• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
This web site doesn't really care who wins the World Junior Championship. What matters to HockeyDraftCentral.com is how well the 2018 draft prospects do, and Tuesday's opening games were a very good sign.
Four of the six players on the list below were World Junior participants on Tuesday. All four had prominent roles on their teams, and two of them helped the Czechs stun the Russians. Two of the four are 17-year-olds, which is really impressive, since there aren't a lot of them in this year's event.
For anyone who missed Tuesday's games, the Czechs, Swedes, Canadians, and Team USA all started off with victories, while the Russians, Belarussians, Finns, and Danes all started 0-1. Canada had the most impressive win, but it's hard for this site to be excited about Team Canada, because every single player on that team has already been drafted. In any case, take a look at all six of Tuesday's top performances:
RASMUS DAHLIN -- Barring major injury, this guy is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He is a generational defenseman, perhaps the most obviously talented to enter the NHL since Denis Potvin in 1973. On Tuesday, Dahlin picked up two assists in the Swedes' 6-1 rout of Belarus. He had the primary assist on the game's first goal, scored on a power-play at 8:44 of the first period, before picking up another primary helper on the final goal at 11:07 of the third period. The second assist was brilliant, as he fed Rangers prospect Lias Andersson with a perfect pass in the offensive zone. Dahlin makes a lot of no-look passes, and he also hits hard. He can do it all, and he's better than Erik Karlsson was at this age. Perhaps the most impressive stat from Tuesday was that the 17-year-old Dahlin led Sweden in icetime, playing 20:50. All of his games will be fun to watch. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
QUINN HUGHES -- Hughes, a University of Michigan defenseman, has been reunited with his Team USA buddies at the World Junior. On Tuesday, he had two assists, a plus-4 rating, and a team-high 20:42 of icetime in the Americans' 9-0 demolition of Denmark. Hughes got the primary assist on a goal at 8:26 of the first period for a 3-0 lead. Just over three minutes later, at 11:35, he assisted on the 4-0 goal. Hughes was a month too young to be drafted in 2017, but he could be a top-5 pick in June. He's a steadying presence on the ice for Team USA and should play a major role in this tournament before going back to school. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JACK JENSEN -- Perhaps Jensen will play for Team USA at a future World Junior tournament, but for now the left wing is at home dominating Minnesota high school competition. On Tuesday, Jensen scored two goals and added an assist in Eden Prairie's 5-1 win over St. Michael-Albertville at the Schwan's Cup Gold division tourney in Minneapolis. Jensen scored the game's first goal at 6:17 of the opening period, got the primary assist on the game-winner at 13:45 of the first, and scored again to make it 4-1 at 14:43 of the second. He has eight goals and 15 points in seven games this season, including three two-goal games. His strong play on the University of Minnesota campus was noteworthy, since he's committed to play for the Gophers. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MARTIN KAUT -- The World Junior stage is huge for Europeans who get limited icetime in their overseas men's leagues. Kaut, a right wing, is one such player. Given the chance to face his own age group on Tuesday, Kaut was outstanding, notching three primary assists -- one per period -- in the Czechs' 5-4 win over Russia. His first assist, on a power play, came on the opening goal just 4:42 into the game. His second assist, on another power-play goal at 5:34 of the second period, helped put the Czechs back in front at 3-2. His final assist came on the game-winner, making it 5-2 at 6:16 of the third period. Kaut showed great chemistry with fellow draft prospect Filip Zadina, and the Czechs have a chance to be the surprise team at this year's tournament. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JESPERI KOTKANIEMI -- Kotkaniemi was snubbed by the Finnish World Junior team, even though he has been playing regularly in the Liiga. He wasn't even given a chance to try out for Team Finland, and that decision will undoubtedly hurt his draft position, perhaps knocking him out of the first round. He reminded everyone that he's still a strong prospect on Tuesday, picking up two assists in Pori's 4-2 win over Vaasa. Kotkaniemi assisted on the game-winner, a power-play goal at 10:08 of the second period that put Pori up 3-1. He later set up the final goal at 7:44 of the third. The two points ended a six-game Liiga scoring drought and marked his first multi-point performance since Sept. 13. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
FILIP ZADINA -- Already the second-leading scorer in the QMJHL, Zadina is looking to clinch a No. 3 overall draft position with his showing at the World Junior. He started with a bang on Tuesday, scoring a goal and notching an assist in the Czechs' 5-4 win over Russia. Zadina helped set up the game's first goal on a power-play at 4:42 of the first period. He scored his own power-play goal to put the Czechs up 3-2 at 5:34 of the second period. He looked much older than a 17-year-old and played with a poise you only see in the very top players. Look for him to be making an impact in the NHL at this time next year. (Note: 10th appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- leads all players)