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NHL: Which Team Is Showcasing the Most Young Talent at World Juniors in Buffalo?

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2016

NHL: Which Team Is Showcasing the Most Young Talent at World Juniors in Buffalo?

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    The World Junior Hockey Championship (WJHC) or the U-20 World Hockey Championship as it is known in Europe, is one of the best international tournaments in the world. Held every year since 1974, it starts on boxing day (December 26th) and ends this year with the gold medal game on January 5th.

    The tournament features most of the world's most talented 19 year old and younger hockey players, playing for their countries. This year in Buffalo group A is made up of teams from the US, Finland, Slovakia, Switzerland and Germany while group B features Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Norway.

    This tournament provides a venue for young NHL draft picks and each country's top undrafted talent to compete against each other in a high pressure international tournament. Success at this level often translates into NHL success. It's certainly a nice barometer of how well a team's prospects are doing and how they look playing against other team's young talent.

    All thirty NHL teams will be ranked here according to how many players they will have playing at the WJHC this year. It's a great tournament to watch if you want to see how your NHL team's best prospects are faring.         

    Special thanks to hockeysfuture.com for a lot of the analysis of the young players and hockeydb.com for the minor league statistics.  

30. Boston Bruins: 0

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    It currently looks like the Bruins will have no one playing at the World Juniors this year. Normally this is a cause for concern. This year however 18 year old prospect Tyler Seguin has made the big club. He would have been a shoe-in to make and lead team Canada this year if he wasn't already playing for the Bruins.    

    Boston is looking at two first round picks next year, their own and Toronto's. This apparent paucity of junior age talent should be corrected by next year. Especially if Jared Knight continues to develop.  

28. Philadelphia Flyers: 1

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    The Flyers have only one prospect expected to play in the tournament this year.

    Simon Bertilsson was chosen for the Swedish team last year but a knee injury prevented him from playing. The 19 year old missed out on winning a bronze medal with Sweden at the world juniors last year in Regina, but he hopes to play a key role on this year's team.

    Bertilsson was once considered a two-way defenseman, but the offensive component of his game appears to have dried up. He's still considered a good puck moving defensive defenseman. 

28. New Jersey Devils: 1

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    Now here is an aging team with few young prospects and little on display at this year's World Junior Hockey Championship.

    Defenseman Jon Merrill brings a legacy of success from the US under 17 and under 18 teams here to the U20 national team in Buffalo. He's a good sized, two way defenseman, who is expected to bring an offensive component as well as crease clearing ability to the American team.  

20. Vancouver Canucks: 2

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    The Vancouver Canucks are hopeful that goalie Jonathon Iilahti of Finland and defenseman Adam Polasek of the Czech Republic will make the final cut for their respective teams and get a try-out at the World Junior Hockey Championships. 

    Vancouver picked up Iilahti in the sixth round last year and it would be nice to see how he performs at this level of hockey. He played well at the U-18 tournament last year helping his team to the bronze medal. 

    Adam Polasek was a fifth round pick for the Canucks last year. He's a good size and has shown some offensive ability in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He had 41 points in 66 games last year and 17 in 30 games so far this year. Hockeysfuture.com says the kid is a hitter.

20. Toronto Maple Leafs: 2

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    Toronto has the youngest NHL squad in hockey. It is unfortunately not the most talented young group in the NHL. The Leafs only have two players competing at this years World Junior Hockey Championship.

    Speedster Jerry D'amigo is looking to reprise his role as a key member of another gold medal winning US U-20 team. He was the third leading scorer in the tournament last year with 12 points in seven games. The former 6th round pick is one of the Leaf's most exciting prospects now that Kadri has made the big club.

    The Leaf's only other prospect at the tournament is Norway's forward Sondre Olden. The Norwegian is playing in Swedish leagues. The big lanky center is still only 18. He's not highly regarded in the Leaf's prospect pool but perhaps a good performance at this tournament will boost his stock. The Leaf's have to hope he'll prove to be the best player on Norway's squad.   

