On the 13th of May, Finland and the US clash in a match that is likely to be a direct matchup between Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes. The almost sure fire number one and two in this year’s NHL draft.
Steel Arena in Košice will be the last chance for both to prove why they should be picked number 1 by the New Jersey Devils.
Following the World Juniors, Kakko should came out on top and if he can do the same in the World Championship, the draft rankings might change in the eyes of the scouts. Especially since this is a tournament against NHL caliber players.
If either shines and the other falters, it could be something that either reinforce or change the minds of the New Jersey Devils management.
Here are some of the best youngsters that will be playing in the World Championships.
1: Jack Hughes (USA)
Jack and Quinn Hughes playing together is probably one of the most exciting things to watch doing the Worlds. The chance to watch them play together is an amazing storyline to follow as they try to help the US win their first gold medal in almost 60 years!
Jack Hughes, however, is the more interesting of the two brothers. Jack notched 112 points in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) and 48 points in 24 games in the United States Hockey League. Having a point of game is fantastic but two per game, over an entire year? That should not be possible to do but Jack Hughes is doing it.
His worst performance came in the World Juniors, where he did fairly well, but failed to grab a single goal as the US went on to lose in the final.
It likely that he will be playing with James Van Riemsdyk and Alex DeBrincat on the third line. Van Riemsdyk has always been good at winning net battles and if Jack can find him or get a shot through, the point potential is there. DeBrincat’s speed gives him a great outlet in the form of the breakouts as well as a nice option on offence to allow him space to get open. Especially if DeBrincat is as prolific as he was at last years Worlds.
2: Kaapo Kakko (Finland)
The Finnish wonderkid has to be the driving force for Finland if thay want to go anywhere in this year’s Worlds. Finland lacks a lot on paper with only two NHLers on the roster in the form of Juho Lammikko and Henri Jokiharju. Outside these two, its mostly players from the Liiga and SHL.
Although, one of those is Kakko and he will have to prove vital for Finland. In the friendlies leading up to the Worlds he has been the driving force of the offense and this will have to continue in the preliminaries for them to make it out the group. He will be given a lot of responsibility and if he can excel like he did at the Juniors, some might look to the 18-year-old as the number one pick at the National Hockey League Entry draft in June.
During the Worlds, he will get first-line minutes and compared to the rest of the prospects, he will get more exposure. Something that makes watching Finland play a lot more exciting and should prove a good way to scout him before the draft. He will be playing against some of the best NHLers and on Friday, he will start with a baptism of fire vs. Team Canada.
3: Kirill Kaprizov (Russia)
The savior of Minnesota, Olympic gold medalist, The Russian Crosby. Kirill Kaprizov has been described many ways. The last one I might have made up, but its not without reason, since he was the overtime hero of the 2018 Olympics for Russia (technically Olympic Athletes from Russia). The same as Sidney Crosby was for Canada in 2010.
Since that moment he hasn’t looked back, and his career in the Kontinental Hockey League has made him a staple on a very strong Russian team. He amassed 51 regular season points and 14 more in the playoffs (where he played on the fourth line for some of it), which speaks volume to his talent.
During the preseason Kaprizov has played with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. A line that torched the Czech Republic doing one of the pre-tournament games, combining for 11 points. Therefore, it’s hard to see this line split up during the Worlds so watch for Kaprizov to benefit greatly from this. Both in terms of assists but also with goals of his own. He should end up as one of the top scorers at the end of the tournament with those line mates and his raw talent.
4: Moritz Seider (Germany)
Captain of the Germany Under 20 squad that qualified to for the Juniors next year at just 17-years-old. Not only that, he also went on to win the Deutsche Eishockey Liga this season and was a key part of the Mannheim win during his first full season with the first team. The German defenseman has had a season to remember and its being capped off with a call up to the Worlds. If he performs well an already rising draft stock could go into overdrive.
The last game for Germany before the Worlds was against the USA. In this game Seider got to play with 35-year-old Yannic Seidenberg in a mix of young and old. A partnership where Seider’s youth and speed has to show but it’s a great window for him to show his talent on the biggest stage and like Kakko, show the scouts in attendance that he is able to hang with men and play against NHLers and some of the world’s best. A top-15 spot at the draft isn’t out of the question if he does this.
5: Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark)
Blichfeld, with 53 Goals and 114 points in the Western Hockey League this season, is hard to look past on a list like this. On top of that he was the WHL player of the year. Even at the age of 20 that is a impressive feat for the Danish San Jose Sharks prospect.
Blichfeld has a goalscoring touch, that Denmark could be need of in terms of the depth scoring. Lars Eller and Mikkel Bødker will be playing many minutes and so will the second line. Therefore, they need Blichfeld to score on third line. This has become even more important for Denmark with Nikolaj Ehlers being hurt and Oliver Bjorkstand also declining the invite, so expect him to be handed a lot of responsability to provide depth scoring and chances with Mathias From potentially.