podkolzin (2020), Russia, Anttoni Honka, (2019), Finland, Kaapo Kakko, (2019), Finland, Philip Broberg, (2020), Sweden.
A boatload of talent across the board in what could be the mostly highly contested world juniors we’ve seen in a long time. Nice too see teams like the Czech Republic be medal contenders for the first time in what feels like forever.
Out of the drafted players expect Comtois, Wahlstrom and Zadina to put on shows for there teams. On the undrafted side Lafreniere from Canada is an obvious must watch but keep an eye out for Russian sniper Podkolzin both are 2020 eligible. This years lottery picks Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are two to keep on your watch list.
Tyler Yaremchuk: This is a tough one because this tournament is always loaded. It will be fun to watch Alexis Lafreniere, because I haven’t seen him too much. As an Oilers writer, I’ll be watching Evan Bouchard very closely. Also really excited to watch the Hughes brothers with Team USA.
Keep an eye on the Czech Republic as well. They got Martin Necas and Filip Zadina. They could surprise.
Ian Sheppard: I’m not as well studied up on the World Junior rosters and who to look out for, but for me, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on Oilers prospects Evan Bouchard for Team Canada and Ostap Safin for the Czech Republic. Outside of the few games Bouchard played for the Oilers this year, I haven’t been able to see much of him where Safin I’ve literally seen nothing from him on the ice so it will be nice to get a sneak peek of what these prospects bring to the table.
A few other notables on the Canada roster I’ll be paying attention to are goaltender Michael DiPietro, and defensemen Noah Dobson as well as the late addition of the young 17-year-old Alex Lafreniere.
Who will win the NHL’s scoring title this year?
Wyatt Zieger: I’ve had a lot of mental debate on this one and it’s going to be Nathan Mackinnon. He plays on the best line in hockey and is only 3 points off the scoring lead now. Mackinnon is a bit of a coin flip because I’m torn between him or Rantanen to win it all mostly because if one scores the other is usually a beneficiary of an assist. There is no way to slow either of them doing but I’ll give the edge to Mackinnon because he is the centre and I believe he is more of the driving force for that offence.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I will never bet against Connor McDavid when it comes to this. He is just one of those players that seemingly never goes through a scoring slump. His consistency, and a hot streak or two, will propel him to yet another Art Ross. Book it!
Ian Sheppard: Connor McDavid baby!! Look it’s tough to ever pick against him especially after the way he pulled it out last year. He currently sits in fourth place with 49 points and is very much in the thick of things.
But should McDavid not three-peat as the scoring champion who would I pick? Nathan MacKinnon. Yes, Mikko Rantanen is lighting it up right now in first place but his line-mate is only three points behind him and MacKinnon finished in the top-five last year. Should McDavid not take the title again I think it’s MacKinnon’s for the taking.
Inspired by Sid & Ovi earlier this week: who is the best rivalry in the NHL?
Wyatt Zieger: I’d love to pick the one in my backyard and say the Battle of Alberta but I’ve always been more enamoured by the Flyers and the Penguins. Their 2012 playoff matchup is still some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen and it’s always bad blood between the two clubs. If you want playoff intensity in a regular season matchup tune into a Flyers vs. Penguins game sometime this season.
Tyler Yaremchuk: It was nice to see a bit of a spark back in the ‘Battle of Alberta’ but it isn’t the best rivalry anymore. I really like the Sid/Ovi battle and the Penguins and Capitals seem to legitimately hate eachother. That’s the best one going right now. The Penguins and Blue Jackets also had a really nice rivalry going for a while, as did the Sharks and Kings. You could really say any combination of the California teams as well. There isn’t very much hate in today’s NHL, but when teams get going at eachother, it’s still entertaining as hell.
Ian Sheppard: As much as my heart wants to say Calgary/Edmonton, I’m going to have to go with Sid and Ovi. Crosby and Ovechkin have been fighting for league supremacy for over 13 years now and despite some up and coming young talent that looks like they will take over the league sooner than later, I still say these two bring an unmatched rivalry to the game that everyone will miss when it’s gone.