The World Juniors officially began on Sunday, breaking a near week-long hockey drought with the NHL still shut down. While the current NHL tries to handle its COVID-19 situation, some of the future players of the NHL will be competing for their countries. Last time we covered some of the notable NHL prospects competing in this tournament from group A. This time we’ll focus on some of the notable prospects to watch from the group B teams.
USA: Matty Beniers (C)
Team USA’s Matty Beniers made a bit of NHL history as the first player drafted by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL draft. The Kraken took him with the second selection overall, just after his University of Michigan teammate Owen Power. As the first forward taken off the board in that draft, big things are expected of Beniers in the NHL. But for right now, Beniers is focusing on his career with the Wolverines in the NCAA.
He’s in the midst of a great season there, with 11 goals and 11 assists through 20 games. He also has an impressive 16 +/-, which isn’t a game-changing statistic but speaks to his positive impact while on the ice. The Kraken have an all-around great player in Beniers, and will be happy to welcome him whenever he decides to conclude his college career. Until that day comes, Kraken fans can get a glimpse of their future star trying to win the gold with Team USA.
Russia: Danila Yurov (RW)
Danila Yurov is going to be a player that has a lot of eyes on him in this tournament. Most NHL analysts have Yurov as a top-five-level prospect for the 2022 NHL draft. The problem? Yurov has not had a particularly strong role in the KHL, playing in 21 games but not getting a single point. Regardless of this, scouts still love Yurov as a high IQ player who plays a smart game with the puck on his stick. And he’s shown his ability acquiring points in Russia’s MHL, scoring 25 points in 23 games in his last full season there. Scouts and hockey fans who want to see more of Yurov’s game will have a great opportunity with the World Juniors. A strong showing from Yurov with Team Russia could possibly make him a top-three pick this summer.
Sweden: Jesper Wallstedt (G)
There were only two goaltenders selected in the first round of the 2021 NHL draft, and Jesper Wallstedt was one of them. He was selected 20th overall by the Minnesota Wild, the second goaltender off the board. Although he wasn’t the first goalie selected, Wallstedt was the highest-ranked goaltender in that draft. Scouts love his technical ability, his speed and his athleticism in the crease. He has all the ability to be one of the truly great goaltenders in the NHL. Wallstedt’s current SHL stats back this up with him donning a 1.82 GAA and a .923 save percentage with two shutouts. Wallstedt is the projected primary starter for Sweden in the World Juniors, giving viewers unfamiliar with his game a chance to watch him on a big stage.
Switzerland: Brian Zanetti (D)
Brian Zanetti is group B’s version of Luca Munzenberger from group A. Zanetti was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2021 NHL draft. He’s actually the only player on Switzerland’s roster who’s currently drafted to the NHL. Like Munzenberger, there isn’t a whole lot of available footage of Zanetti’s game. From various scouting reports, Zanetti plays as a puck-moving, two-way defenseman. He also has a good frame for an NHL defenseman at a height of 6-foot-2.
In his last season with Lugano’s U20 team, he acquired nine goals and 20 assists, speaking to his ability as a puck mover. Zanetti is currently in the midst of another solid season producing points. He’s currently at nine points through 17 games with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. With the limited available footage of Zanetti, the World Juniors give all interested parties a chance to see him play.
Slovakia: Simon Nemec (D)
With all of the talk of top 2022 draft prospects in these two groups, no defensemen have been brought up. That’s where Slovakia’s defenseman Simon Nemec comes into play. Nemec is a projected top-five draft pick and a near guarantee to be the first selected defenseman. Scouts have sung very high praise for how disciplined he is as a defender for a 17-year-old player. His offensive game has received strong evaluation as well, most notably his ability to set up his teammates for good chances. There’s a lot of projections of Nemec becoming a top-pairing defenseman in the NHL with how well-rounded his game is. The World Juniors will give the promising young defenseman a chance to showcase his strong game to a worldwide audience.
Featured image courtesy of IIHF
Check out our NHL page for more updates!