The 2018 World Championship will kick off Friday in Denmark with a battle between the Team Canada and Team USA, and the star-studded affair is sure to be a draw for the tournament with the likes of Connor McDavid, Mathew Barzal and Brayden Schenn pulling on the maple leaf to take on a stars-and-stripes squad led by Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau and Anders Lee.
And while the big names are certainly one reason to tune into the tournament, we know full well what the likes of McDavid and Kane can accomplish on the big stage. They’re proven commodities, and the expectation is that they’ll be able to steal the show whenever they touch the ice. So, instead of taking a look at the 10 players we can count on to make an impact over the course of the two-week tournament, let’s set our gaze on several players who could turn some heads with their play in Denmark.
Thomas Chabot, D, Canada
Chabot was among the NHL's top prospects entering the 2017-18 campaign, but it took him some time to find his groove with the Ottawa Senators. That’s to be expected for a 21-year-old defenseman, of course. But as the season wore on, Chabot saw his ice time and responsibility increase, skating nearly 20 minutes per game over the final month of the campaign. He was nearly a half-point-per-game player over that stretch, too, and he could further his development in a big way with this opportunity on the international stage.
Pavel Francouz, G, Czech Republic
The NHL-less Olympics allowed for a few relative unknowns — at least to North American fans — to shine through for their international clubs, and few netminders stood out quite as much as Francouz. Across six games, he posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .905 save percentage, and while those may not stand out all that much, consider that only three goaltenders faced more rubber. Further, Francouz’s KHL numbers were a shining 1.80 GAA and .946 SP in 35 games. He signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche, so he’s NHL-bound next season.
Martin Necas, C, Czech Republic
Technically, Necas, the 12th overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft, made the Carolina Hurricanes out of training camp. We say technically, though, because he only actually saw one game before being loaned to the Czech League. The 19-year-old went back home and performed rather well, too, putting up nine goals and 17 points in 24 regular season games before adding another four goals and nine points in 14 playoff outings. He was Carolina’s top prospect — and sixth overall — in THN's 2018 Future Watch, though the former ranking stands to change with the Hurricanes possessing the second overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Miro Heiskanen, D, Finland
The Dallas Stars don’t have a deep prospect pool, but they do have Heiskanen, who may very well be the most highly touted blueline prospect outside of Rasmus Dahlin. In 2018 Future Watch, Heiskanen, who scored 14 goals and 32 points in 44 games in the Finnish League including post-season play, finished third overall and right at the top of the heap when it came to Dallas’ system. The expectation is the 18-year-old, who just won the Finnish League’s top defenseman award, will be playing in North America come the 2018-19 season. With valuable experience at the worlds, he could land a spot on the Stars' blueline.
Dominik Kahun, C, Germany
Whereas Francouz stands a chance to increase his stock at the worlds following a great KHL campaign and solid Olympic performance, Kahun has already punched his ticket to a gig stateside with a big performance over the past campaign. Post-season included, Kahun scored 16 goals and 55 points in 59 games in the German League, and his two-goal, five-point showing at the Olympics put him on many an NHL radar. The Chicago Blackhawks signed Kahun, 22, to a two-year, entry-level deal in late April. He’s going to be using this tournament as part of his tuneup for upcoming camps as he seeks a spot in the NHL.
Nikita Tryamkin, D, Russia
Vancouver Canucks fans were plenty excited about Tryamkin’s potential back during the 2015-16 season when the then-21-year-old made his way across the pond. But after just 79 games in the NHL, Tryamkin, Vancouver’s third-round, 66th overall selection in 2014, decided he wanted to head back to Russia to continue his career. He did exactly that last season with the KHL’s Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, with whom the now-23-year-old defender scored nine goals and 25 points in 51 games. There’s still potential for a return to the NHL at some point, so Canucks fans in particular might want to keep a watchful eye on Tryamkin.
Martin Fehervary, D, Slovakia
Is he a top prospect? Not exactly, but Fehervary, 18, is probably going to go somewhere in the top half of the draft and he was ranked as the 15th-best European skater in the draft by Central Scouting. He had a decent season in the Swedish second league and he’s going to be playing in the top league come next season. Here’s the thing, though: he can really improve his stock with a strong performance at the worlds. He should get an opportunity, and it’ll be up to him to take it.
Elias Pettersson, C, Sweden
Let’s run down the 19-year-old Pettersson’s accomplishments this past season: Swedish League's top forward, scoring champion, rookie of the year, MVP and post-season MVP, as well as a Swedish League title and a World Junior silver. So, you might get why Canucks fans are excited about Pettersson’s potential, especially with him in line to head to the NHL as soon as next season. Add to it that a panel of scouts ranked him as the No. 2 prospect in 2018 Future Watch and everyone who wants a look at potential Calder Trophy candidate for next season should be watching Pettersson play.
Mikael Wikstrand, D, Sweden
Maybe it’s a bit off the board, but Wikstrand is an interesting case. He was a highly touted Senators prospect for whom the organization had high hopes, but he made a controversial exit from the team ahead of the 2015-16 season, basically disappearing in the middle of the night and flying back to Sweden. He has said recently, however, that he still has visions of playing in the NHL someday. The 24-year-old has scored nine goals and 37 points in 93 games over the past two seasons in the Swedish League, and he also chipped in two goals and three points in four games at the Olympics.
Quinn Hughes, D, USA
Team USA management hasn’t shied away from taking up-and-coming talent to the worlds in recent years, and it’s no different this time around as Hughes is being brought along for the ride this time. The 18-year-old is considered one of the top 10 prospects in the upcoming draft — our own Ryan Kennedy has him going sixth to the Detroit Red Wings — after putting up five goals and 29 points in 34 games at the University of Michigan this past season. He could be a standout if he gets the opportunity, just as Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau have been before him.
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