The 2017 World Junior Championships are now underway in Canada. The tournament will take place in the same fashion as it did in 2015 with the Bell Centre (Montreal) and the Air Canada Centre (Toronto) serving as the host venues. The potential next generation of the NHL is competing and here are some of the players that you should follow and watch to see how they perform:
The future of the Arizona Coyotes is so far off to a good start. Dylan Strome sniped 2 goals yesterday in Canada’s 5-3 victory over Russia. Selected 3rd overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, Dylan Strome is certainly one of the players the Coyotes have high hopes for. With the addition of Lawson Crouse (captain of Team Canada at last year’s WJC), the Coyotes will look to see how Strome at 6’3″ and Crouse at 6’4″ can add size and production to their offense. Strome accumulated more than 110 points in each of his last 2 seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Perhaps his leadership is also being put to the test as he was chosen to be the captain for Team Canada at this year’s tournament.
2. Clayton Keller (Centre/United States)
Another star for the Coyotes is putting his skills to the test. Clayton Keller was selected 7th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft and also tallied 2 goals in his first game for the United States in their 6-1 route of Latvia. Keller is a 2016 commit to Boston University. In the 2016-17 NCAA Hockey Season, he has scored 15 points in 10 games for the Terriers. He was tournament MVP of the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championships where he scored 14 points in 7 games and won a bronze medal for Team USA. Keller has also spent the past 2 years competing with the US National Development Team in the USHL. An interesting thing to note is that his participation in the Under-20 division this year means that the Arizona Coyotes will have Crouse, Strome, and now Keller all having competed in the WJC, meaning they could potentially be new candidates to hit the trade block as the Coyotes are still struggling in Shane Doan‘s last season. The team already has plenty of youth in players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. The performance of Clayton Keller could determine his and other young teammates’ futures with the franchise in Glendale.
Colin White has been competing at the international tournament stage since 2014 when he scored 18 points in 6 games at in the Under-17 division. He also played for the US National Development Team before committing to Boston College in 2015. White has already played a substantial amount of time in the upper-level competitive hockey scene as he enrolled in the Noble and Greenough School, a school that competes in the Independent School League for the Boston Area. He was selected 21st overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 2015 NHL Draft. A smaller competitor standing at exactly 6 feet tall, the Senators are still trying to recover from the departure of Jason Spezza to the Stars in the 2014 offseason.
4. Alexander Nylander (Left Wing/Sweden)
Like his brother William of the Toronto Maple LEags, Alexander Nylander was born in Canada but grew up in and played minor league hockey in Sweden. Alexander was selected 8th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He has 75 points in 57 games last season for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL. The Sabres are desperately in need of a future as they continue down a path of continuous losses in the Eastern Conference. Their addition of Jack Eichel in the 2015 draft has certainly helped them and Alexander Nylander now has a chance to prove himself worthy of playing on the same line as Eichel in years to come.
Mathew Barzal made an explosive entrance yesterday as he opened the tournament with 3 points in Canada’s first game. Barzal was selected 16th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. His performance yesterday proves that he is trying to help replace guys like Kyle Okposo, who the Islanders no longer have. Unlike most of Canada’s junior team, Barzal comes from the west coast and has played his junior career with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL since 2013. We’ll see if his MVP-caliber production continues as the tournaments moves on. With a good enough performance, he could be called up again to play for the Islanders later this season.
6. Ilya Samsonov (Goaltender/Russia)
Ilya Samsonov is the Capitals’ hopeful to replace Braden Holtby in years to come. Samsonov was selected 22nd overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2015 NHL Draft. He stands at 6’4″ and thus has a wider wingspan than most goalies. He is in his 3rd season with Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) team Metallurg Magnitogorsk. He averaged a .925% save percentage and a 2.04 goals against average last season in 19 regular season games in the KHL. He won a bronze medal with Russia in 2014 at the Under-17 Hockey Challenge and played for Russia in the Under-18 division at the 2015 WJC. He was named to Russia’s Under-20 WJC roster in 2016 but did not play. With his physical characteristics, we will certainly see how he matches up against the shots he faces from the future forwards of the NHL.
Coverage of the 2017 World Junior Championships continues today on NHL Network in the United States and on TSN in Canada beginning at 1 PM (EST). Team Canada plays tonight at 8 PM (EST) against Slovakia. The tournament will conclude with the Gold Medal and Bronze Medal games on January 5th.