The World Juniors typically provide great context for draft eligibles participating.
First-year draft entrants are typically two years younger than the rest of the competition. While some of them compete in the college rankings or the European professional rankings, getting closer to the peer group can cause additional stress beyond the stress of competing for your country.
With a number of publicly available rankings and access to video platforms available, more and more hockey fans are paying more attention to the NHL Draft. The scrutiny of 17- and 18-year-old players has never been so intense.
Good performances at the Junior World Championships can go a long way in paving a player’s path forward. Documented pressure is one thing, but scouts taking an in-depth look at players in a best-on-best tournament provides an opportunity to confirm what has previously been observed in league play. What skills transfer, how does the skating perform, and in general can players achieve what they do in the league at the World Junior Championships? It’s definitely not the only determining factor in a player’s draft fate, but it does produce great, predictable information.
With that in mind, we saw some great performances from a number of the tournament’s draft entrants. Macklin Celebrini checked another box on his path to becoming the first player selected in the last in-person NHL draft. Konsta Helenius and Emil Hemming played important minutes for a Finnish team that wasn’t as talented as we are used to. Zeev Buium definitely took a step forward for the gold medal-winning Americans. Norwegian young star Michael Brandsegg-Nygard lived up to expectations, while injured Czech defender Adam Jiricek left us with more questions than answers after he was injured ten minutes into the first game.
All in all, the scouts came away with a wealth of information and a few new players to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. All this information must now be processed and presented at the next meeting of the respective teams.
There are a number of events for Scouts next month. The Chipotle All-American Game takes place on Monday in Plymouth, Michigan. A short time later, the CHL’s top 40 draft-eligible players will meet in Moncton, NB, for the Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Each of these events will be well attended by scouts, general meetings and, in many cases, general managers trying to get an on-the-ground feel for what the 2024 draft class looks like. In the first week of February, numerous scouts will also gather in Plymouth for the U18 Five Nations tournament. The USNTDP U18 team welcomes the top draft participants from Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.
It is important to emphasize the number of top defenders available in this group. Because it is a more coveted position, some of the more talented forwards will be pushed down and there will be a number of teams divided over whether to sign a defender or stick with one of the available forwards. The goalkeeper image remains unchanged from the first round. At this point, not a single goalkeeper has made it into the top 32.
The forward group will cause plenty of controversy in draft circles. According to Celebrini, there are a number of ways for teams to develop. Is it the sophisticated Ivan Demidov who provides highlights? Super sniper Cole Eiserman? How about the leadership of Berkly Catton or the greatness of Cayden Lindstrom? It will be exciting to see who from the forward group can gain momentum in the second half of the season.
Until then, here are our post-World Juniors 2024 NHL Draft rankings for the month of January.
1. Macklin Celebrini, C, Boston University (NCAA): His three-zone play against the best the world has to offer was beyond impressive for Canada at the WJC.
2. Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Has the unique ability to make plays in the middle of the puck handle. He has great top speed and is light on his skates.
3. Anton Silayev, D, Torpedo (KHL): Ice time and production have dropped significantly, but tall, lean defensemen are trending in the NHL right now, and he’s the tallest in his class.
4. Sam Dickinson, D, London Knights (OHL): An elite skater in a large package that is an effective player for all situations.
5. Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State University (NCAA): Not only can he move the puck because of his skating skills, but his handles are top notch for a big defenseman.
6. Berkly Catton, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Versatile offensive player who can quickly fend off defenders but can also adapt accordingly to create space.
7. Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): There’s nothing in the game that he can’t do well. In the second half the task will be to make it night after night.
8. Cole Eiserman, LW, USNTDP: Midway through the season, we’re still working at a goals-per-game pace. Defensive play and play away from the puck are the areas of concern.
9. Konsta Helenius, C, Jukurit (Liiga): Judging by the minutes played, he would have liked to have performed better at the Junior World Championships, but he is an all-rounder who is not afraid to go into battle.
10. Zayne Parekh, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): He is so electric offensively that you can live with some defensive deficiencies. It will be interesting to see how he handles the addition of two quality offensive defensemen to the Saginaw roster.
11. Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, RW, Mora (Allsvenskan): No wonder he was a leading player for Norway at the Junior World Championships. The next big challenge is to withstand the rigors of the second half of the Allsvenskan season.
12. Tij Iginla, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Continued success with eight multi-point attempts in his last ten games. A place in the top 10 by the end of the year is not out of the question.
13. Zeev Buium, D, Denver (NCAA): Significant contribution to Team USA’s gold medal efforts at the World Junior Championships. Played more than 18 minutes per game, scoring five points and a team-best plus-11 rating.
14. Ryder Ritchie, RW, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Good, old-fashioned hockey player with a certain stubbornness to his game. Has been out for almost a month with a lower body injury.
15. Emil Hemming, RW, TPS (Liiga): Further back in his development, he receives a higher rank due to a high ceiling. A more well-rounded game that relies less on his NHL-like ability to shoot the puck is recommended.
16. Sacha Boisvert, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL): A gifted playmaker who is difficult to contain in tight spaces. Can beat defenders wide at high speed and can also do it in the mid lane.
17. Liam Greentree, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Skating is unorthodox, but he always manages to get there. Plays a tough, physical game on both sides of the puck and has great skill.
18. Igor Chernyshov, LW, Moscow Dynamo (MHL): Chernyshov is not afraid to get physical and can force his opponents through
19. Carter Yakemchuk, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Although there are some flaws in his game, there are three things that excite NHL scouts: his size, his shooting and puck skills.
20. Henry Mews, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): There’s no doubt about his offensive abilities, but he’s gotten to the point where he needs to understand that he can’t defend with just his feet.
21. Trevor Connelly, C, Tri-City Storm (USHL): The days of teams overlooking previous violations are over. There are definitely teams that have him on a no-draft list.
22. Adam Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Extraliiga): The injury after a game at the Junior World Championships raises doubts about his extra league playing time before joining the national team.
23. Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK (Liiga): With an expected four-month absence, the Five Nations tournament would be the target for a return to play in early February and would be the perfect venue to kick-start the run to the end of the season.
24. Andrew Basha, LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): This player is fun to watch because you’re never sure what trick he’s going to pull out to insult himself or his teammates.
25. Matvei Shuravin, D, CSKA (MHL): Has played at least two games at three different levels in the last month alone, making it difficult to make a real statement. He’s never been a high-end producer, but there’s plenty of room for the free player who keeps it simple.
26. Beckett Sennecke, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL): Can evade defenders using size and reach. Can also beat defenders one-on-one with soft hands and good puck skills.
27. Terik Parascak, RW, Prince George Cougars (WHL): This proves that his great start was no coincidence. Has scored points in 13 of 15 games since December 3rd. The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game will be a big test.
28. Michael Hage, C, Chicago Steel (USHL): With the shoulder problem long behind him, his offensive production is starting to match his elite skating skills.
29. Tanner Howe, C, Regina Pats (WHL): As a player who leads by example, he is consistent in the fight. He won’t fall short at the next level, but he may not perform as projected based on over points per game at the junior level.
30. Charlie Elick, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): He’s starting to figure out how he’ll be most effective at the next level. Defensemen who move pucks effectively and are uncomfortable to play against have a chance to play for a long time.
31. Maxime Masse, RW, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Continues to show brilliant talent, but that may not be enough to keep him in the first round until June.
32. Alfons Freij, D, Vaxo J20 (Sweden): Blasted back into scouts’ consciousness at the World Jr. A Challenge, where he scored the most points of any defenseman. League play also produced solid numbers.