Canada’s final WJC camp roster is out, with just three cuts to go – two forwards and a defenseman. That means the pressure is off goalies Zach Fucale and Jake Paterson (at least until the tournament starts). More announcements from Team USA and Sweden are coming this week, so you know the world juniors are close. Let’s take a look around the prospect world at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Brock McGinn, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Though he didn’t get an invite to Canada’s WJC camp, McGinn has been one of the breakout players in the Ontario League this season. His Guelph Storm squad has outscored opponents 144 to 86 and if it weren’t for division mates Erie, Guelph would be the best crew in the league.
“We’re definitely a fast team,” McGinn said. “When you play good defensively, the offense comes and we’re getting our breaks on 3-on-2’s thanks to that defense.”
The youngest of three elite brothers, Brock has seen Jamie put down roots in Colorado and Tye jump out to a great start in Philadelphia before being sent down to the American League. Though the youngest stereotypically takes the brunt of abuse, McGinn can’t complain about his situation.
“It helps out a lot,” he said. “We train together in the summer and we communicate almost every day during the season, just helping each other out. We feed off each other.”
The Carolina prospect blends speed, skill and creativity to create space for his linemates and offensive chances for himself. His 45 points in 28 games has him tied for fourth in OHL scoring and the lessons he learned in Carolina over the summer gave him new direction.
“Going to my first NHL camp, I definitely felt that helped,” McGinn said. “You go out every shift and you can’t make any mistakes, so I wanted to bring that back here.”
McGinn may not have gotten a chance to represent Canada over the holidays, but don’t be surprised if he helps Guelph contend for an OHL title a few months later. Drafted 47th overall by Carolina in 2012.
J.T. Compher, LW – University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Team USA’s final WJC camp roster comes out Wednesday and it’s a good bet Compher will be on it. He was one of the squad’s most impressive players at the summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, combining grit and smarts, plus he’s been lightning as a freshman for the Wolverines. In 13 games, Compher has posted five goals and 14 points. Drafted 35th overall by Buffalo in 2013.
Juuse Saros, G – HPK (Fin.)
Saros may be the Cory Schneider of Finland this season – great individual efforts that aren’t getting rewarded in the win column. The youngster is playing in Finland’s top league and has the SM-Liiga’s second-best goals-against average (1.83) and fourth-best save percentage (.924). But his HPK squad can’t score in front of him, giving Saros a 4-4-9 record overall. At least he can look forward to battling Joonas Korpisalo for Finland’s crease at the world juniors. Drafted 99th overall by Nashville in 2013.
Anthony Mantha, RW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
His chemistry with Charles Hudon and Jonathan Drouin during the CHL-Russia series was just another checkmark on Mantha’s WJC resume. But with 30 goals and 62 points in just 28 games with the Foreurs, it’s pretty obvious what the big kid can bring to the table in Malmo. Drafted 20th overall by Detroit in 2013.
Sebastian Aho, D – Skelleftea (Swe.)
After a successful stint in juniors, where he was nearly a point-per-game player from the blueline, Aho was promoted up to the Swedish League, the nation’s top circuit. An undersized offensive D-man, Aho is comfortable with the puck and can be a top power play contributor. Draft eligible in 2014.
Felix Girard, C – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Team Canada fans may be wondering who Girard is after he cracked the world junior team’s final camp roster and here’s the best stat to prove his worth: The Baie-Comeau pivot is winning nearly 66 per cent of his faceoffs this year, leading the Quebec League in draws won. Think that might come in handy late in a game? Drafted 95th overall by Nashville in 2013.
Taylor Leier, LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Another surprise entry for Canada’s WJC final camp roster, Leier showed off his speed and skill on a shorthanded goal versus the Russians at the CHL Super Series, showing off a nice dimension to his game. After winning the Western League title with the Hawks last season, Leier has returned with force, potting 19 goals and 38 points in 28 games. Drafted 117th overall by Philadelphia in 2012.
Matt Berkovitz, D – Ashwaubenon Jaguars (Wisc. HS)
The Jags haven’t exactly been tested in their first two contests, outscoring opponents 25-0, so Berkovitz’s plus-11 rating may be a bit misleading. The five points so far are nice, but the University of Wisconsin commit can do a lot more out there and is just as good in the defensive end as he is when he has the puck on his stick. The cerebral Berkovitz is just one of several Wisconsin high schoolers to watch this season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Maxim Letunov, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
The Russian-born Letunov played some minor hockey in Dallas before hitting up the United States League and though it’s obvious he needs to bulk up his 6-foot-2, 155-pound frame, there’s a lot to like about the kid. The Boston University commit skates well and has great hands around the net, helping him to nine goals and 18 points in 21 games. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nikolay Goldobin, RW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Consistency has been an issue with Goldobin, but not lately. The superbly skilled Russian has been on fire with a seven-game point streak, not to mention a nice showing at the CHL-Russia series, where he and his homeboys won both games against the OHL for the first time ever. Draft eligible in 2014.