2021 WJC: Draft-eligible player guide
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Alright, maybe this year isn’t as wonderful as those past, as we gather around computers and Zoom instead of fireplaces and family. But one thing is still constant – the World Junior Championship.
It hasn’t been an easy route, with players such as William Eklund, Lukas Reichel, and Thomas Bordeleau all being sent home due to COVID, but we’re now less than a week away from puck drop. And for the first time ever, that puck will hit the ice on December 25th rather than the 26th.
At FCHockey, we’ve been getting a look at the players that are eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, including those that are suiting up for their country in Edmonton, Alberta.
As you get ready for one of the most exciting events on the annual hockey calendar, we’ve put together a guide for those first-year draft eligibles, plus the handful of 2022 NHL Draft-eligibles that will be competing.
Mathias Böhm, LW, 2021 eligible
This is the first international competition for Austria’s Mathias Böhm since the World Selects Invitational in 2015. Playing in the ICEJL in Austria, a U18 league, for the Junior-Captials U18 the forward sits tied for fourth in the league, with 11 goals, 12 assists, and 23 points in just 13 games. That mark leads his team by five points.
“He’s an average-sized LW with good skating, a long stride that he gets full extension out of,” Eastern Canada scout Chris Smith said. “Shows the ability to find open space in the offensive zone and has nice puck skills, can beat defenders 1 on 1 or protect the puck with his edges and body… Will be an interesting player to watch at the WJC this year, a player I feel would be a good draft selection in the mid rounds this year.”
Moritz Mölls, D, 2021 eligible
A teammate of Böhm’s at the 2015 World Selects Invitational, Moritz Mölls is playing in the Austria U20 league for Okanagan HC Europe U20. The defender has played eight games this season, collecting four assists in the process. His four points have him tied for the lead in points by a defender on the team.
Finn van Ee, F, 2021 eligible
One of the best names on this list, Finn van Ee is a dual citizen of Austria and the Netherlands. The third Austrian on this list is playing in a third league, the AlpsHL, for Klagenfurter AC II. The men’s league includes teams from Austria, Italy and Slovenia. Van Ee has played in 12 games this season, helping his team with three assists. Like Böhm and Möllis, this is van Ee’s first international tournament.
Lukáš Nečesaný, D, 2021 eligible
Our second dual citizen, Lukáš Nečesaný holds Austrian and Czech Republic citizenship. Being born in Austria, he’s lacing them up for the Austrian team once again, after that 2015 World Selects Invitational tournament. He’s spent his season in three leagues so far, playing four games as the captain of RB Hockey Academy U18 in the Czech U20 (two goals, two assists), three games with EC Salzburg U20 in the Austria U20 (one goal), and three games with RB Hockey Juniors in the AlpsHL (one assist).
Maximilian Theirich, F, 2021 eligible
A fourth teammate from the 2015 World Selects Invitational, Maximillian Theirich is joining the others in his first international competition since the U12 Selects in 2014-15. Theirich is now a teammate of van Ee on Klagenfurter AC II in the AlpsHL. In his 12 games this season, he’s potted one goal.
Marco Kasper, C, 2022 eligible
The last draft-eligible on Team Austria won’t be eligible until the 2022 NHL Draft, but he may just be the best of the bunch. Marco Kasper has made the jump to Sweden, playing for Rögle BK. The 16-year-old has split his time between the J20 and J18 Nationell, with seven games at the U18 level (three goals, five assists) and six games at the U20 level (three goals). Kasper is very much a player to keep an eye on in the 2021 CHL Import Draft and the 2022 NHL Draft.
“Kasper is impressively aggressive on the puck though and has a nice bit of bite in his game,” Eastern Canada head scout Dylan Galloway. “He attacks pucks relentlessly and isn’t afraid to get into physical battles to gain possession.
“He’s young and already displaying some fairly remarkable abilities to drive pucks to the net and create offense through the inside lanes of the offensive zone.”
Team Czech Republic
Stanislav Svozil, D, 2021 eligible
A player that many will already know, Stanislav Svozil has been capturing the attention of draft and hockey enthusiasts over the past couple of years. FCHockey’s 26th-ranked prospect in our preliminary ranking from earlier this month and is one of the more promising defenders in this class. He has spent his draft year with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech league – the top tier men’s league in the Czech Republic – but has yet to record a point in 10 games.
The smooth-skating defenseman has a length international resume, from the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup to the Karjala Cup earlier this year. His best performance came at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge where he was the alternate captain and had four assists to help Team Czech Republic to a bronze medal. He was the Rookie of the Year in the men’s league last season and was selected 15th overall by the Regina Pats in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.