20. San Jose Sharks: 2

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    The Sharks are another team that has only two players who look like they'll be on their country's World Junior Rosters. 

    Charlie Coyle is a good sized (6'2" 207 lbs) forward who has 14 points in 17 games for BU so far this year. He was a first round pick for the Sharks in 2010 (28th overall). 

    The other San Jose draft pick who looks to play in the tournament is German defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser. Konrad was a half a point a game defenseman in the QMJHL last year with the Halifax Mooseheads and has 13 points in 32 games so far this year. At 6'5" and 212 lbs the youngster will be a big presence at the U-20 world championships.  

20. Montreal Canadiens: 2

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    The Canadien's are another team with a lot of aging parts that need to be replaced with fresh young talent. At this tournament they have two young forwards playing: one Finnish, one Canadian.

    Louis Leblanc was one of the last cuts last year from the Canadian World Junior team. This year he'll get a chance to play on what's likely to be the first line to start the tournament. The Hab's first round pick in 2009 (18th overall) played at Harvard during the 2009-10 season where he had 23 points in 31 games. This year he has 29 points in 24 games for the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL. Leblanc and the Habs desperately hope he shows the offense from the center position that the team needs.

    Joonas Nattinen is another center. Hockey futures says he's a smart young kid who could become a top rate NHL checker. They don't seem to believe he has any ability to be a NHL scorer.

20. Columbus BlueJackets: 2

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    The Bluejackets really should have more prospects at this tournament. That said the two they have are pretty first rate. 

    Ryan Johansen is a point a game player for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL). He's projected as a quality NHL power forward and expected to have a real shot at making the Bluejackets next season. 

    Petr Straka is as mentioned before a big scorer on the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. This could be a break-out tournament for the speedy right winger who will be trying to help the Czechs back from the international hockey hinterland. 

20.Colorado Avalanche: 2

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    Tyson Barrie is a Canadian defenseman who was a 3rd round pick for Colorado back in 2009. He's been more than a point a game defenseman in the last two years for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

    Sami Aittokalia should be competing with Iilahti for the starting goaltender job on the Finnish team this year. 

    Calvin Pickard was the last goalie cut by the Canadian world junior team and is an Avalanche prospect as well.  

20. Buffalo Sabres: 2

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    Canadian team member Marcus Foligno has looked creative so far playing with his fellow team members in red and white and the first tournament exhibition games. The left winger has upped his scoring this year with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. He's got the size that helped his dad Mike Foligno to a long NHL career and seems to have an offensive touch to go with it. 

    Another potential Canadian power forward is 19 year old Zach Kassian. He has been almost a two point a game player for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) so far this year. The Buffalo Sabres have high hopes for this 2009 1st round pick (13th overall).

20. Pittsburgh Penguins: 2

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    The Penguins have two players going to the world juniors this year.

    Simon Despres is in his fourth season as a more and more successful offensive defenseman with the QMJHL's Saint John Seadogs. He has 26 points and 9 goals so far this year in 22 games. The big, smooth skating kid hopes to impress enough to get a regular season tryout with the Pens.  

    Tom Kuhnhackl from Germany has come over to Canada to play for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. The fourth round pick is currently leading Windsor in scoring with 13 goals and 19 points in 22 games.   

13. Ottawa Senators: 3

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    Ottawa desperately needs some quality young talent to join the team. They also only have two players in Buffalo this year. 

    Jakub Culek is a lanky Czech playmaker currently teamed with fellow Czech and Columbus draft pick Petr Straka on the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. It's likely the two will also be paired on the Czech team.   

    Goalie Robin Lehner looks to be Sweden's U-20 starting goalie. He is touted as perhaps the best goalie in the tournament, excepting only Jack Campbell of the US. He may determine not only Sweden's success here and now, but perhaps Ottawa's success in the future.

