The World Junior Championships usually provides some of the best hockey of the year... it's a fantastic tournament for those that love junior hockey, international hockey and deaf people (as they aren't subjected to Pierre McGuire). In addition, its a helluva opportunity to scout all the top young prospects from around the world.
Here's a quick and dirty look at who we'll be paying special attention to over the next two weeks:
Jaden Schwartz, CAN, F - he's the guy from Canada we're most interested in as he's torn up the USHL & NCAA the past two seasons and was a 1st round pick of STL this past summer but doesn't have the name recognition that he'd have if he was playing in the WHL... not yet, at least.
Cody Eakin, CAN, F - 47 goals last year in the WHL and he nearly made the Capitals out of training camp this year so it's likely he'll be in the NHL next season (and I don't think I need to explain the potential upside in that situation).
Martin Frk, CZE, F - the Czechs don't offer a ton to get excited about but Frk is a top prospect for the 2012 draft who has looked good in the Q this year so he'll be one to watch with an eye to the future.
Sami Vatanen, FIN, D - one of our favourite under-the-radar prospects, he's an ANA 4th rounder from 2009 and is currently 3rd in SM-Liiga scoring amongst dmen.
Joel Armia, FIN, F - only 17 but the 2011 draft eligible Finn already has 12 goals this year in the SM-Liiga and is 3rd in scoring by U20 players.
Tobias Rieder, GER, F - the Germans have a few interesting prospects to keep an eye on but Rieder intrigues us the most as he's draft eligible in 2011 and is scoring at almost a point-per-game in the OHL this year for Kitchener.
Lars Volden, NOR, G - when Norway plays, the goalie will be seeing a lot of action, so it will be easy to keep an eye on Volden... he was a star for Norway at the U18s & U20s (D1) last year and is the reason why Norway is making a rare appearance in the top flight.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RUS, F - we were very high on Tarasenko heading into the draft this past summer (16th overall to STL) but his production has disappointed a little in the KHL this year (8+8=16 in 35 games), so we'll be looking for him to dominate kids in his own age group.
Artemy Panarin, RUS, F - he became my favourite under-the-radar Russian prospect during the Super Series last month as he was the leading U20 scorer in the KHL when he left for the tour (currently 3rd behind Tarasenko & Kuznetsov).
Martin Marincin, SVK, D - caught our eye during last year's tournament and has since been a 2nd round pick of the Oilers and is the leading scoring dman in the WHL.
Gabriel Landeskog, SWE, F - already well known amongst OHL followers but he could be this year's Nino Niederreiter with a strong performance that could elevate him into the top 5 of next summer's draft.
Calle Jarnkrok, SWE, F - a bit of a surprise 2nd round pick by DET this past summer and he's currently the leading U20 scorer in the SEL (9+9=18 in 30 games).
Benjamin Conz, SWI, G - he was the top goalie in last year's WJC and has three years of service in the top Swiss league but still hasn't been drafted... so we're watching to see what he has to do get a team to bite.
Jeremy Morin, USA, F - love this kid, you all know him... we'll be looking for big production as this guy can flat out score the puck.
Justin Faulk, USA, D - smallish dman was a 2nd round pick of CAR this year and is producing as a freshmen with 6+9=15 in 18 games at Minn-Duluth... the US had a strong class of dmen, so just for him to make the squad was impressive.
Charlie Coyle, USA, F - SJ 1st rounder from this past summer, may have to take a backseat to the 19-year-olds but he's shown well at BU so far this year so we'll be watching him closely.
Drew Shore, USA, F - probably the surprise of the NCAA season for us as the UofDenver soph. has taken off with 14+11=25 in 20 games this year... we thought the FLA 2nd rounder was more of a complimentary player so lets see how he does on the big stage.