The 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship is over, and Canada has reclaimed the gold medal after not winning gold since 2009.
In the tournament, many got a good look at the future talents that could grace the presence of the National Hockey League. Many of the notable players have already been drafted and are property of teams throughout the NHL. However, there were 29 players who are yet to be drafted, and are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft on June 26th and 27th in Sunrise, Florida.
Which of these prospects improved its draft stock due to their performance at the World Juniors? Who’s draft stock was hurt by their performance at the World Juniors?
Let’s start with the players who improved their stock.
Connor McDavid – Projected Top Overall Pick
Connor McDavid was hurt? At the World Juniors, he sure looked 100-percent. McDavid ended the tournament tied with Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart and Winnipeg Jets prospect Nic Petan for the most points with eleven. McDavid scored three goals and added eight helpers for Team Canada, and also was tied for the team lead with 21 shots on goal.
McDavid showed off his speed, agility, extremely good puck handling skills, and showed everyone that his hand that he broke in November was healthy. McDavid was voted best player of the game against Germany in the preliminary round, and against Denmark in the quarterfinals. McDavid was also 61.67-percent on face-offs throughout the tournament while splitting time centering the second line with Ottawa Senators forward Curtis Lazar.
There was debate over whether or not Connor McDavid or Team USA forward Jack Eichel was going to be select with the top overall pick. With McDavid’s performance, there should be no more debate as to who should go first in the draft in June.
McDavid will now return to Erie of the Ontario Hockey League, where he has not played a game since November 11 when he broke his hand. Before his injury, McDavid scored 51 points in just 18 games with the Otters.
Lawson Crouse – Projected Top 10 Pick
Crouse was relatively quiet throughout the tournament, however he was able to audition his skills to the world before June’s draft. Crouse did score a nifty goal against Denmark in the quarterfinals, and added two assists throughout the tournament. Crouse was also part of the shut-down, fourth line with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier and Anaheim Ducks prospect Nick Ritchie. Crouse was thrown onto the ice to kill penalties, and to shut down top talent on opposing teams.
For Crouse to make the Canadian roster, which was already stacked with great talent before cuts were made, was an accomplishment in itself. Crouse is 6′ 4″, 211-pounds, and is a big kid who loves to drive to the net and score goals. In 24 games with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, Crouse has 12 goals and four assists.
Crouse is projected to go anywhere between four and ten in the NHL Draft in June. For him, he proved that he is up for the competition, and that he is ready for the next challenge that come his way. Crouse will be a nice addition to a team that drafts him in June, even if he is another year or two away from the NHL.
Zach Werenski – Projected Pick 10-20
Werenski really showed off his excellent two-way game, even though Team USA was ousted in the quarterfinals against Team Russia. Werenski played the puck very well in the and created multiple chances for his team in the offensive zone, while playing a strong defensive game by pushing players to the outside and not allowing for many scoring opportunities for the opposition.
Werenski scored a goal in the quarterfinal game against Russia, and also added an assist for Team USA in the tournament. Werenski was arguably Team USA’s best defender throughout the tournament along with Colorado Avalanche prospect Will Butcher.
With the way Werenski played at the World Juniors, and how he has performed in his freshman season with the Michigan Wolverines, Werenski’s draft stock has shot up, and has put himself with the names of Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington as the top defensive prospects in the NHL Draft this summer.
Werenksi has 12 points (three goals and nine assists) in 15 games played with the Wolverines this season.
Mikko Rantanen – Projected Pick 10-20
Rantanen was about the only positive for Team Finland at the World Junior Championships. Rantanen scored four of the eight goals scored in the tournament for Finland playing on the second line. Rantanen is not too well known for his scoring prowess, but he certainly showed in the tournament that he can puck the puck in the back of the net.
Rantanen is primarily known for his puck moving skills, and his smart, playmaking ability. Rantanen often has a reputation for not using his size to his advantage, being 6′ 4″ and 209-pounds, but compensates it with his ability to move the puck. If he could improve by using his size more, Rantanen could be a threat on the ice every time he is out there.
Rantanen plays in the Finnish Liiga for TPS, where he has two goals and nine assists in 31 games with the club.
Timo Meier – Projected Pick 20-30
Before the Wrold Junior Championship began, Timo Meier was projected to be an early to mid-second round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. After his play with his home country of Switzerland, Meier could very well go in the late end of the first round of the draft.
Meier and Switzerland did not get the results they wanted, but they survived the relegation round to relegate Team Germany back to Division I of the IIHF World Junior Championships. Meier scored two goals and added four assists for the Swiss, and was voted as one of the Top Three Players for Team Switzerland in the tournament. Meier was 47.73-percent on face-offs in the tournament, and also took 21 shots for Team Switzerland.
Meier plays with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he has 21 goals and 25 assists in 33 games with the team. Meier will head back to Halifax to try and help the Mooseheads push for a playoff spot.
Which players hurt, or did not improve their draft stock during the World Junior Championships?
Jack Eichel – Projected Pick 2
Eichel had an impressive first three games with Team USA before games against Team Canada and Team Russia. Michael did score a beautiful wrap-around goal against Germany, and also set up a nice goal for Minnesota Wild prospect Alex Tuch in the first game against Finland, however his expectations in this tournament were through the roof. In the end, Eichel only had four points, was a minus-3, and took three penalties in the tournament as captain of the USA squad.
What does this mean for Eichel? Well, he probably will not go number one overall ahead of Connor McDavid. Other than that, Eichel is still extremely talented, and is still expected to go second overall in the draft. His performance was disappointing in the games he needed to excel in, but his draft stock really has not changed.
Eichel will return to Boston to continue his Hobey Baker candidate season with the Boston University Terriers. In 16 games, Eichel has eight goals and 19 assists and is almost on a two points-per-game pace.
Pavel Zacha – Projected Pick 5-15
At one point, Zacha was projected to go in the top five of the draft. Since his season began in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, his draft stock is slowly beginning to decline. Zach has been known for his extreme energy on the ice and his playmaking ability, his discipline issues have been a problem. In 21 games with the Sting, Zacha has nine goals and ten assists, but has also notched 41 penalty minutes and has been suspended on two different occasions this season.
Zacha went to the World Juniors to try and help improve his draft stock by leading his Czech Republic squad to success. However, Zacha was almost a non-factor for the Czech as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Team Slovakia. Zach had a goal in the game against Russia to survive the preliminary round, but only added one other assist in the tournament. Zacha did not take one penalty in competition, but Zacha was only 40.68-percent on face-offs, and only took nine shots for the Czechs.
Zacha will go back to Sarnia and finish his season with the Sting, however he needs to figure out and improve his game before June comes. If he continues to play inconsistently for the rest of the year, his draft stock may continue to drop.
Ivan Provorov – Projected Pick 15-30
After beginning the season with 37 points in 35 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings, there was a lot of excitement for Ivan Provorov to do something great with Team Russia at the World Junior Championship.
Even though he won the silver medal, he was unable to establish himself on a defensive pairing throughout the tournament. Provorov finished the tournament with only one assist, and only five shots on goal. The expectations were big, however Provorov could not come through on the expectations.
Provorov could salvage his draft stock and improve it by continuing his strong season in Brandon, but it is still expected for Provorov to go in the first round of the draft. The World Juniors could not improve Provorov’s draft stock at all.