    Jared Cowen a defenseman with the Canadian team was the Senators first found pick (9th overall) in 2009. Another western Hockey league kid he has 21 points and 8 goals in only 26 games for the Spokane Chiefs so far this year. Cowen is a huge junior player at 6'5" 220 lbs. Hockey's future projects him as a top 4 shut-down defenseman as long as he can stay healthy. 

13. Phoenix Coyotes: 3

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    The Coyotes have three players at the WJHC this year. 

    Mark Visentin is one of two Canadian goalies vying to be the starter. He's only 18 and is most likely going to back up the more seasoned Olivier Roy in Buffalo this year. He is middle of the pack in an admittedly deep pool of Coyote prospects.

    Oscar Lindberg is a center for Sweden. He's also a middle of the pack prospect for the Coyotes.

    Chris Brown for the USA is a half point a game center at the University of Michigan. He was a second round pick in 2009.  A bit of an opportunistic goal scorer, the knock on him is that he's big enough but soft. 

13. Nashville Predators: 3

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    Nashville is always producing top quality prospects year after year. 

    Ryan Ellis is expected to lead team Canada this year from the back end. The tiny defenseman is likely to be the highest scoring defender yet again in this tournament. He's got a great point shot and superlative offensive skills. At a slight 5'10" many think he's too small to be an NHL defenseman.    

    David Elsner was a seventh round pick and is a long-shot to make the NHL. The agitator doesn't make the top 20 list of Predator Propsects.  

    Patrick Cehlin is a tiny Swedish winger with excellent speed and offensive skills. He's still playing in Sweden and is still far back on the depth chart in Nashville.  

13. Los Angeles Kings: 3

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    Maxim Kitsyn was one of the few Russian team members actually drafted by an NHL team. The 19 year old will be expected to help lead the Russian team this year. Talented but inconsistent is the book on him so far. 

    Brayden Schenn is expected to be one of the offensive leaders for team Canada this year. Younger brother of Leaf's defenseman Luc Schenn, Brayden has played his nine games with the Kings the last two years. He's currently playing with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL and has seven points in seven games.  

    Derek Fobort is a huge and talented US defenseman. He is a pin-point passer and puck mover. 

13. Dallas Stars: 3

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    Dallas has three players likely to compete at the WJHC in Buffalo this Christmas season. 

    Jack Campbell is the starting goalie for Team USA. He was drafted first by the Dallas Stars in 2010 (9th over-all). Campbell was one of the stars last year for the US when he backstopped them through the tournament and in their 6-5 gold medal winning overtime victory over the Canadians in Regina. He's back again hoping to do it again as the World Junior tournament's best goalie.

    Two Swedes are also Dallas Star prospects. John Klingberg and Patrick Nemeth join other NHL draftees Tim Erixon and Simon Bertilsson on what looks to be a mobile talented Swedish defense.

    Klingberg is an 18 year old who is another strong skating Swedish defenseman. He showed well last night versus Canada in a pre-tournament 4-1 exhibition game loss.    

    Patrick Nemeth was drafted 41st overall last year by Dallas. He's more the big hitter to Klingberg's skittery skater. He's said to have a good first pass out of the zone to go with that physical ability.  

13. Calgary Flames: 3

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    Calgary is another veteran team crying out for fresh young talent to fill out their roster. The three prospects they have playing at the U-20 world hockey championships put them in the middle of the pack as far as number of young prospects go.

    Jono Ortio looks to be the third choice to be a goalie for the Finnish team this year so he may not make the final cut or get into any games if he does. The big Finn played at last years tournament and didn't look too bad. He's ranked 17th overall among Flames prospects and is not expected to push past Leland Irving, the Flames theoretical goalie of the future.

    Tim Erixon will be appearing in his third World Junior Championship for Sweden. The highly regarded 19 year old is seen as an able two way defender, never flashy but always dependable. He's expected to take up a defensive slot in Calgary in the next couple of years. 

