William Nylander (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The World Junior Championship is a great way for fans to get a look into the future of the NHL as it features players who have already been drafted by NHL squads. How are NHL top picks doing at the World Juniors? Take a read and find out.
The World Junior Championship is packed full of talented players from all over the globe, some of whom have already been drafted by an NHL franchise. Today, let's take a look at how the top pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft from each country participating in the 2015 world junior is performing. The list below is in alphabetical order.
Canada - Sam Reinhart – selected 2nd overall by the Buffalo Sabres
Reinhart has been a part of Canada's most dominant line alongside Max Domi and Anthony Duclair. The 19-year-old native of North Vancouver, B.C. is one of the hottest players in the world juniors, tied with Sweden's Oskar Lindblom and William Nylander for the tournament lead in points at nine. Four of his nine points are goals, his plus-minus of 10 leads the tournament and he's tied for the tournament lead in game-winning goals with two.
It's safe to say he's killing it and Buffalo hopes he does more of what he did below in the future:
Czech Republic - Jakub Vrana – selected 13th overall by the Washington Capitals
Vrana had a decent world juniors tournament for his now-ousted Czech squad, earning three points, two of which were goals. The 18-year-old native of Prague was undisciplined at times, making bad decisions with the puck, but he did lead the team in shots on goal with 19. One Czech player who was impressive was David Pastrnak, selected by Boston 25th overall in 2014, so keep an eye out for him in the Bruins farm system.
Denmark - Nikolaj Ehlers – selected 9th overall by the Winnipeg Jets
Denmark was the Cinderella story of the 2015 world juniors, winning their first game at the tournament in 16 tries. They were ousted by Canada Friday, but their spirited effort throughout the tournament was a joy to watch.
Leading the Danes was Ehlers, who along with Columbus Blue Jackets pick Oliver Bjorkstrand, did most of the damage for Denmark.
Ehlers earned four points, one of which was a goal, while ripping 15 shots on net in a consistent performance Jets fans certainly enjoyed watching.
Finland - Julius Honka – selected 14th overall by Dallas Stars
Honka, like the Finns, were a bit of a disappointment at the world juniors. The defending champions were ousted in the quarterfinals by Sweden and the 19-year-old defenseman was penalty-heavy, earning six penalty minutes, while also looking irresponsible in the defensive zone. He did blast 19 shots on net and should make a capable D-man in the NHL after he adds some muscle.
Germany – no player on team was drafted in 2014
If Leon Draisaitl was playing for this German squad, this story and potentially the team's performance at the world juniors may have read differently. No player on the German squad was drafted by a NHL team in 2014, the team will not be returning to the tournament next season and Draisaitl is expected to be demoted by the Edmonton Oilers this weekend. Not a good weekend for German hockey.
Russia – Nikolai Goldobin – selected 27th overall by the San Jose Sharks
The top Russian player selected in the 2014 draft was Nikita Scherbak, one pick ahead of Goldobin, but Scherbak isn't on the Russian team at the world juniors, so Goldobin gets the nod for the purpose of this story.
Goldobin has been pretty mediocre for a Russian squad that ousted a tough U.S. team Friday. The forward has three points in the tournament and has been outplayed and out-hustled by opponents at times. His teammate Ivan Barbashev, drafted 33rd by the St. Louis Blues in 2014, has been the real gem on this team so far.
Slovakia – no player on team was drafted in 2014
The top Slovakian player taken in the 2014 draft was goaltender Maximilian Pajpach by the Colorado Avalanche at pick 174 and he isn't playing at the world juniors. However, honourable mention has to be given to forwards Peter Cehlarik and Martin Reway, who have been the top scorers on a very structured squad, that has surprised many in the tournament.
Cehlarik was drafted by the Bruins 90th overall in 2013, while Reway was taken by the Montreal Canadiens 116th in the same draft.
Sweden - William Nylander – selected 8th overall by Toronto Maple Leafs
What a showcase so far for the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander. The 18-year-old is tied for the tournament lead in points with nine, his team is playing spectacular hockey and looks poised for a bid in the finals and he's doing it all in front of a Toronto crowd, who are salivating at the youth tossing on Leafs white and blue in the near future and scoring goals like the one below.
The crowds at the Air Canada Centre have even started chants for Nylander on more than one occasion and the youngster seems to be relishing in the spotlight of hockey-crazed Toronto.
Switzerland – Kevin Fiala - selected 11th overall by Nashville Predators
Fiala was easily the best player on the Swiss squad coming into the world juniors, but it was very apparent he was trying to do too much for this team. He racked up 16 penalty minutes and fired 22 shots on net. It was clear that, despite some decent moments, the Swiss were overwhelmed by their opponents. It didn't help that Fiala lacked patience, which he'll need to work on if he wants to succeed in the show with the Predators.
USA - Dylan Larkin – selected 15th overall by Detroit Red Wings
All of the talk and hoopla surrounding the U.S. squad was about Jack Eichel, but it was Larkin who was the Americans' best player in the tournament. The forward had seven points, five of which were goals and he seemed to always be in the right place at the right time.
That's no fluke. Give credit to his offensive awareness and hockey IQ, which stood out in this tournament and is a perfect fit in Detroit, where brainy players have helped them win championships in the past.