World Junior Hockey: Latvia Watchlist

Martin Rose

Here is who we're keen to see at this year's tourney

Here are the Latvian players we'll be keeping an eye on at the 2013 WJHC starting December 26th. This is not a ranking of their top players or prospects, just the guys that we're interested in scouting and assessing their future fantasy hockey potential.

Top 5

#21 Teodors Blugers, C (PIT-2012-2nd-#52) - This kid is so Americanized he goes by the handle "Teddy Blueger" while playing at Minnesota St-Mankato. Spent the prior three seasons at Shattuck-St.Mary's and has shown well at various internationals for Latvia. I've only had a brief glimpse of him, so am looking forward to seeing more as he'll surely be counted on to play a major role in Ufa.

#10 Rihards Bukarts, LW (2014 Eligible) - He is only 16 but his inclusion on this squad is no publicity stunt as the youngster has held his own against older competition before and was the 2nd leading scorer for the Latvia juniors in internationals this year. I can't say I know much about the competition level in the Latvian 2nd Division but when a 15/16-year-old puts up 5+ points a game (28+31=59 in 11 games), I'm intrigued.

#11 Roberts Lipsbergs, C (Undrafted 2012) - Amongst his countrymen in this age group, Lipsbergs tends to be their best sniper in international competiton. He made the move to Seattle this season and is leading them in scoring so far on the back of a recent hot patch where he had 16+11=27 over his last 21 games.

#28 Nikita Jevpalovs, RW (Undrafted 2012) - He returns as a bit of a hero for Latvia as at last year's WJC he scored the OT winner to beat Denmark and kept Latvia in the top flight for this year's tournament. He also led Latvia in scoring at the tournament with 2+3=5 in six games at the age of 17. This year he's playing in the Q for Blainville-Boisbriand but he seems to be slow to adjust with just 6+9=15 in 33 games.

#2 Kristaps Nimanis, D (Undrafted 2011 & 2012) - He possesses a wealth of international experience as this will be his second WJCs to go along with two U-18s, including captaining them to promotion at the 2011 D1 tournament. He plays for the Red Ducks in the Finnish 3rd Division, so good luck to an NHL team if they want to try to pry him away from that sweet gig.

Others to Watch:

Zemgus Girgensons, C (BUF-2012-1st-14th) - Unfortunately you won't be watching the guy who should be the star of the team as Buffalo hasn't released Girgensons from his AHL assignment to join Latvia for the WJCs. That's disappointing as the kid is struggling in the A with just one goal on the season and a grand total of one assist over his last 12 games. Ahh the NHL, messing up hockey worldwide.

Anyone I missed?... let me know in the comments.

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