Being a dedicated hockey fan to a struggling team can test anyone’s patience, there are few things harder in a hockey fans world than waiting for his/her team to turn it around. Although while the fans wait and watch their current team, prospects in leagues below are proving their worth, and await the chance to strengthen their new NHL club. Even though you might be the fan of a dumpster fire team today, there might be a player on this list that could soon wear your team’s colours and start to turn that sinking ship around (I’m doubling up on the terrible metaphors I know).
Canada, UMass Amherst, 4th Overall in 2017, Colorado Avalanche
|2018 World Junior Championship||7||3||5||8||0||5|
|2017-18 UMass Amherst||16||1||8||9||10||7|
From a layman’s point of view, it looked like Cody Glass would be drafted 4th Overall in last years Entry Draft. However, Joe Sakic liked what he saw in Cale Makar and took him as the Avalanche’s first pick. Makar hasn’t given Sakic and company anything to worry about since the draft, as he has continued to excel at the junior level. Cale is a D-man that can make an impact on the score sheet. He’s got 9 points in 16 games this season with his team at UMass, and is the highest scoring defenceman in this year’s World Juniors.
Again from a layman’s perspective, when looking at the NHL standings right now, it doesn’t seem like Colorado is among the worst of the worst. They’re currently enjoying a 4 game winning streak and sit in the top half of the league overall points wise. However considering where they finished last year, and the fact that they lost a superstar in Matt Duchene, it’d be unwise to think they’re current uptick is sustainable. Never the less Colorado does have a good player in development with Cale Makar.
Sweden, Växjö Lakers, 5th Overall in 2017, Vancouver Canucks
|2018 World Juniors Championship||7||5||2||7||0||-1|
|2017-18 Växjö Lakers||26||11||24||35||14||11|
It’s a good year to be a Canucks fan, not because of how the teams doing now, but because of the pieces they’ve got coming together in the near future. As if Brock Boeser wasn’t enough to give Vancouver hockey fans a light at the end of the tunnel, the next two players on this list will make the end of the dark days seem even closer. Elias Petterson, drafted right after Cale Makar in last years Entry Draft, has shown his stuff in this year’s World Juniors. The second highest scoring Swede, has notched some key goals for his country this year, not to mention the damage he’s been doing back home with the Växjö Lakers leading the SHL in scoring with 11 goals and a total of 35 points in 26 games played.
After being blessed with a phenomenal start to the season the Canucks have since been riddled with injuries to key players including Bo Horvat, and have since fallen back down to earth. As much as some Vancouver fans may have been crossing their fingers for an unexpected playoff run this year, it seems that won’t be the case. However, with Petterson and others waiting in the wings, it might not be too far away.
Finland, TPS, 5th Overall in 2016, Vancouver Canucks
|2018 World Juniors Championship||5||1||3||4||0||2|
Despite falling short during the critical shootout between Finland and the Czech Republic, Olli Juolevi had an impressive World Juniors this year. Although Finland didn’t make it passed the Quarter Finals, they did a lot better than their previous year, where they found themselves in the relegation series. Back home this season Juolevi is 14 points in 20 games for TSP with a solid +9 record.
It’s unclear if both Juolevi and Petterson will find themselves on the Canucks’ rosters come the 2018-19 season. However, it’s a pretty safe bet that sooner rather than later Vancouver fans will have more than just Boeser to hang their hopes and dreams on.
America, Univ. of Minnesota, 8th Overall in 2017, Buffalo Sabres
|2018 World Junior Championship||7||4||7||11||2||8|
|2017-18 Univ. of Minnesota||20||5||12||17||6||6|
Mittlestadt sits as the highest points earner in the entire tournament this year, and only 2 of his teammates are ranked higher than him in goals. Mittlestadt by most accounts was the United States most impactful player this tournament, being on the ice for an impressive +6 as a result of his dominant playmaking abilities.
Drafted 8th Overall by the Sabres, there is no doubt that Buffalo is glad to see Mittlestadt performing at the level he is. Buffalo sits 30th in the League second only to Arizona. The Sabers have won only 10 of their 43 outings this season, so they’re well into the looking ahead phase. Making Mittlestadt someone their glad to have as a prospect.