    John Ramage is the son of long time St Louis Blue Rob Ramage. The 4th round Flame pick (103rd) in 2010 is an edgy defensive defenseman with almost no offensive upside. He is in his second season with the University of Wisconsin and hopes to bring solid defensive play to the American team this year.

13. Atlanta Thrashers: 3

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    Atlanta are another team that has graduated a long list of young talent to the big club in the last few years. Here are three more players hoping to join the likes of Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov. The Thrashers sacrificed some of their young talent to improve at the NHL level this year.

    Carl Klingberg is a Swedish left-winger who climbed to the top of the Thrasher prospect pile after the elevation of Burmistrov. Klingberg is considered an excellent skater with an outstanding work ethic. He has spent the last three years in the Swedish Elite League, but a good performance at the U-20's might see him brought over to North America to try out, at least at the AHL level.

    The Thrashers seem to be one of the few NHL teams still willing to risk draft picks on Russian players. They drafted Ivan Telegin in the fourth round (101st overall) in 2010. He has been playing with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League the last two years. Ivan has reasonable size and is a good skater. Not as talented or explosive as some Russian players the big center plays a more stereotypical North American game using his size and fitness to battle for pucks in front of the net.    

    Fredrick Pettersson-Wentzel is a Swedish goalie who potentially could be the third Thrasher in this years Christmas tournament.  The 19 year old is a long shot to be a third goalie for Sweden at the World Junior's. The butterfly style goalie is a long way from NHL ready. 

6. Chicago Blackhawks: 4

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    The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks have graduated a lot of their young stars over the last few years many of whom were World Junior Hockey Championship standouts. Despite the elevation to the NHL of Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Cam Barker and Jack Skille the Blackhawk organization still has four players at the world juniors this year. 

    Defensmen Dylan Olsen is a 6' 3" 220 pound defenseman currently playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The 19 year old is a crushing hitter and hopes to be doing that for Canada at the U-20's this year. The first round Blackhawk pick from 2009 (28th overall), may get a chance in the next couple of years in Chicago.

    Nick Leddy with the US is currently the Blackhawks third most highly rated prospect behind Dylan Olsen and Kyle Beach. Nick played for the University of Minnesota last year. Chicago had him up on a tryout for six games this year. Otherwise he's played 22 games for the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL. He has two goals and ten points in those games. Leddy is projected to be the complete package on defense, offensively skilled but quick and able in his own end. At 5' 11" and 190 lbs he is small by NHL standards, especially for a defenseman.

    Mirko Hoefflin is a forward with the German national U-20 team. The skinny center is playing for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL this year and has almost been a point a game junior forward. The 18 year old still has time to grow and fill out. He's a lot further down the prospect board in Chicago. 

    Jeremy Morin made the final cut as a left winger on Team USA. The tiny forward is not the great skater that you would hope someone his size, in hockey, would be. He was selected in the second round (45th overall) by Atlanta in 2009 but went to Chicago in the Dustin Byfuglien trade. He has been a natural goal scorer at the junior level and got a nine game tryout with Chicago this year.   

6. Tampa Bay Lightning: 4

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    The Lightning have a star studded line-up featuring former world Junior Tournament alumni, including Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Despite that they still have four youngsters looking to play for their country in this year's tournament. 

    Tampa Bay leads the league in Slovakian prospects. Speedy right winger Richard Panik is coming to his second world junior tournament for Slovakia. Last year the talented sniper scored six times and added two assists. He still needs to work on his defensive game, but he's a top quality offensive prospect. 

    Defenseman Adam Janosik has played the last two years for Gatineau in the QMJHL. He's a great skater and often offensively creative, but lacks size and strength needed in an NHL defender.

    Canadian star Brett Connolly is another top quality offensive star. He went sixth in last years NHL entry draft. He's capable of great offensive creativity at high speed. He's got a good shot and has been a point a game player his last three seasons in the Western Hockey League.