“He times his stick checks well, getting in the lane when players are about to pass him or just after they’ve passed him,” crossover scout Josh Bell said in a recent report. “If the latter, he did well at slowing the rush and forcing the player to the boards… good at distributing the puck, really liked his scans of the zone on puck retrieval and defending rushes, and at times, puckhandles very confidently… Svozil has some very intriguing traits and has very good instincts on the ice.”
David Jiricek, D, 2022 eligible
Following in Svozil’s steps, David Jiricek just turned 17 but he’s already spent his season in the Czech league with HC Plzen. In fact, he’s put up a goal and two assists, putting him ahead of Svozil on the season. Jiricek has spent time with the U16, U17, U18, U20, and men’s teams already. He joined Svozil at the Karjala Cup, but this will be his first non-exhibition experience internationally.
“Jiricek is a strong skater, with good dynamic posture and balance that makes him a very smooth and effortless skater,” Eastern Canada scout Joseph Aleong said. “His foot speed is just average, and while he uses crossovers to gain speed, doesn’t get great extension and power in his strides. Possesses decent hands and the puck-carrying confidence to jump into the rush and make moves to beat forecheckers.”
Samuel Helenius, C, 2021 eligible
Samuel Helenius has made the full-time jump to the top Finnish league, the Liiga this season. Playing with JYP, the six-foot-six, 201-pound centerman has played in 18 games, scoring five goals, adding three assists for eight points. He did spend some time with Team Finland’s U18 group, but this will be his first tournament. He’s been playing against men this season, so it will be interesting to see how he does against his peers in this tournament.
“He knows when to drop down and support the defenders, jumping into the corners and using his long reach to pull the puck out of scrums, get in the passing lanes, and poke check pucks away,” Bell said from a recent scouting report. “He’s still figuring out how to use his size to his advantage, especially difficult playing in a men’s league. He’s constantly scanning, checking for where the attackers are and where his next move is.”
Brad Lambert, C, 2022 eligible
One of the top draft-eligible prospects in the 2021 World Junior Championship isn’t even eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. Brad Lambert, projected to be one of the top two picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, is one of just a handful of draft-1 players in this class. Lambert has been playing with Helenius in the Liiga for JYP, scoring four goals and collecting three assists in 18 games. Lambert has already impressed at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and will now look to bring that to the U20 level.
“He’s so fluid in his movement, seemingly making small adjustments to his stance and positioning to be in the best position for the next play,” Bell said in a recent report. “From opening his hips to the puck carrier to show he’s open, to small shuffles in the offensive end to make sure the puck can get to his should a puck roll his way.
“He’s extremely fast, in both his strides and his glide speed. He processes the game so well, he’s able to read where the puck will be and be there ahead of everyone else. He can then use his skating and puck protection to create separation and reset for his team.”
Luca Münzenberger, D, 2021 eligible
The lone first-time draft-eligible for Germany, defenseman Luca Münzenberger is the captain of Kölner Junghaie U20 in the German DNL U20. This season, in six games he’s scored once and added two assists. Like many on this list, this is his first major international tournament although he spent time with the U17 and U18 squads. While he is an older player in this class, there are some intriguing tools that could garner some attention in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Daniil Chayka, D, 2021 eligible
After spending the 2019-20 season in the OHL with the Guelph Storm, Daniil Chayka is now back in Russia on loan while the OHL awaits its potential start date. He’s spent time at the MHL, VHL, and KHL levels, playing most of his time in the KHL with CSKA Moskva. He’s played in seven games at the top level, and while he’s been held pointless, playing in the second-best league in the world is impressive.
Chayka has a great deal of experience with Team Russia, playing in the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, 2019 World Junior-A Challenge, and the recent Karjala Cup. Chayka knows what it takes to win in these events, winning gold at the World Under-17 Challenge and the Hlinka Gretzky, plus he was named to the World Junior-A Challenge All-Star team.
“His skating proficiency is evident, as he moves smoothly in all directions and can accelerate to a high gear in very little time,” crossover head scout Derek Neumeier said in a recent report. “He’s a very range defender with his skating and reach, who isn’t afraid to activate to make himself a rush option or to move deep into the offensive zone.”
Kirill Kirsanov, D, 2021 eligible
Kirill Kirsanov may not be as well known as Chayka, but FCHockey’s 60th-ranked prospect has been spending his season in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. Like Chayka, he doesn’t have any points in his 14 games. He’s also seen time with the VHL and the MHL this season. He and Chayka have spent a lot of time together in recent years, including all of the tournaments listed for Chayka. That does include the two gold medals, and now he and Chayka will be looking for a third.
