World Junior Championship: 15 Players You'll Need to Know for the NHL Draft

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2011

World Junior Championship: 15 Players You'll Need to Know for the NHL Draft

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    The 2012 World Junior Championship is underway, and with a plethora of goal scoring on the first day of action, there are plenty of prospects to discuss in this tournament.

    The 2012 NHL draft is not far off, and there are a handful of especially talented players at the WJC that will be eligible for the first time this June.

    Let's take a look at 15 prospects to keep an eye on throughout the next two weeks as the tourney progresses.

Nail Yakupov

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    Team: Russia

    Nail Yakupov is the runaway favorite to be selected first overall in the 2012 NHL entry draft.

    The Russian-born winger has been terrorizing the OHL since entering the league last season.

    He scored 101 points as a rookie for the Sarnia Sting and has averaged two points per game thus far this season.

    Yakupov is a special player with insane offensive skills. Speed, vision and shooting are among his many outstanding attributes. 

Mikhail Grigorenko

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    Team: Russia

    In any other draft, Mihail Grigorenko might be the first overall pick.

    Unfortunately for the Russian star, his fellow countryman, Nail Yakupov, will likely have that honor. That’s no slight on Grigorenko, though.

    He already has 50 points in 32 games this season in the QMJHL.

    At 6'2", Grigorenko has the size to match his incredible offensive ability. Scouts are looking for more consistency this season, and so far, so good.

Ryan Murray

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    Team: Canada

    Ryan Murray hasn’t had the greatest start to his draft-eligible season.

    Slowed by an ankle sprain and a weak supporting cast, Murray has only seven points and is a minus-five so far this season.

    He’ll have to get healthy and step up his game to be the first defenseman taken in the 2012 NHL draft.

Filip Forsberg

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    Team: Sweden

    Filip Forsberg creates tons of chances offensively and has great skills to finish plays.

    He’s one of the few European-born players that is spending his season in his home country, which could play to his advantage if he has a strong season.

Jacob Trouba

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    Team: USA

    The top prospect from the USNTDP in 2012 is defenseman Jacob Trouba.

    He has the poise, positioning and defensive awareness that is rare to see from a 17-year-old.

    Trouba is a strong passer, but he doesn’t have the offensive game that some of the other D-men in this class possess.

Zemgus Girgensons

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    Team: Latvia

    Committed to the University of Vermont for 2012, Zemgus Girgensons displays great instincts in the offensive zone.

    He continues to light up the USHL, and he could be in line to be selected in the top 10 of the 2012 NHL draft.

Pontus Aberg

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    Team: Sweden

    Pontus Aberg has the skating ability to be a top 10 selection in the 2012 NHL draft.

    However, concerns about his consistency and defensive abilities have caused him to drop a bit.

    Team Sweden is off to a fast start, so this tournament could be a chance for Aberg to silence some of his critics.

Cody Ceci

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    Team: Canada

    Cody Ceci’s draft stock is soaring after the talented rearguard's quick start to the 2011-2012 season.

    He has 30 points in 28 games so far. 

    Ceci will not participate in the tourney, though he made it to the last round of cuts.

Tanner Pearson

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    Team: Canada

    Tanner Pearson was one of the surprise selections to the Canadian Junior team.

    He has slowly worked his way into first round consideration, and with a decent showing at the WJC, he could cement his status.

Sebastian Collberg

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    Team: Sweden

    Sebastian Collberg thrives on speed.

    The Swedish winger has an excellent shot that he is not afraid to let go from all over the ice.

    If he had a more well-rounded game, he might crack the top 10 of this list.

Martin Frk

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    Team: Czech Republic

    Martin Frk has created a ton of buzz since coming over from the Czech Republic.

    After 50 points a year ago, Frk missed the early portion of the season with a concussion. He’ll have to make up for lost time to climb back up the rankings.

    Frk will not be able to play in the tournament due to injury, but he's worth mention.

Andy Iles

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    Team: USA

    Andy Iles may not see much playing time for the United States, considering Jack Campbell is the team's go-to-guy and John Gibson is entrenched as the backup, but he has a ton of talent and upside.

    Iles has put together a solid career at Cornell and should get drafted in June.

Austin Czarnik

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    Team: USA

    Austin Czarnik got off to a fast start to the 2012 WJC in USA's opening game against Denmark.

    Czarnik displayed all of the traits that make him a dangerous offensive threat. It will be fun to watch this kid develop.

Erik Thorell

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    Team: Sweden

    Experience is king for a defenseman, and like many that came before him, Erik Thorell is getting valuable experience at a young age.

    In his draft eligible season, Thorell is already playing in the Swedish Elite League and has earned a chance to play on Team Sweden in the WJC.

Olli Maatta

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    Team: Finland

    Olli Maatta's stock is plummeting faster than anyone in the entire tournament.

    Once considered a fringe top-10 pick, Maatta may not be a first-rounder by the time this tournament is over.

    The Finnish rearguard was injured in the opening game against Canada, and he looked completely lost before the injury.

    He'll be an interesting story heading into June's draft.