On the last day of 2014, hockey fans get to see arguably the best two nations in the hockey world compete against each other in the World Junior Championships (WJC) preliminary round. The hype of this game is through the roof with so many storylines within the game itself. It is the matchup of the projected 1st and 2nd overall draft picks Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. With both teams coming in undefeated, it’s also a battle for the top seed in Group-A. Of course it also for bragging rights between these two powerhouse nations.
Eichel vs. McDavid
The top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft are Jack Eichel, from Chelmsford, MA, USA and Connor McDavid, from Richmond Hill, ON, CAN. These two stars have taken different routes on their road to the NHL, but both are having success in the leagues they play in. Eichel plays for Boston University in the NCAA and McDavid plays for the Erie Otters in the OHL. McDavid was tearing up the OHL, leading the league with 51 points in just 18 games before breaking his hand in a fight. Eichel is taking the “cawlidge hawkey,” route and he is a huge part of why Boston University is back on top of the college hockey rankings. He leads BU and all freshmen in the NCAA in points with 27.
Scouts will be drooling, having these two on the same ice together. With Eichel being compared to Ryan Getzfal and McDavid being compare to Sidney Crosby, this has to be the most anticipated World Junior game since we saw Russia take on Canada in 2005. Couple guys named Ovi and Sid-the-Kid were involved in that one.
The Other Stars We Could See In The NHL Next Year:
Eichel and McDavid are getting all the attention because they are draft eligible in 2015 but there are so many other guys we can talk about that will be hitting the ice in the NHL sooner than later. Let’s start with a couple of Americans that I think are knocking on the door into the NHL. Alex Tuch, prospect of the Minnesota Wild, is a big body forward (6’4” 220lbs) that has a cannon of a shot and has playing on a line with Eichel. Tuch is a product of the USA development team and in now playing for the Boston College Eagles. He is adjusting to the college game and has 12 points in 17 games for the Eagles. The reason I think you could see him in the NHL sooner than later is his ability to get to the front of the net and score. Look at the Wild’s roster; it is filled with tons of speed but not a lot of natural goal scorers. Exactly what Tuch is, imagine him on a line with Zach Parise. Parise would do all the work and Tuch would just have to put his 6’4” frame in front of the net call for the puck and release his cannon.
My man Milano might have some of the smoothest hands I have ever seen. If you haven’t Youtubed Sonny Milano, DO IT, your jaw will drop.
Milano is showing off his talents in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers but could be getting a call from the Columbus Bluejackets as soon as next year. Sonny already has the speed necessary for the NHL. He showed it off in USA’s last game against the Slovaks. Milano flew by two of their defenders and then went top shelf for a beautiful goal to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Milano will be a hit in the NHL, ladies love him, and his jersey will fly off the shelves in Columbus. Call Sonny he’ll make you some money Columbus.
Larkin is lurking. I have already talked about three stars on Team USA and I haven’t mentioned anything about their leading scorer, Dylan Larkin, Larkin has 5 point in the WJC and has won player of the game honors in two out of three of the USA’s games. Larkin is living the dream of so many kids who grew up in the state of Michigan. Last year, he was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings and this year he is a freshman at University of Michigan. He has hit the ground running. He has 16 point in 15 games for the Wolverines this season. With Detroit’s lineup getting older and older, Larkin is lurking for his chance to step up and head into the NHL.
Buffalo is rebuilding and Hudson Fasching is another piece to their puzzle. Fasching is a lot like Alex Tuch, he’s a 6’4” forward that is almost impossible to knock off the puck. Now, in his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota, he has 19 goals as a Gopher. With all of the young talent that the Buffalo Sabres are adding to their lineup, Fasching is going to be another huge piece in the Sabers’ future.
Now some love for the Canadians, we have to start with Anthony Duclair and Curtis Lazar who left their NHL teams to play in this tournament. Duclair has 7 points for the New York Rangers and Lazar has 7 points for the Ottawa Senators. Both have found success in the NHL and don’t look like they are leaving anytime soon.
Max Domi is another star that you will see on the ice this afternoon. 1st round drafted pick of the Arizona Coyotes, Domi has been dominating on the first line of Canada. The captain of the London Knights in the OHL, Domi could help out the struggling Coyotes with his talents. Arizona will be happy to see his face in camp next year. A huge offensive threat and a born leader, perfect to get the Arizona franchise back on the map.
Sam Reinhart already had a little taste of the NHL early this year for the Sabers but was sent back to the WHL to develop for one more year.
In the WHL, Reinhart has 27 points in just 15 games for the Kootenay Ice. The 2nd overall pick in 2014 has been showing off his talent in the WJC. He has 5 points for Team Canada, including his two-goal performance against team Finland, the Canadians toughest competition so far in the tournament. Reinhart has great vision on the ice and a high hockey IQ. Another great young prospect of the Sabres, maybe one day we will see him and the U.S.’s Hudson Fasching on a line together.
The leading scorer in the WJC is Nic Petan, with 6 points in three games. Petan is a Winnipeg Jets prospect and has been throwing some serious sauce in this years’ tournament. He has 27 assists for the Portland Winterhawks in 26 games in the WHL, where he also serves as their team captain. Petan might be one of the creative players in the WJC and with Winnipeg improving and contending for a playoff spot this season; Petan could be a spark that pushes them over the hump next season. Petan, Kane, and Wheeler sounds like unreal line for the Jets next season.
The fien Fabbri is bringing smiles to the face to fans of the St. Louis Blues. 2 goals and 2 assist for man from Mississauga, Ontario, so far in the WJC. With over 100 points in the past two years in the OHL Robby Fabbri has continued to impress. McDavid, Petan, and Fabbri has been very successful on the powerplay for the Canadians.
Get familiar with the faces you see hit the ice tonight because they will be in the NHL very soon. Both Team USA and Team Canada are filled with prospects that will have huge impacts in the NHL very soon.
When is comes down to it, with so much talent on both teams it is hard to pick a winner. I look for it to be a very high tempo game. Both teams like to use their team speed to their advantage. There are going to be lots of scoring chances. It is going to come down to goaltending and which team can be more physical and slow down the other team. I give the edge to Canada in this game, a big reason why is because the Canadian will be at home and have the huge crowd on their side but I don’t think this will be the last time these two teams meet in this tournament. I see these teams meeting up again in the gold medal game and it might be a different story that time around.
Canada 4 USA 3
Thanks for reading and enjoy the game on New Years’ Eve. We are in store for some great hockey!