“He (has) good dynamic posture and was fluid in his four-way mobility. He shows good first two steps, and elusiveness when challenged,” Bell said. “A good, active stick, showed good reads of the ice in both ends leading to breakouts and successful pinches.”
Robert Baco, RW, 2021 eligible
Robert Baco has already had international experience with Team Slovakia, from the U16 squad and the U18 group, including the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he scored once in four games. He’s been playing in the Czech U20 league with HC Karlovy Vary U20, racking up two goals, four assists, and six points in nine games.
“Baco is a big and imposing RW that plays a power forward style game,” Smith said. “He does a good job of utilizing the size and strength advantage in net front battles and as well as down low in the corners where he is able to protect the puck and buy himself time and space… Baco understands his defensive zone responsibilities, using his size to get in shooting lanes, good puck support on the breakout but just doesn’t have the puck skills or poise to make consistent plays in transition”
Simon Becar, D, 2021 eligible
Slovak defender Simon Becar has spent his season with Team Slovakia U18, playing three games in the Slovakia U20 and Slovakia2. This will be his first real test at the international stage after getting in some experience with the U17 team last season.
Simon Groch, D, 2021 eligible
Simon Groch is one of the more experienced draft-eligibles on the team, having played with Slovakia U17 in the European Youth Olympic Festival, the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and has spent time with both U17 and U18 over the past two seasons. He’s been playing in the Czech U20 league with HC Olomouc U20, where he’s potted a goal and added four assists in eight games.
“He has a strong skating base and his structure looks good, proper knee bend and extension in his stride,” Smith said. “But he’ll need work on his overall foot speed. Likes to play physically and throws his weight around off the rush and down low around his net.
“Good defender and gap control off the rush, can be tough to beat Groch down the wing as he uses his long reach and body to keep players to the outside and strip the puck, has some shutdown potential.”
Maros Jedlicka, C, 2021 eligible
Maros Jedlicka is fairly new to the national team, playing just two matches last season with the Slovakia U18 team. This will be a big test for the centerman. He’s spent the majority of his season in the top-tier league in Slovakia with HKM Zvolen, picking up one assist in eight games. He proved he was too good for the U20 league, after scoring four goals and adding an assist in just two games.
“Not a very well known name, Jedlicka could be an interesting name to keep an eye on in the later rounds of the 2021 NHL Draft,” Bell said. “He shows some good edges in this game, both in his turns and when slamming the brakes. He showed off some impressive puckhandling in his small-area game but did tend to hold it too long and result in turnovers.”
Oleksii Myklukha, C, 2021 eligible
One of the most known names on Team Slovakia, Oleksii Myklukha has put himself on the radar by playing in the QMJHL. Born in Poland and holding dual citizenship with Slovakia and Ukraine, Myklukha has been impressing against 18- and 19-year-olds since he was 15, resulting in the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies drafting her 54th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. He hasn’t played yet this season, so this will be his first look in the 2020-21 season.
In the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the centerman went a point-per-game, collecting two goals and two assists in four games. He’s also played in the 2019 European Youth Olympic Festival and the 4-Nation Cup the year prior. He could take on a big role with Team Slovakia.
“His four-way mobility is good, as he’s quite light on his feet,” Bell said. Without the puck, he keeps pressure on his opponents but isn’t overly effective in forcing mistakes or turnovers… The forward seems to pull away from contact with the puck and when he chases the puck. He holds up at the last minute, pulling back and rarely winning races or maintaining control when confronted physically.”
Filip Mešár, F, 2022 eligible
The first of three 2022 NHL Draft-eligibles on Team Slovakia, Filip Mešár may just be 16-years-old, but he’s playing in Slovakia’s top league with HK Poprad. Playing 13 games so far, he’s scored once and added two assists. He’s played international games with the U16 squad, but this tournament will be a big test for the young player.
“Mesar is not the biggest player but he plays with a lot of speed and energy each shift,” Smith said. “He has very good skating and straight-line speed, his acceleration and powerful stride make him a very good forechecker at the men’s level as a 16-year-old. His speed is his greatest asset and allows him to really take aggressive routes to pucks and force turnovers.”
Simon Nemec, D, 2022 eligible
The second 2022-eligible, Simon Nemec is also spending his season in the Slovakia league, scoring once, adding three assists for four points in 13 games. Despite his age, he was a member of the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup roster, so he has some experience against some of the players he’ll face in the World Juniors.
