Prospects Toronto Maple Leafs Should Be Scouting at World Junior Championships

James Onusko@@jonuskoContributor IIIDecember 26, 2013

Prospects Toronto Maple Leafs Should Be Scouting at World Junior Championships

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    2012 World Junior Championships
    2012 World Junior ChampionshipsRichard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    The World Junior Championships are always one of the sporting highlights of the holiday season. This year, like every NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs scouting staff will be focused on this action-packed tournament.

    Given the depth of top U20 players, not all draft-eligible players will be skating in Sweden this year, but there are several that the Leafs should be looking at for the 2014 draft.

    Based on the current NHL draft standings, the Leafs are likely to be drafting somewhere in the middle of the pack in the first round.

    Our list will focus on potential mid first-round picks that will be playing in Malmo at the 2014 World Junior Championships. 

    * All stats courtesy of

5. Thatcher Demko, G, United States

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    Thatcher Demko is a highly rated U.S. goaltender, and while the Leafs have one of the better tandems in the league, having organizational depth at the goalie position is never a bad idea.

    The first round could be early to take a goaltender, so Demko might be a better second-round pick if the Leafs have one in 2014, although they may have to trade to get one following their recent deals.

    The San Diego native has the size that all teams are looking for at the goaltending position. He stands 6'3", moves well in the net considering his size and has a lot of upside given his athleticism.

    He may not play for the United States in the tournament because of their depth in goal, but Demko should be soaking it all in regardless.

4. Ivan Barbashev, C, Russia

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    Russian Ivan Barbashev has all the tools to be a top-six NHL forward. He's played some inspired hockey for the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL.

    His stock may end up rising too high to still be around in the middle of the first round. The World Junior Championships will play a big part in where he ends up in next June's draft.

    At 6'1" and 185 pounds, Barbashev has all-world speed. There's a good chance that he'll play in all game situations for the Russians, which will highlight his adaptability.

    Expect Barbashev to have an impressive tournament given his tremendous skill set.

3. Leon Draisaitl, LW, Germany

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    At 6'2" and nearly 200 pounds, Germany's Leon Draisaitl can play the heavy game that so many of the top NHL teams covet. 

    The Prince Albert Raider has 47 points in 31 games this season. While he is a load down low, he's actually an exceptional playmaker. He has the tools to be an excellent NHL winger, possibly on a club's top line.

    Draisaitl is one of the main reasons that the German team is in the top grouping at the World Junior Championships following his strong play at last year's tournament.

    Expect him to be a star for this year's edition for the German club that could surprise some of the competition.

2. Kasperi Kapanen, LW, Finland

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    Kasperi Kapanen has had a great experience playing with his father, former NHL standout Sami Kapanen, in the SM liiga in Finland.

    The speedy young winger is one of the top European prospects for the upcoming draft. He may not slip as far as the middle of the first round, but if he does, the Leafs would do well to snatch him there.

    Kapanen has excellent agility, along with a sniper's ability to finish in the offensive zone. Expect him to be an offensive force at the World Junior Championships for the Finnish team.

    It's important to note that Kapanen will be one of the youngest draft-eligible players in the tournament. He's only going to get better relative to this draft class.

1. Anton Karlsson, LW, Sweden

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    Anton Karlsson is one of Sweden's top prospects for the 2014 draft. The 6'1" winger is a gifted offensive player who should be a top-six winger at the pro level.

    Karlsson is very slick with the puck and can create something with few options. Watch for him to play the game at a high level in all three zones at this year's tournament. 

    While the heady winger prefers to set up plays, he does have the ability to finish. Look for him to do both for Team Sweden.

    He may not slip to the middle of the first round of the NHL draft, but if he does, he would be a steal there.