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World Junior Championship: 12 Players That Can Return in 2023

The 2022 World Junior Championship just ended, but the 2023 event is only a few months away. Here's a look at 10 notable returning players for the winter spectacle.
Connor Bedard

With the 2022 World Junior Championship being pushed to this summer because of a mishandled COVID plan this past winter, many prospects will be pushing for NHL roster jobs that skipped the tournament to prepare. That meant plenty of younger talent got the opportunity to play bigger roles for their respective nations.

Let’s look at 10 players who will likely be back in the winter for the 2023 World Junior Championship.

C/W Connor Bedard, Canada

The projected first overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, Bedard plays with electrifying speed, incredible skill, and elite play reading ability. He scored four goals at this tournament before it was postponed back in December and followed that up by finishing eighth in tournament scoring this summer. It was evident that he was unfazed by attempts to intimidate him physically or verbally, pushing back whenever pushed himself and mixing it up after the whistle when necessary. Bedard has a legitimate shot at being the top forward at the tournament as a 17-year-old this winter. At this tournament, he was a top-line winger and will likely play on the top line again in December, but likely as a center.

RW Joakim Kemell, Finland

After finishing second in scoring to MVP Mason McTavish, expect Kemell to return for the Finns in December. Joakim Kemell was an offensive force, using his wicked shot and underrated playmaking ability to be a catalyst for the Finnish U-20 team. The Nashville Predators prospect is an aggressive forechecker who pressures opponents into turnovers in the offensive end. Kemell will be Finland’s top forward for the 2023 outing and should challenge for top scorer when all is said and done.

D Luke Hughes, USA

Despite his tournament ending with a turnover leading to an empty netter that sealed the deal on a quarterfinal exit for the Americans, Luke Hughes was a beast and a big part of USA's success during the round-robin. Thankfully, the New Jersey Devils’ prospect will have the opportunity to return in December and will be a favorite to win the top defenseman honor. His dominance at times was just a sneak peek into what Hughes will be able to do this winter.

C Ian Scherzer, Austria

Playing center primarily despite being one of the youngest players at this year’s tournament, Ian Scherzer was one of Austria’s best players. He plays with speed and intelligence, makings plays at both ends of the ice. He is an active and engaged player who doesn’t take shifts off. Scherzer is a 2023 draft-eligible player who had three points in four games, showing that not only does he belong but he can be a difference maker for an undermanned Austrian team. Coming back in December will be an excellent case to build his draft stock up during the season.

C Jiri Kulich, Czechia

One of Czechia’s best players, Kulich is eligible to return in the winter and should bring the goal-scoring touch that he has brought to every international event to the 2023 world juniors. The Buffalo Sabres’ first-round pick is a lethal powerplay threat thanks to a wicked one-time shot. At the summer world juniors he showcased his passing ability much more often than his shot, finishing with six assists in seven games, good for sixth best among all players. With Mysak aging out of the tournament, Kulich will be looked to as the main offensive catalyst in December.

C/W Dalibor Dvorsky, Slovakia

A member of Slovakia’s disappointing performance at this summer’s World Junior Championship, Dalibor Dvorsky will be looking to avenge the early ousting by helping Slovakia qualify for the quarterfinals and hopefully win that game as well. Dvorsky is an energetic player who has a big shot. He tore up the J20 Nationall last season and a few more months there and possibly an Allsvenskan stint between now and the next world juniors in December could make him one of the most interesting players to watch as he attempts to boost his stock for the 2023 NHL draft.

LW Attilio Biasca, Switzerland

The leading scorer of the Swiss team, Attilio Biasca will be looking to build off his solid summer world juniors. Struggling to put up consistent production in the QMJHL the last few years, Biasca seems to find another gear when playing for his nation. He is a bit one-dimensional offensively with limited playmaking ability but he has done a good job of finding the back of the net for a Swiss U-20 squad that needs players to score. He will be in his final year of eligibility in December so he will be looking to help drive Switzerland to a solid result at the 2023 World Junior Championship.

RW Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Sweden

The Swedish sniper didn’t make quite the impact that anyone hoped he would. That goes with the theme of most of the Swedish team who despite winning the bronze medal, largely underwhelmed throughout the world juniors. Jonathan Lekkerimäki has some nice puck skill and a heavy shot, whether off the rush or from a standstill. He wasn’t able to use it all that often this summer but look for him to be a big bigger physically and find ways to make his own shot rather than waiting for a teammate to make it happen. Lekkerimäki never seemed comfortable at the summer iteration of the world juniors but should be in midseason form when the 2023 event comes around.

LW Adam Sýkora, Slovakia

Given a bigger role with a few key names missing thanks to their NHL teams holding them out, Adam Sýkora was quite good at the summer world juniors. Sýkora plays a high-pace game and works hard at both ends of the ice. He will be a major piece to the Slovak team’s 2023 squad, likely to be leaned upon to play a major role offensively. Unfortunately, his tournament ended a bit early this summer as the New York Rangers prospect was given a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing. He hadn’t been having the offensive tournament he was expecting but the dirty knee isn’t indicative of his game. If Sýkora can find his offensive touch in December, he should be able to help the Slovaks to a better finish than this summer.

RW Fabian Lysell, Sweden

One of the fastest and most electrifying forward prospects in hockey, when Fabian Lysell is at his best, he is a handful for opposing defenders. Lysell will be eligible to return in the winter, looking to improve on the Swede’s bronze medal finish. The team looked lackluster, but Lysell was often one of the best catalysts at both ends of the ice, pressuring opponents with the puck whether it’s defenders on the forecheck or pestering opposing puck carriers in transition. Lysell will be considered to take on a leading role in December and the Boston Bruins prospect should be up to the task.

C Logan Cooley, USA

The Arizona Coyotes third overall pick was one of the American's most impressive players. Despite being the second youngest member of the squad, Cooley had his fingerprints on everything. Cooley’s intelligent two-way game, tactical offensive game, and ability to pull out the skilled moves that make him a dynamic presence were all evident. He will be an offensive leader for the team in the December tournament and should be one of the event's most dangerous scorers.

D David Jiříček, Czechia

Injured at the original attempt at this world juniors and returning to the summer event to have an up and down tournament, David Jiříček flashed the ability that made him the Columbus Blue Jackets' sixth overall pick. He will likely be back in December unless he makes the Blue Jackets’ roster in an unlikely turn of events, and if he is back, he will look to even out his performance. Jiříček can throw big hits and blast bombs from the point, both of which could make him one of the most entertaining players at the World Junior Championships when it returns to its regularly scheduled spot on the calendar. 

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