May 12, 2023

11 prospects to keep an eye on at the 2023 IIHF Worlds

The IIHF Worlds is usually a perfect blend of old stars playing in potentially their last international games, current stars coming over after disappointing exits in the NHL seasons and playoffs, and young up and coming stars looking to make a name for themselves on the international stage.

The 2023 World Championship is certainly no different.

This year’s tournament is a massive showcase of prospect talent spanning an impressive number of countries, from first-round picks to emerging late-round gems set to continue their development in Tampere, Finland and Riga, Latvia from May 12-28.

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting and exciting players to follow in this year’s tournament:

Marco Rossi | Austria | F | 5’9″ | 183 lbs
NHL affiliation: Minnesota Wild

It seems Marco Rossi has likely played his last games in the American Hockey League for the time being. After a season in which he dominated the AHL, he’s now preparing to help his team fend off relegation before returning to tackle the NHL next season with the Minnesota Wild. Rossi is poised to be Austria’s most crucial player, and he will certainly need to produce offensively if Austria aims to stay in the top division next year. Rossi possesses all the tools necessary to single-handedly control games, and he should be able to demonstrate both his offensive puck skills and his enhanced defensive game during this tournament.

Samuel Knazko | Slovakia | D | 6’1″ | 190 lbs
NHL affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets

Samuel Knazko got a brief taste of the NHL in his first season in North America with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will undoubtedly strive to secure an offensive role with some power-play time for the Slovak team after a reasonably productive first season in the AHL. Knazko certainly has the tools to succeed; he’s a smooth skater with impressive poise with the puck, and his playmaking abilities make him a valuable addition to the Slovak blue line.

Jesper Wallstedt | Sweden | G | 6’3″ | 214 lbs
NHL affiliation: Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild have to believe they’ve found their No. 1 goaltender of the future in Jesper Wallstedt, after selecting him in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Following a solid season for Iowa in the AHL, Wallstedt is now aiming to take over the starting job for Sweden in this tournament. While not being the biggest or quickest goalie around, Wallstedt stands out with his extremely calm demeanor in the net. His puckhandling is also excellent, but don’t expect him to score his second goal of the season in this tournament.

Lane Hutson | Team USA | D | 5’9″ | 154 lbs
NHL affiliation: Montreal Canadiens

One of the most eagerly anticipated defensive prospects right now, certainly to Montreal Canadiens fans, Lane Hutson will be returning to college next season for further development. Before that, though, he’ll be a big presence on the Worlds stage. While he probably still has room to grow physically, his puck skills are definitely already elite. He will be given every opportunity to shine for Team USA, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be very productive in this tournament. Don’t blink when the puck is on his stick, or you might miss a highlight-reel play.

Devon Levi | Canada | G | 6’1″ | 185 lbs
NHL affiliation: Buffalo Sabres

Devon Levi, one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, will be looking to help bring the gold back to Canada after last year’s final loss against Finland. After holding the fort for two seasons at Northeastern, Levi made his highly anticipated NHL debut late in the season for the Buffalo Sabres. Although he might be smaller compared to the average NHL goaltender, Levi makes tending the goal look effortless at times. His ability to anticipate and read plays helps him position himself exactly where he needs to be to make the saves look simple.

Arturs Silovs | Latvia | G | 6’4″ | 194 lbs
NHL affiliation: Vancouver Canucks

Arturs Silovs posted impressive numbers in last year’s iteration of the World Championship and is now looking to become the undisputed No. 1 goalie for Latvia. He will need to continue his remarkable play for the national team to ensure his team earns a spot in the quarterfinals. Silovs is a fairly large goaltender, but his impressive athleticism means he doesn’t have to rely solely on his size to make a save. His development over the last few seasons has been significant, and he even made his first NHL starts this season with the Vancouver Canucks. He certainly has the tools required to steal a game or two for his team.

Milos Kelemen | Slovakia | F | 6’2″ | 218 lbs
NHL affiliation: Arizona Coyotes

Milos Kelemen, an undrafted 23-year-old, had a decent first season for the Arizona Roadrunners in the AHL, the minor-league affiliate for the Arizona Coyotes, scoring 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games, and also getting a taste of the NHL in 19 games, scoring his first NHL goal in the process. He has not yet played in an offensive role for the national team, but he will likely be looking to change that in this tournament. While he may not be the most skilled player, his work ethic is unrivaled, making him a valuable player even when he’s not found on the score sheet.

Simon Nemec | Slovakia | D | 6’1″ | 190 lbs
NHL affiliation: New Jersey Devils

As a late addition to the Slovak team after the New Jersey Devils were ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Simon Nemec will miss a few games at the start of the tournament. Once he’s acclimated and overcome jet lag, he will become a crucial component in Slovakia’s quest for success in this tournament. Nemec posted impressive numbers in his rookie season in the AHL, particularly excelling in five-on-five play. He’s exceptionally valuable in the offensive zone, where he uses his excellent edgework and vision to outwit opponents himself or set up his teammates for prime scoring opportunities. Nemec doesn’t sacrifice defense for offense, and he’s regularly disrupting opposing rushes with his extraordinary stick work.

Cutter Gauthier | Team USA | F | 6’2″ | 194 lbs
NHL affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers

Cutter Gauthier was the most productive player at Boston College this season and will return next season instead of turning pro. He has all the physical tools to make an impact at this level, and with his puck skills, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a highly productive tournament for Team USA. While Gauthier, a Philadelphia Flyers prospect, might not be the flashiest player on the ice, his ability to drive to the net with the puck will definitely help Team USA score some goals in this competition. Gauthier can also be used in a checking role, if the team needs an extra spark during a game.

Drew Commesso | Team USA | G | 6’2″ | 181 lbs
NHL affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks

Drew Commesso is eager to experience pro-level shots before heading to Rockford in the AHL next season. While he may struggle to secure a starting spot for Team USA ahead of two NHLers, Casey DeSmith and Cal Petersen, Commesso will undoubtedly gain valuable experience for next season just by being around and training with pros. Commesso, a Chicago Blackhawks pick, is quick on his feet and moves very well laterally, resulting in some impressive saves at times. His rebound control might require some improvement, but his athleticism helps him recover from poor rebounds at times, producing some highlight-reel saves in the process.

Matt Coronato | Team USA | F | 5’10” | 183 lbs
NHL affiliation: Calgary Flames

Matt Coronato is set to play for his third team in the past two months after skating with Harvard before turning pro with a one-game showcase as a member of the Calgary Flames. Coronato, a Harvard nominee for the Hobey Baker as college hockey’s top player, could be set to compete for a spot on the Calgary Flames as quickly as next season, and a strong tournament on a prospect-heavy Team USA entry could be the first step to propelling the offensive forward to a career that never sees him land at the AHL level.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Carter Mazur (Team USA | Detroit Red Wings), Ole Julian Bjorgvik-Holm (Norway | Columbus Blue Jackets), Maksymilian Szuber (Germany | Arizona Coyotes), Martin Chromiak (Slovakia | Los Angeles Kings), Justin Barron (Canada | Montreal Canadiens), Sean Farrell (Team USA | Montreal Canadiens), Henry Thrun (Team USA | San Jose Sharks), Emil Martinsen Lilleberg (Norway | Arizona Coyotes), Luke Tuch (Team USA | Montreal Canadiens).

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