• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
The 2017 World Junior A Challenge began in Truro, Nova Scotia, on Sunday, bringing together players from Canada, the USA, Russia, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. The Americans are favored to win, if only because they have been so successful in recent junior events. However, this year's Russian team is a factor, and it's packed with prospects for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Kind of ignoring the whole 'Junior A' thing, the Russians sent their national Under-18 team to Truro. It includes players from the MHL, essentially a major-junior league, as well as Russians playing major-junior in North America. So it's the tournament's youngest team, but almost every player on the roster is draft-eligible for 2018, and more than half have profiles on this site.
The quality of the Russian prospects will be easy to measure at an event already oozing future NHL players and potential 2018 first-round picks. Team USA opens play on Monday, but Russia made its first statement on Sunday, routing Canada East 5-1.
Several other draft prospects played outside of the World Junior A on Sunday, but there were only a handful of eye-popping performances. So this list is down to five rather than the usual 10. Notice the heavy Russian influence below:
KODY CLARK -- Wendel Clark's son missed some games in late November and early December, but he's back and making up for lost time. Clark had a goal and an assist on Sunday as the 67's fell to Sudbury 4-3 in an OT shootout. Clark, the No. 2 star, had the primary assist on the game's first goal at 11:52 of the second period and scored an unassisted goal at 4:26 of the third for a 2-1 lead. That goal was his first since Nov. 18. He now has 11 goals and 23 points in 27 OHL games. He's going to get drafted on his own merits, but his pedigree will make him especially attractive. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
GRIGORI DENISENKO -- Stop the presses, we have an amazing player here. Denisenko, a left wing, was able to showcase his talents for the scouts at the World Junior A on Sunday, and he made the most of his opportunity. Even though he was tossed from the game for a hit to the head at 9:36 of the third period, he was still the best player on the ice3 with a goal and two assists in Russia's win over Canada. All of his points were impressive, beginning with the primary assist on the opening goal at 16:00 of the first period. He made it 2-0 on a power play, rifling in a pin-point shot with only 15 seconds left in the first, and later had another power-play point -- a primary assist -- on the 3-0 goal at 2:29 of the second. He looks to be a first-round pick, and if he keeps playing like this on the big stage, he might be a high first-rounder. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
OLOF LINDBOM -- Lindbom was supposed to be the top Swedish goalie in the 2018 draft, but it looks like Samuel Ersson has usurped the throne. That doesn't mean the Stockholm Djurgarden U20 netminder isn't playing well, he's just not as dominant as Ersson. On Sunday, Lindbom was perfect -- stopping 26 shots for a 3-0 win over Timra U20. He was sharpest in the second period, when he stopped 13 shots. Lindbom has won two straight games and might be getting back on track to challenge Ersson, but his 6-4-2 record leaves something to be desired. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ADAM LISKA -- Liska, a Slovak import in his rookie year with the Kitchener Rangers, continued his mid-season scoring surge with a goal and three assists to go with a plus-5 rating in Kitchener's 10-3 demolition of host Guelph. The game's No. 2 star posted his first OHL four-point game in style: He had the primary assist at 12:39 of the first period for a 2-0 lead, scored the eventual game-winner to make it 4-1 at 3:46 of the second, and registered primary helpers on two more second-period goals at 11:35 and 17:52. Liska is now on a four-game goal-scoring streak and has 10 points over the past 10 games after getting only nine over the first 20. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ALEXANDER ROMANOV -- Never heard of Romanov? Well, he hasn't appeared on any of NHL Central Scouting's rankings to date, so it's understandable. After his World Junior A Challenge debut, the Russian defenseman is officially on the radar. Romanov scored two goals off feeds from Denisenko and displayed great ability as a power-play quarterback. On Sunday, he got his first goal on a long blast at 16:00 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. He later scored on a power play at 2:29 of the second to make it 3-0. Was it a fluke? Probably not, because he has 11 points in 25 MHL games with Moscow Red Army this season, which is solid for a d-man. It's also notable that three of his five MHL goals have come on the power play, where he looked so comfortable during the 5-1 win over Canada East.