10 Names to Know Before the 2014 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2013

10 Names to Know Before the 2014 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships

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    Jonathan Drouin
    Jonathan DrouinJoel Auerbach/Getty Images

    The World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden, are less than a month away.

    Teams will start competing for this prestigious championship Dec. 26 with a series of games involving the best junior players from 12 nations. The gold medal will be awarded after the championship game Jan. 5.

    Rosters will be announced in early December.

    Here's a look at 10 players you should know before the games begin and the World Junior Championship is decided.

F Max Domi, Canada

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    Max Domi made a strong run at making the Phoenix Coyotes roster at the start of training camp before he was sent back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

    Domi has scored nine goals and 16 assists in 20 games, and he is a spectacular talent. He is an excellent skater who can rip through and around defenders with very little trouble. He has first-rate hands, and he can put the puck in the net and set up teammates with deft passes.

    He is not afraid to play the physical game, but his main asset is that he's a playmaker who can take over any game.

D Darnell Nurse, Canada

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    Darnell Nurse is viewed as a sure-fire NHL star when he eventually gets his chance to play for the Edmonton Oilers. He is clearly going to be a shutdown defenseman, and when his offensive game gets a little more refined, he is going to be a star on that end as well.

    Nurse has scored eight goals and 18 assists for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Nurse has excellent size at 6'5" and 195 pounds, but he still needs to add 25 to 30 pounds. That additional strength will make him a monster for opponents to handle.

    He's already smart and effective, and his decisions with the puck are always the right ones. If Canada is going to make a run at the gold medal, he will almost certainly be a key player.

G Jon Gillies, USA

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    Jon Gillies of the United States backstopped his team to the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships, and he must be spectacular once again if Team USA is going to have a chance to get a medal this time around.

    Gillies, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames in 2012, returned to Providence and plays for the Friars in Hockey East. He has a 9-1-2 record along with a 1.79 goals against average and a .945 save percentage this season. 

    Gillies, 6'5" and 215 pounds, uses his size to take away the angles from shooters, and he plays the butterfly style. He has made excellent progress this season and appears to have all the tools to dominate in this tournament and have a solid NHL career in front of him.

C Jonathan Drouin, Canada

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    Jonathan Drouin is one of the most exciting offensive players who has a chance to compete in this tournament.

    Drouin was the third pick in last year's NHL draft, and he will eventually be one of the Tampa Bay Lightning's main stars. They returned him to the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and he has scored 15 goals and 32 assists in 20 games so far this year.

    Drouin played on Canada's fourth-place team last year, and he had two goals and two assists in six games and finished with a plus-four rating. Drouin is nearly unstoppable with the puck, and his speed and quickness should make Canada a formidable team in this tournament.

G Jake Paterson, Canada

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    Jake Paterson made Canada's roster last year, but he was relegated to third string.

    He is hoping for an opportunity for redemption this year, but he will have to beat out Eric Comrie and Zachary Fucale if he wants to be his nation's starting goaltender.

    Paterson has continued his development with the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League. He has a 3.38 GAA, a .907 save percentage and a 10-7-1 save percentage.

    Paterson is an athletic goalie who has the quickness to make the tough saves. If he can hold his position and square up to the shooter, he can be very tough in net.

C Sam Reinhart, Canada

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    Sam Reinhart projects to be the top pick in the 2014 NHL draft, according to DraftSite.com. He has excellent playmaking skills, and he combines that with intelligence and grit.

    Reinhart has scored 15 goals and 30 assists in 28 games for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League. Reinhart, 6'1" and 182 pounds, is always willing to go into the corner or battle along the wall to get the puck.

    Once he has it, his vision allows him to make the proper read and get the puck to an open teammate. When he keeps it himself, he has the hands to put the puck in an area where the goaltender cannot handle it. 

    He is a can't-miss prospect who could be formidable in this tournament.

LW Stefan Matteau, USA

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    Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    Stefan Matteau was the top pick for the New Jersey Devils in 2012, and he played in 19 games for them.

    Matteau has been playing for the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League and has three goals and five assists in 19 games. Matteau has a heavy and hard shot, and he also plays a responsible defensive game.

    He is an aggressive player who should be an asset when it comes to winning the puck battles in the corners. He should also have a chance to show his talent as a penalty killer.

C Connor McDavid, Canada

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Connor McDavid is the next big thing in hockey.

    McDavid, 16, will not be eligible for the NHL draft until 2015. Once that happens and he has a chance to play in the NHL, many observers believe he will have a chance to become a Sidney Crosby-type player.

    McDavid is playing with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and has scored 10 goals and 31 assists in 26 games. 

    McDavid, 5'11" and 170 pounds, is only going to get better as he gets bigger and stronger. However, Erie owner and general manager Sherwood Bassin told Hockey's Future that McDavid is a scintillating player to watch. 

    “I don’t know if I’ve seen players who are better," Bassin said. "I can’t remember and I don’t want to say that I haven’t and then demean someone. But I know this: There isn’t a game that goes by where he doesn’t do something where you’re just overwhelmed.”

    McDavid has a chance to be the primary difference maker in this tournament.

C William Nylander, Sweden

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    William Nylander projects as one of the top picks of the 2014 NHL draft, and he should give Sweden an offensive spark in this tournament.

    Nylander, 5'11" and 175 pounds, is not a physical player, but he has remarkable physical skills. The son of former NHL player Michael Nylander, William is an excellent stickhandler. He has speed, lateral agility and the quickness to dart into the smallest openings and make big plays. 

    Nylander is an excellent passer and shooter, and he has the skills to compete on an equal or better footing with the best junior players in the world.

D Slater Koekkoek, Canada

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    Defenseman Slater Koekkoek has improved dramatically this season and has an excellent chance to be a key player on the blue line in this tournament.

    Koekkoek, 6'2" and 186 pounds, has scored six goals and 14 assists in 24 games for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. He understands what it takes to carry the puck out of the zone and lead the attack.

    He is an accurate passer with a heavy shot. He looks like an ideal candidate to key the power play because he can shoot from the point or find the open man with a pass.

    Koekkoek is a very smart player who almost always makes the right decision when he has the puck.