The Div. I-A bracket of the IIHF under-20s doesn’t get much publicity. Oh sure, we’ll hear about which team won promotion to the World Junior Championship once the tournament is finished, but otherwise you’re not going to find a lot of headlines being written on the gathering. ThiLs year, however, there are some intriguing names eligible for the tournament, which takes place in Fussen, Germany. The battle for a slot in next year’s world juniors in the Czech Republic will be decided between the host nation, Austria, France, Belarus, Norway and Latvia. It should be a very competitive event, and it could’ve been even better were it not for some untimely injuries.
The Austrians got dinged the worst, with red-hot OHL rookie Marco Rossi hurting his elbow in late November (see pg. 60). Losing the Ottawa 67’s center is a huge blow. The host Germans may face some adversity, too, as 2019 draft prospect Moritz Seider was dealing with a shoulder injury. Seider, a big defenseman, is the best German prospect since Leon Draisaitl. He’d been playing in the DEL with Adler Mannheim before the setback. But even without Rossi and Seider, the second-tier shindig will be intriguing thanks to a number of prospects worth watching:
Dominik Bokk, RW, Germany: The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick (25th overall in 2018) has plenty of motivation to lead Germany back up to the top rung of the world juniors, since he’ll still be eligible for next year’s tournament. Bokk has played all year in the SHL with Vaxjo, chipping in a decent amount of offense for the Swedish squad. Bokk has tons of speed and skill, which will make him a big threat here.
Mathias Emilio Pettersen, C, Norway: One of the top NCAA freshmen nationwide so far, Pettersen has been excellent for the University of Denver, using his grab bag of puck skills to help lead the Pioneers’ offense. The Calgary Flames pick (167th overall in 2018) has represented Norway before at the Div. I-A under-18s and dominated, so expect him to push his squad offensively in Germany.
Vladislav Kolyachonok, D, Belarus: Bumped up to an ‘A’ rating by NHL Central Scouting once the 2018-19 season began, Kolyachonok has been producing quite well from the blueline for the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. A big offensive defenseman who loves to rush the puck, he has previously played for Belarus at the under-18s and will give the under-20s a nice dose of skill on the back end.
Alexandre Texier, C, France: The French need Texier to be huge this year, as NHL draft picks are a rarity for the national squad. Texier, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect (45th overall in 2017), brings talent and grit to the table, not to mention a lot of experience on the international stage. He even played for France at the World Championship this past spring, notching three points in seven games with the men. He’s been skating with KalPa in Finland’s top league.
Leon Gawanke, D, Germany: Now in his third season with the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Gawanke is also a veteran of Germany’s national junior teams. The Winnipeg Jets prospect (136th overall in 2017) can provide offense from the blueline.
Aliaksei Protas, C, Belarus: A towering specimen at 6-foot-5 and 192 pounds, Protas is a 2019 draft prospect with a great release who has put up nearly a point per game for the juggernaut Prince Albert Raiders in his first WHL season. He’s another international vet for Belarus, having played for the world under-18 team last year.
Kristian Roykas Marthinsen, LW, Norway: Playing in his first WHL season with the Saskatoon Blades, Marthinsen is a Washington Capitals pick (213th overall in 2017) who helped Norway get promoted from Div. I-B last year. He went pointless in that event but had good numbers the year prior at the U-18s.
Vladimir Alistrov, LW, Belarus: Alistrov was the top scorer on Belarus’ world under-18s team last year, and he can have a big impact on the under-20 team, too. The 2019 draft prospect is blessed with size and skill, which helped make him the second overall pick in the CHL import draft this past summer. He’s adjusting to the North American game with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.