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Top 7 2022, 2023 Draft-Eligible European Players to Watch at the World Juniors

From names falling down the 2022 board looking to redeem themselves to players who have been on fire all season, the World Juniors will feature quite the array of draft-eligible talent once again. Here's a look at seven names you need to know for 2022 and 2023.
Dalibor Dvorsky

With the World Junior Championships right around the corner and rosters being announced, Rachel Doerrie and Tony Ferrari have brought you some of the key names to watch for from the 2022 and 2023 and drafts. 

From names falling down the 2022 board looking to redeem themselves to players who have been on fire all season, the World Juniors will feature quite the array of draft-eligible talent once again.

Here's a look at seven names you need to know:

RW Matvei Michkov, Russia (2023)

It’s not often Russia brings a double under-ager to the World Junior tournament (read: it literally never happens). 

Their obsession with bringing 19-year-olds and no players playing in North America is steadfast. Matvei Michkov, congratulations on breaking through that brick wall. It shouldn’t be a surprise, Michkov is being touted as “the best Russian prospect since Ovechkin” and no one needs a refresher on who Alexander Ovechkin is. Michkov’s game is more akin to Nikita Kucherov’s style - not a bad comparison. He’s dynamic, he’s shifty, and he possesses a lethal shot. Offensively, he’s gifted in nearly every aspect of the game. He can beat you with his hands, his shot, and his ability to read the play. He’s the entire package and unafraid to show off every tool in the toolbox.

He broke Ovechkin’s record as the youngest player in the KHL. He has five points in 13 games at the KHL level. At the MHL level against his peers who are a little older, he is averaging 2.5 points per game and 1.5 goals per game. Whether he’s pulling off the Michigan or making defenders look like pylons, he’s the most noticeable player on the ice. Michkov and Bedard (Canada) stole the show at the U-18 tournament in Dallas and if their respective coaches allow for it, no one should be surprised if we see flashes of their brilliance at this tournament.

C Dalibor Dvorsky, Slovakia (2023)

Bursting onto the scene in the summer at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup this summer, Dvorsky is a blast to watch. The offensive wizard plays with an attack mindset at all times. He has one of the most dangerous releases on the Slovak U-20 squad despite being just 16 years old, and don't expect him to be buried too deep in the lineup.

With an excellent shot and underrated playmaking ability paired with good hands in tight spaces, the young Slovak forward could very well be one of the team’s most dangerous scorers at the world juniors. Dvorsky plays in the Swedish junior league has been quite impressive and he has even scored a goal at the Allsvenskan level against men. 

LW Juraj Slafkovský, Slovakia (2022)

The hulking 6-foot-4 winger is sure to be one of Slovakia’s best and most exciting players. Slafkovský's play at the Liiga level this year has been better than expected, with his vision and passing ability translating quite nicely. He is a good skater who has room to improve but it certainly isn’t an area that presents a great deal of concern. Slafkovský reads defensive schemes quite well, waiting for developing passing lanes and striking as soon as the seam presents itself.

Slafkovský looked absolutely outstanding at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in the summer. Playing on a line primarily with Filip Mešár and Dalibor Dvorsky, the Slovak top line was nearly unstoppable. If Slovakia wants to reunite the trio, they would again have one of the more dynamic lines that they’ve ever had at the tournament. They would be young, considering both Mešár and Slafkovský are 17 and Dvorsky is 16 but the trio has had success in the past so at least trying them out again would be a fun experiment to start.

RW, Joakim Kemell, Finland (2022)

Kemell has been a steady riser on draft boards and with good reason. He’s already shown pro-level habits on and off the puck. He’s a threat to score from in tight and mid-range with his deceptive release. There aren’t many players at his age with clean shooting mechanics and accuracy, he’s one of them. He’s a good skater with sneaky 1-on-1 handling skills that can create highlight-reel goals. It’s the type of thing that may not always work at the NHL level, but is extremely fun in junior.

Kemell is an excellent forechecker, not afraid to be physical and picks his spots to jump up and create turnovers. Kemell is one of the players who could find himself in an elevated role as an underager and playing really important minutes for the Finns. No matter what happens, he’s going to be fun to watch.

D David Jiříček, Czech Republic (2022)

The 18-year-old Jiříček has been one of the best blueliners eligible for the 2022 NHL draft this season. With excellent size at 6-foot-3 and smooth skating ability, the young Czech-born defender has ascended into the top-10 on many boards. He combines an intelligent offensive game and a mean streak in front of his own net to present one of the most intriguing skillsets in the draft class. He has found himself in hot water a couple of times this season with a tendency to let his emotions and physicality get the best of him. 

Playing in the Czech pro league, Jiříček also has the ability to play a dynamic role at the blueline. He shows off his puck skills and four-way mobility regularly, displaying plus powerplay tendencies and offensive instincts. Jiříček has a heavy shot from the point as well which should be an asset for the Czech squad at the world juniors. Expect him to assert his name near the top of draft boards as he attempts to stake a claim as the draft’s top defenseman.

RW Danila Yurov, Russia (2022)

Yurov is the best Russian prospect eligible for the 2022 NHL draft and it isn’t close at this point. His play at the World Under-18s was outstanding. Playing a great deal with Ivan Miroshnichenko, the pair seemed to work well together as Yurov was the play driver while Miroshnichenko was an excellent passenger. Yurov made the World Junior roster while Miroshnichenko was left at home. For anyone wondering which of the two 2022 draft eligibles has asserted themselves near the top of draft boards, it’s been Yurov.

Yurov’s versatile skillset is what brings value to the Russian squad. He has the offensive instincts and confidence to play higher in the lineup and the workmanlike attitude to play in the bottom-six. His tools are above-average across the board, with excellent off-puck play at both ends of the ice. Yurov will likely play a bottom-six role at the world juniors and he should excel. His persistence on the forecheck will create turnovers for the Russian squad, taking good lines to the puck consistently. The Russian U-20 team is notorious for limiting their young players and although Yurov may fall into that category, his upside at the event may present an opportunity to surprise in a depth role.

C/RW, Brad Lambert, Finland (2022)

The Canadian-born Finn is quite the conversation topic amongst the scouts this season. A slow start in Liiga has seen Lambert tumble down draft boards from what many considered to be a lottery pick after Shane Wright. He’s a fantastic skater that allows him to get to places and maneuver better than his peers. His edgework and balance combined with his elite puck handling make him a tough player to deal with on the puck. Off the rush, Lambert stops and turns up ice to find the trailers and creates many scoring chances. His decision-making is the biggest question mark, and against players who are more mature, it will be something to watch for.

The Finns will be missing Aatu Raty due to COVID, and Lambert could be counted on to provide some much-needed offense. After a very slow start, this is a fantastic opportunity to show scouts what he can do against top-tier junior competition. He has a real chance to showcase the dynamic skating and puck skills he possesses to show he belongs in the top-10 of the 2022 class.

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