“Nemec plays with an impressive level of maturity and poise to his game that is rare to see among defenseman his age,” Eastern Canada scout Chris Smith said in a recent report.”And the fact he’s able to do it against men is just that much more appealing. He plays the game with his head up, quickly surveying the ice and is able to make quick outlet passes out of his zone to aid in transition or can skate himself out of trouble.”
Juraj Slafkovsky, F, 2022 eligible
The big-name of the 2022-eligibles, Juraj Slafkovsky has been impressing for the past two seasons in the Finnish U18 and U20 SM-sarja with TPS. The skilled forward has spent most of this season in the U20 league, playing 13 games, recording four goals and four assists in those matches. This will be the first major tournament for the young player, although he’s spent time with the U16, U17, and U18 national teams.
“His patience and poise are extremely impressive,” Bell said. Even under pressure, the forward is extremely calm, taking the time to scan his surroundings and make a calculated decision. Whether this means a pass or stickhandling the puck out of harm’s way, he can do both very well. His game is so controlled, so calm, and so collected.
Oskar Olausson, W, 2021 eligible
Oskar Olausson has been a name on everyone’s mind to start the 2020-21 season. The young Swedish player has been entering first-round consideration after getting in 11 SHL games with HV71, including three goals in his first three games. He’s also been tearing up the J20 Nationell, scoring 14 goals, adding 13 assists for 27 points in just 16 games.
“Olausson is a dynamic two-way forward that delivers in both ends,” Swedish regional scout Fredrik Haak said in a scouting report. “Quick turns with and without the puck. Great speed and balance overall and seems to use his body and arms well to cover the puck and gives him an advantage and more time to make his play.
“When he has the puck in the offensive zone, it’s difficult for opponents to catch him and he makes fantastic plays around the net and also diagonal passes that open up the ice for his team.”
Jesper Wallstedt, G, 2021 eligible
Jesper Wallstedt might just be the most known name on this list – and for good reason. The netminder looks to stick in the SHL this season, already playing in nine games and recording an impressive 2.06 goals against average and .920 save percentage. He did play one J20 Nationell game, recording a shut out.
Wallstedt’s international resume is impressive. He’s twice been on the roster for the World Under-18 Hockey Championship, played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and twice participated in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“His poise and composure are miles ahead of most other netminders his age,” Neumeier said. “Doesn’t look nervous at all staring down dangerous scoring chances. He uses his large frame and big equipment to play a simple blocking style, and he is incredibly effective at it. His form and technique are rock solid, so when he squares up to a shooter there’s almost no daylight to aim for.”
Attilio Biasca, C/LW, 2021 eligible
Attilio Biasca could challenge Finn van Ee for the best name on this list. The Swiss forward could very well be a widely-known name by the end of the 2020-21 season, as the prospect should be heading to the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads at some point. The Nova Scotian team selected the forward fifth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.
This season, Biasca has spent his time in the Swiss League and U20-Elit, mainly playing in the latter. In 19 games, he’s potted six goals and added 12 assists for 18 points. While he’s spent time with the U16, U17, and U18 teams, this will be his biggest competition since the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2018-19.
“Biasca is a quick and active playmaking centreman who plays all situations for EVZ Academy,” Galloway said. “Biasca’s near-constant motion allows him to activate quickly, though his initial strides could definitely use some improvement and smoothing out.”
Lorenzo Canonica, C/LW, 2021 eligible
Lorenzo Canonica is another name you’re likely to start hearing more and more. The Swiss prospect is another draftee into the QMJHL who has yet to come to North America. The Shawinigan Cataractes selected him 20th overall in the CHL Import Draft. This season, he’s been impressing in the U20-Elit, scoring 11 goals to go with eight assists and 19 points in 20 games. Like Biasca, this will be his first major tournament, but he spent time with the U16, U17, and U18 teams.
“Quick and shifty skater who gets up to top speed quickly with smooth edgework that gives him great elusiveness in open ice,” Eastern Canada scout Joseph Aleong said. “Succeeds at handling the puck and making plays inside movement, making him a threat in transition and when fighting through contact.
“Shows great vision, shoulder-checking before he picks up the puck and showing creative footwork to open up passing lanes. He’s unafraid of getting to the dirty areas of the ice and finds open ice to present a shooting target for his linemates.”
Giancarlo Chanton, D, 2021 eligible
One of the older draft-eligibles on this list, Giancarlo Chanton put his name on the radar after being selected 47th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft and making the jump to the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. He’s been spending most of his season with SC Langenthal in the Swiss League, collecting a goal and assist in 11 games.