    Another Canadian prospect is former NHLer Brent Ashton's son Carter. Carter has NHL size and is a polished two way player. His skating still seems a little weak for the pro's.    

6. St.Louis Blues: 4

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    The Blues have a young line-up in the NHL and a good crop of young players at the world's this year.

    Canadian forward Jaden Schwartz is a slick passer. The 14th overall pick in 2010 is currently playing for Colorado College where he has 26 points in 17 games.

    Vladimir Tarasenko is a highly regarded Russian prospect for the Blues. Vlad was the 16th overall pick last year and is still playing in Russia in the KHL. He was ranked as the second best European skater in last year's draft. 

    Jani Hakanpaa from Finland is a 6'4" 211 pound defenseman at the age of 18. Mobility may prove to be an issue for this hefty youngster. 

    Sebastien Wannstrom is a forward from Sweden who is still playing in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). 

6. New York Rangers: 4

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    Desperate to solve cap woes with good young talent the Rangers have to be happy to see four of their prospects active at the world juniors.

    Roman Horak is a Czech left winger currently playing for the Chillwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League. The 19 year old has breakaway speed, but what has been called a sporadic work ethic.

    Jesper Fasth is a 19 year old Swedish right winger playing in the SEL.  

    Ryan Bourque is the son of hall of famer Ray Bourque and brother of Chris. He's a tiny speedy forward built on Brian Gionta lines. Bourque is in his second season with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL as a point a game left winger.

    Chris Kreider is another American prospect for the Rangers. Kreider was the leading goal scorer for the gold medal winning team USA last year and along with Bourque is one of eight returnees. 

6.New York Islanders: 4

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    The Islanders are another team desperate for more young talent to make it to the pro's. Here are four more with a chance to impress.

    Nino Niederreiter will get a second chance to lead the Swiss to success. Last year he helped them to a fourth place finish. Still only 18 he's likely to be the team leader again this year.

    Defenseman Calvin De Haan has been chosen as an alternate captain for the Canadian U-20 team this year. De Haan is a good power play quarterback and fluid skater.  

    Casey Cisakis is a Canadian forward with good offensive chops. He had a goal and an assist in the first tune-up game versus Switzerland. 

    Brock Nelson made the last cut for team USA. The 19 year old Nelson is a solid 6' 3" 205 lbs. He can be physical and projects as an NHL power forward.

6. Carolina Hurricanes: 4

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    The Hurricanes hit a bit of a talent dip. They won their cup and still have stars in Eric Staal and Cam Ward left from that run, but not much else. Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter look like the first quality youngsters ready to compete at the NHL level for Carolina. Here are four more playing for their countries at the WJHC who hope to join them.

    Justin Faulk was the Hurricane's second round pick (37th overall) in last years amateur draft. The defenseman is currently starring with the University of Minnesota-Duluth and has 15 points in 18 games. He has a huge point shot and is very comfortable moving the puck.

    Defenseman Brian Dumoulin also made the final cut for team USA. Dumoulin is another skilled American born offensive defenseman. A big man who skates well, he was outstanding as a rookie for Boston College last year. His offensive numbers have been better this year with BC.  

    Finnish defenseman Tommi Kivisto played for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey league as a 17 year old but then returned to Finland. Now 19 he's got a good point shot and a superior fitness level. He's thought to have trouble making decisions in the face of an aggressive fore-check. 

    Carolina's last world junior team member is another Finnish defender. Rasmus Rissanen is a good sized (6'2" 202 lbs) physical defensive defenseman. Willing to hit and tough as nails his weakness to date has been his skating. He's not as talented as Kivisto but may prove to be more NHL friendly.

6. Anaheim Ducks: 4

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    The Ducks have four players at the WJHC this year. Former World Junior tournament stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are hoping for more team-mates to come out of this year's games. Prospect Cam Fowler who could have played again for Team USA has already made the jump to the big squad in Anaheim and won't be released for the WJHC this year. 

