• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
Happy New Year to hockey fans throughout the world. Last year ended with a bang, as draft prospects in numerous leagues stood out on the final day of 2017. The World Junior Championship's preliminary round ended with four games, and the quarterfinals are now set. Three players on this top-performances list come from yesterday's tournament matchups.
It's tough to predict the World Junior champion, since there is so much parity among the top teams. Through the preliminary round, Sweden appeared to be the most gold-bound team, but the Swedes always struggle in elimination games. Team USA is also a strong contender to defend its gold, and Canada won't be an easy out. Tuesday's games should be highly entertaining.
For now, we'll keep the focus on Monday and a top-performances list that features players from four leagues in addition to the World Junior names. Take a look at Monday's list below:
EVAN BOUCHARD -- Bouchard continues to distinguish himself as one of the 2018 draft pool's best defensemen. On Monday, he had three assists and six shots on goal in London's 4-2 win at Sarnia. All three assists came in the third period. The first, at 6:06, helped tie the score at 2-2. He then got the primary helper on a game-winning power-play goal at 19:10 for a 3-2 lead and helped set up an empty-netter with 14 seconds to go. Bouchard has a remarkable 33 assists and 46 points through 36 OHL games. His current six-game scoring streak has lifted him to fourth overall in OHL assists and a tie for seventh in points. He is also the league's highest scoring defenseman. (Note: Ninth appearance on this list in 2017-18 -- leads all defensemen)
AIDAN BROWN -- The Barrie Colts haven't suffered while Andrei Svechnikov is away at the World Juniors. On Monday, Brown, a right wing, helped Barrie with two goals in a 4-1 win over Owen Sound. The game's No. 2 star scored the opening goal at 13:51 of the first period. He got his second goal at 16:38 of the second for a 3-0 lead. Brown, hardly a high-scoring forward with only eight points in 29 OHL games, posted his first multi-point performance of the season.
NOAH DOBSON -- The QMJHL has some great prospects for the 2018 draft, and Dobson is among the likely first-rounders. He had a goal and two assists on Monday as Bathurst crushed Charlottetown 7-1. His goal, the opener came on a power play at 4:34 of the first period. His second point was the primary assist on the eventual game-winner for a 2-0 lead at 15:10 of the first. He later assisted on a power-play goal at 11:37 of the third to close the scoring. Dobson has been surging of late. He has points in three of four games, and his goal on Monday snapped a seven-game drought. (Note: Sixth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ALEXIS GRAVEL -- No QMJHL goalie has been hotter than Gravel of late. On Monday, he stopped 35 shots to lead Halifax to a 4-1 win at Cape Breton. He was particularly sharp in the first period, stopping all 15 shots. This was Gravel's fifth consecutive win. He is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts and has not allowed more than two goals in any of those games. His season goals-against average is down to 2.92, and his save percentage is up to .905. (Note: Eighth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
ISAAC JOHNSON -- Johnson was not a big-time WHL scorer -- until recently. On Monday, he continued his surprising surge with a goal and an assist in Tri-City's 4-3 win over Spokane. Honored as the game's No. 1 star, he had the primary assist on a goal that tied it 3-3 at 9:30 of the second period and then scored the power-play game-winner just over three minutes later at 12:44. Johnson has three multi-point performances in his last five games. His total of six points over those five dwarfs his 0.62 average over the first 26 games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MARTIN KAUT -- The Czechs have been one of the World Juniors' most pleasant surprises, and no Czech has been more pleasantly surprising than Kaut. Unfamiliar to North American fans, since he plays in the Czech Extraliga, Kaut is tied for second in WJC scoring with six points after picking up a goal and an assist in Monday's 6-3 win over Switzerland. He had the primary helper on a power-play goal at 11:07 of the first period to make it 2-1 and added a power-play game-winner of his own at 8:38 of the second to make it 4-3. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
CALEN KIEFIUK -- It was a New Year's Eve to remember for Kiefiuk, who scored the tying goal and scored in the OT shootout to lead Central Illinois to a 3-2 win over Madison. The University of Michigan recruit -- the game's No. 1 star -- scored on a power-play at 17:48 of the third period to force OT. He then notched the shootout's first goal. Kiefiuk, a left wing, has five goals and 15 points in 25 USHL games. That includes points in three of his last four outings. Unfortunately, he's an undersized player at 5-foot-8, which limits his potential to be drafted in June.
EMILIO PETTERSEN -- Norway's Pettersen capped off a strong December on Monday with two goals on five shots in the Muskegon Lumberjacks' 6-3 win at Chicago, earning No. 1 star honors. His first goal, scored only 15 seconds into the middle period, put Muskegon up 3-0. He added an empty-netter to close the scoring at 19:12 of the third. Pettersen, who will play college hockey for Denver, is riding a five-game USHL scoring streak with goals in four his last five games. He averaged a point-per-game in December with five goals and four assists during the month. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
MILOS ROMAN -- Slovakia finished the WJC preliminary round in style, beating Denmark 5-1 on Monday, as Roman provided his first two WJC goals. He got the Slovaks going at 11:42 of the first period, making it 1-1. In the second, he scored a shorthanded beauty, bringing the puck out from the corner and burning the goalie for a 3-1 lead. Roman, who plays for the WHL's Vancouver Giants, is boosting his draft stock on the international stage. (Note: Fourth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
BRADY TKACHUK -- The World Junior Championship is officially Brady Tkachuk's coming-out party. On Monday, the indomitable forward assisted on three goals -- one per period -- in Team USA's 5-4 win over Finland. He also led the Americans with 22:01 of icetime, which is pretty amazing for an 18-year-old forward. His first assist was the lone helper on a goal at 14:33 of the opening period for a 2-0 lead. In the second, he had the primary assist on a 5-on-3 power-play goal to make it 3-0. He closed his day with an assist on the game-winner at 18:23 of the third. With six points, Tkachuk is now tied for second in WJC scoring, trailing only linemate Case Mittelstadt, who has nine. (Note: Eighth appearance on this list in 2017-18)