America, Spokane Chiefs, 22nd Overall in 2017, Edmonton Oilers
|2018 World Junior Championship||7||2||2||4||4||3|
|2017-18 Spokane Chiefs||13||2||10||12||6||-3|
Like one other player on this list, Yamamoto has played some games for his NHL team this season, starting off this year with the Oilers. However Yamamoto was ultimately sent down after 7 games, to continue his development with the Spokane Chiefs. During 13 games with the Chiefs this season he’s got 10 helpers and 2 goals of his own. At this year’s World Juniors, Yamamoto proved to be a solid addition to the American team, with 4 points to his name in 6 games played.
Edmonton isn’t your typical bad team right now. Just as the Avalanche seem to be riding an unsustainable high, the Oilers are suffering from a (hopefully) unsustainable low. The team that made the second round of the playoffs last year, is currently sitting far below playoff contention as we approach the All-Star Break. If Edmonton continues to perform this way, you can bet there will be some head scratching and reworking of the team in the off season. Yamaoto may very likely find himself playing more than just a few games with the Oilers next year.
Canada, Everett Silvertips, 48th Overall in 2016, Philadelphia Flyers
|2018 World Juniors Championship||6||1.81||.930|
|2017-18 Everett Silvertips||17||1.32||.961|
Despite being in net for the two shootout losses vs the United States, in back to back World Junior, Hart should not be evaluated on that alone. This guy is an elite goaltender drafted in the 2nd round by the Flyers, Hart boasts impressive numbers in this year’s World Juniors, as well as during his outings with the Silvertips this season. In 17 games played Hart has a 1.32 GAA and a strong .961 save percentage.
Philadelphia earned the 2nd overall pick in last years Entry Draft and chose, to no one’s surprise, Nolan Patrick. Neither Hischier or Patrick were expected to carry their new teams to playoffs this year. However, Hischier and his devils have been enjoying much greater success than Patrick and his new team. The Flyers still have alot of room to grow, and they should be happy to have a goalie like Hart, to help them do that.
Canada, Montréal Canadiens, 100th Overall in 2016, Montréal Canadiens
|2018 World Juniors Championship||6||0||3||3||2||11|
|2017-18 Montréal Canadiens||27||0||4||4||2||5|
As kindly pointed out by the Swiss coach, Victor Mete was the lowest drafted player on Canada’s roster at the World Juniors, going 100th overall in the 4th round in 2016. Although despite being a later draft pick, Mete has played the most NHL games out of all the Canadian players, again as kindly pointed out by Switzerland’s coach. With an impressive +11 record in the tournament and 3 helpers to his name, Mete showed great promise in his first World Juniors appearance.
In 27 games with the Canadiens, Mete racked up 4 assists and maintained a plus-minus of 5. Mete is not going to be a break out a rookie like Boeser or Barzel, but Canadiens fans should be nothing short of thrilled with how Mete is performing so far. Like the Oilers, Montreal is suffering from a middle of the road record this season, and at this stage every win is gravely important for teams like them. Even if Mete can’t fully tip his new team in the right direction, he’s well on track to becoming an impactful Defenceman in the NHL.
Belarus, Owen Sound Attack, 107th Overall in 2017, Philadelphia Flyers
|2018 World Juniors Championship||6||2||6||8||4||-1|
|2017-18 Owen Sound Attack||30||19||11||30||32||6|
Despite Belarus’ disappointing World Juniors performance and relegation to DIV 1, Sushko managed to rise above his team’s failings and put up some respectable numbers. Sushko placed 5th in most assists in the tournament, which is remarkable considering the top 8 players in that category all came from semi-final teams. Meaning Sushko was able to put up more points on a losing team, than players on teams that made it to the medal rounds.
If there’s something Flyers fans can take away from this list, it’s that there’s a brighter future to look forward to. The only downside is that “the future” is a very broad term, and it can mean next seasons or sometime way down the line. Although with a dynamic right wing and future all-star goalie in their talent pool, at the very least that should help Flyers fans take their minds off this season.
Of course, there were many other impressive young stars at this year’s world juniors including Kieffer Bellows, who broke a USA World Juniors hockey record and earned the most goals of the tournament. As well as Czech Republic forward Filip Zadina who not only put up points of his own, but vowed to “die on the ice” to bring a medal home for his country. This tournament is special because of the unrivaled passion these young stars carry with them to each game. If they carry even half of that passion with them throughout their careers, they’ll make their professional teams very happy. If you’re a fan of a struggling NHL team, hopefully, this years’ Boxing Day tradition gave you a little peek at what Christmas presents you have to look forward to.