    Kyle Palmieri is another returnee from last year's gold medal winning US team. Kyle was a first round Duck pick (26th overall) in 2009. He's a hardworking agitator who may not prove to have NHL quality offensive skills.

    Emerson Etem was another first round Duck pick last year (29th overall). The 18 year old is rounding into a point a game center with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. He's regarded as a good two-way forward who may blossom offensively in the next couple of years.  

    Russian goaltender Igor Bobkov is another Anaheim draftee. Bobkov played six games for Russia at the WJC and had a .930 sv pct, 2.45 GAA and a shut-out. He's expected to start for them again this year. He's a tall lanky stand-up goalie who can use his size and quick legs to advantage. He's thought to have a weak glove hand.

    Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen is another Duck prospect at the U-20's. He played for Finland last year in Regina and had two goals and five points in six games. The nineteen year old is a tiny smooth skating defenseman with a good, not great point shot. He's a good passer and quick to move the puck. At his size he needs to be. 

2. Minnesota Wild: 5

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    The Wild have a nice collection of talent at this years WJHC: 2 Finns, 2 Swedes and an American.

    Mikael Granlund was Minnesota's prestige pick in the NHL entry draft last year as they took him 9th overall. They will be looking for the small Finnish player to lead his team this year. Granlund has dominated for Finland for the last two years at the U-18 world championships and he has two U-20 tournaments under his belt as well. He had three points in six games as a 16 year old at the WJHC and last year had seven points in six games. Granlund doesn't turn 19 until the end of February so he could theoretically appear at the World Juniors again next year. Unfortunately it looks like the after effects of a concussion will keep Granlund out of the tournament this year.

    Erik Haula is a speedy play-making left winger that Minnesota drafted in the 7th round (182nd overall) in 2009. He's currently playing for the University of Minnesota where he has 15 points in 18 games. The trilingual Haula will be looking to contribute to Finland's efforts this year.

    Goalie Johan Gustavsson of Sweden is likely to back-up this year at the WJHC. The 18 year old could easily be the starter at the tournament next year.

    Johan Larsson will be a skilled two way winger for the Swedes at this year's tournament. Larsson had a great U-18 tournament last year and it's hoped the offense he showed at that level will appear again this year.

    Jason Zucker is another alumnus of the gold medal winning US team. He's considered versatile enough to play either on a checking or scoring line. He's quick with a good shot. 

2. Edmonton Oilers: 5

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    The Oilers have promoted a gaggle of young players to the big club including some like Taylor Hall (19) and Magnus Paajarvi (19) who could still play and likely dominate at this tournament. Despite that the Oilers have 5 prospects looking to play at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Buffalo. 

    Anton Lander has moved up to sixth on the depth chart of Oiler prospects now that Hall, Paavjarvi, Eberle and Omark have all appeared on the NHL club. A two way forward for Sweden, he still needs to work on his skating. 

    Defenseman Martin Marincin of the Slovakian U-20 team is 6'4" 187 lbs and still only 18. He was a second round pick for the Oilers in 2010 (46th overall). He has been a dominant force offensively for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL this year where he has 35 points in 33 games, including 10 goals. 

    Finnish forward Toni Rajala has been called almost pure skill. He was a point a game player for the Brandon Wheat Kings. The question with him is how the slightly built Finn will fair night after night against bigger faster NHL opponents. 

    Curtis Hamilton is a big Canadian winger who plays for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. He suffered through two broken collarbones and a separated shoulder last year. At 19 he's NHL sized.  

    The last Oiler prospect is goalie Olivier Roy who is likely to battle Mark Visentin for the Team Canada starting job. He's quick laterally and has a good glove. He is said to have the maturity of a professional.  

2. Detroit Red Wings: 5

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    It is a mystery to me how this successful veteran team that constantly finishes near the top of the NHL standings can still have more prospects at the WJHC than most other NHL teams.

