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World Under-18s: Ten Players Who Need Big Tournaments

The crucial on-ice showcase for the 2022 NHL Draft is filled with talent, but some players must thrive more than others to prove their worth.
Pano Fimis. Photo by Brandon Taylor/OHL Images.

Pano Fimis. Photo by Brandon Taylor/OHL Images.

The IIHF world under-18s begin this week and as always, the stakes are high. Not only are these kids going for national glory, but many of the participants are eligible for the 2022 NHL draft. The world under-18s are their last chance to impress scouts on the ice and for a number of draft hopefuls, this tournament will be incredibly crucial. Here's a look at 10 players who need to have a positive impact in Germany if they want to leave a great final impression in the minds of scouts.

Pano Fimis, C, Canada: Playing for a bad OHL Niagara squad, Fimis managed 44 points in 54 games while also missing time due to an upper-body injury. A smaller two-way center with skill and compete level, Fimis also missed a year of development thanks to the cancellation of last year's OHL season - which would have been his first. Now surrounded by talent on Canada, he's got a great chance to strut his stuff.

Spencer Sova, D, Canada: Scouts like his size, skating and poise, but were hoping for more progression after Sova looked good in the summer at Canada's national camp in Calgary. Like Fimis, Sova was robbed of his OHL rookie season last year and also played for a basement team (in his case, the Erie Otters).

Matthew Morden, D, Canada: Playing a big role on the Prep Hockey Conference's St. Andrew's College Saints, Morden gets a fantastic opportunity in landing a spot on Team Canada. The 6-foot-5, 203-pound Harvard commit hasn't played against the same CHL or USHL competition as many of his North American counterparts, so this will give scouts a chance to see how he fits into the big picture.

Cruz Lucius, RW, USA: A wicked offensive weapon, Lucius missed most of the NTDP season with an undisclosed injury but has four points in his past four games as he regains his form. The younger brother of Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Chaz Lucius needs a big tourney to remind scouts of how he played last year, when he was a point-per-gamer.

Otto Salin, D, Finland: Two significant injuries and a bout with Covid have pockmarked Salin's season but when the kid has been on the ice, he's been exciting. Dynamic, creative and calm on the blueline, Salin has a ton of potential. He made his Liiga debut this season while also putting up a point per game for HIFK's under-20 squad.

Topias Leinonen, G, Finland: Another Finnish kid who has been held back by injuries, Leinonen nonetheless is seen as one of the few goaltenders in this draft class with NHL starter potential. The 6-foot-5 netminder still has a lot of work to do on his game, but a strong tournament in Germany would definitely help his resume. Leinonen made his Liiga debut with JYP this season, too.

Toppi Ronni, C, Finland: Ronni has improved as the season progressed and scouts like his smart, responsible two-way game. But how much offense can he provide? That's the big question. Scouts believe he could easily be a fourth-line center in the NHL, but perhaps he can prove himself to be more in Germany.

Julian Lutz, LW, Germany: The best prospect available from the host Germans, Lutz missed most of the season with a back issue. Once he stepped in with Red Bull Munich however, it looked like he hadn't missed a beat. Lutz has skating, skill and size and with a big tournament could be a first-rounder or at least an early second-rounder.

Alexander Suzdalev, LW Sweden: With size, skill and skating ability, the son of a former bandy player has a lot going for him, but scouts want to see him put it all together and be more direct on the ice. Sweden's going to have a very solid team in Germany, so Suzdalev will have a great chance to show what he can do.

Jan Spunar, G, Czechia: As noted before, this is a thin year for goaltending, but that does mean opportunity for those who can shine. Spunar is one of the top-rated netminders in Europe and if he can carry the load for the Czechs, he'll make his case even stronger. At 6-foot-3, Spunar has the size and with Czechia playing Canada, Team USA and Germany, the competition will be strong.

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