Chanton has quite the international resume so far, playing at the European Youth Olympic Festival, Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and World Under-18 Hockey Championship. He’s been an alternate captain for the U17 and U16 teams and could be in line for a big role on this U20 team.
“Strong foundational passer who moves it out of his own end with pace and flashes the ability to hit stretch passes to create an offensive chance,” Aleong said. “Shows some good puck control carrying through the neutral zone but lacks separating speed and the skill to gain the zone consistently.
“Displays some decent vision when set up in the offensive end but could stand to be more aggressive jumping into shooting lanes and trying to find a lane to the net.”
Ray Fust, LW/RW, 2021 eligible
Ray Fust has had one of the more interesting paths to this point in his career. The winger started playing with Lausanne in Switzerland, working his way up from the U15 level to the U20 squad. In 2019-20, he made the jump to North America to play with Norwood School in the USHS-Prep league.
The young player committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the 2021-22 season, and will be playing in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs this season. This is the prospect’s first major tournament, although he has spent time with the U16, U17, and U18 teams.
“Fust is a rangy offensive winger with a raw makeup but has the looks of a kid who could improve as he gets accustomed to the BCHL,” Western Canada head scout Justin Froese said. “He’s shown he’s competent in changing angles, timing his routes and going to high danger areas where he can put his tools to use, but consistently making the right play is a work in progress.
“Fust’s getting special teams minutes early on and consistent deployment at even strength. He’s going to be an interesting player to track.”
Noah Meier, D, 2021 eligible
One of the older players eligible for the draft, Noah Meier has spent his season mainly in the Swiss League, playing in 17 games, scoring once and collecting four assists. The defender played with Switzerland in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the European Yother Olympic Festival the season prior, so he’s not new to the international scene.
“Meier’s a smooth-skating, mobile defenceman. Has solid top speed too,” European scout Dennis Schellenberg said in a recent scouting report. “He was able to outspeed opponents at this level and managed to get back in position in time. He was aggressive on the puck carrier using his strong timing playing the puck with the stick. This is one of his biggest assets. Knows when to use the stick to interfere plays and is excellent in poking the puck away.”
Noah Patenaude, G, 2021 eligible
Noah Patenaude might be a name recognized by those who follow the QMJHL, as the netminder is in his second season in the league with the Saint John Sea Dogs. In 11 games this season, he’s 4-3-3 with a 3.62 goals against average and a .889 save percentage. Patenaude played in the 2019 World Under-18 Hockey Championship and the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“Patenaude does do a good job of telescoping and moving laterally to follow a player across his crease,” Galloway said. “He gets into his position quickly between shots, though his movements can be a bit panicked once a shot is off the stick. His initial shot angles from in close chances are fairly solid, however, the positioning and stance become less clean and can create some ugly bounces and bobbled pucks.”
Brian Zanetti, D, 2021 eligible
Yet another CHL Import Draftee from Switzerland, Brian Zanetti was selected 43rd overall by the Peterborough Petes in 2020. The defender has been waiting for the start of the OHL season in the U20-Elit, playing 18 games, recording three goals, eight assists, and 11 points. Like many others on this list, this will be his first major tournament, although he’s spent time with the national team at the U16, U17, and U18 levels.
“A large framed-defender with a lanky build, Zanetti has solid straight-line speed and shows smooth edgework while pivoting,” Aleong reported. “His foot speed and lower-body strength limit his acceleration and ability to explode out of stops or tight turns, however, leading him to play a relatively loose gap on attacking forwards.
“Shows off his speed on offense by jumping into the rush and acting as a high option on zone entries; shows good instincts on when to jump into the play versus sitting back and playing conservative.”
Matthew Beniers, C, 2021 eligible
Last, but certainly not least, Matthew Beniers is the lone draft-eligible for Team USA. The centerman has been an early riser in draft boards thanks to his impressive play with the University of Michigan in the NCAA. In eight games, the forward has three goals, three assists, and six points to go along with his stellar two-way game.
Going through the United States National Team Development Program, Beniers has played in both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and World Under-18 Hockey Championship, winning a bronze medal in the latter.
“Beniers possesses some quick feet that he utilizes in both directions with an almost tireless effort level,” Galloway said. “His back check is almost as smart and aggressive as his forecheck… Effective not only in straight line puck races, but I particularly liked his 4-way mobility with and without the puck.
“Without the puck, he does a solid job of understanding how to use his body positioning to gain the inside lanes on pucks, and then when the opportunity arises, activate his explosive first few steps to lose his coverage.”