    Petr Mrazek may be Detroit's attempt to find another Dominek Hasek. They chose the Czech goalie in the fifth round (141st overall) in 2010. He has spent the last two years in the Ontario Hockey League playing for the Ottawa 67's. His numbers have seen a huge uptick this year. He is seen as highly athletic and competitive.  

    Andrej Nestrasil is a Czech forward who plays center for the PEI Rocket of the QMJHL. He has entertaining speed and reasonable size. He has 36 points in 29 games for the Rocket so far this year.

    Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen was another late round (4th,110th overall) 2010 draft pick. He's seen as an offensive talent with a dangerous heavy shot. He's not considered a strong skater.

    Calle Jarnkrok was a second round (51st overall) Red Wing pick last year. The Swedish forward is small and quick and never gives up the puck. He's seen as an NHL playmaking center.  

    Mitch Callahan of Team USA is a scrappy winger. He's been an agitator and fighter in junior but unless he suffers a growth spurt will be unlikely to be able to take on that role in the NHL.    

2. Florida Panthers: 5

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    The Panthers are one of those organizations who have managed to stock-pile prospects as a result of repeated regular season futility. Their five players at the world juniors this year tie them for second place among NHL teams. 

    Nick Bjugstad was an early draft pick (19th overall) for the Panthers last year. At 6' 5" the 18 year old is expected to fill out into an NHL power forward. He has only managed four points in 14 games so far this year for the University of Minnesota.

    Drew Shore is another American forward the Panthers drafted early ( 2nd round, 44th overall in 2009). He's a 19 year old and more than a point a game forward in his second year at the University of Denver.

    Joonas Donski is a Finnish forward and Panther prospect. Donski is a skilled playmaker who makes those around him better. At 18 he has shown a defensive responsibility beyond his years. He may prove to be a quality role-player for Florida in the future.

    Quinton Howden is a smooth skating forward with developing offensive skills. He will get a chance to try out all aspects of his game on the Canadian U-20 team this year.

    Erik Gudbranson is probably the best Florida youngster at the tournament this year, and that's among a group of first round picks. He's looked on to be that big shut-down defenseman in Florida who can also make a contribution offensively. He was taken third overall last year behind only Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.    

1. Washington Capitals: 6

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    The Washington Capitals look to have the most players playing at the World Junior Hockey Championship this year. A lot of that seems due to the fact that they are one of the few teams who feels confident drafting and signing Russian players. Three of their players at the U-20's in Buffalo will be Russians. 

    Evgeny Kuznetsov was Washington's first round pick (26th overall) last year. He played at the U-20 tournament last year in Regina as a 17 year old and scored a couple of goals. Kuznetsov is seen as a fearless puckhandler with a high level of skill. He looks to make the transition to North America in a couple of years.

    Stanislav Galiev is the other Capital forward on the Russian team. Only 18 as well he's been a point a game player for the last two seasons in the Q. A talented puck handler and playmaker the Capitals hope to see Stanislav get bigger and stronger as he matures.

    Dmitry Orlov is another highly rated Russian prospect for the Capitals, though this time he's a defenseman. Orlov is a smooth skating offensive defenseman who likes to be constantly on the attack. This makes him vulnerable defensively, but it's not a trade-off the Capitals are unfamiliar with.

    Phillip Grubauer is expected to be the goalie for the Germans this year. Grubauer was the Memorial Cup winning goaltender last year in Windsor. He's a big, calm goaltender. A master of the angles, he's technically sound and adept at blocking the net with his bulk.

    Patrick Wey will be a defenseman on this years U-20 US team. Patrick Wey is in his second season at Boston College. He's a good sized puck mover whose offensive game has yet to develop. 

    Cody Eakin is a Western Hockey League sniper who finds himself in the middle of a pack of Russian prospects on the Washington Capital depth chart. Eakin was a late cut from last year's Canadian team and is highly motivated to impress in Buffalo this year. He's a good two-way center with terrific speed and agility. 

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