Josh
Bell
April 25, 2021

World U18s: Notable absences

The 2021 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship is set to drop the puck later today and while many of the top U18 talents in the world are participating, there are some names that we wish we could be watching on this stage.

While there are many names that could be on this list of players that didn’t make their national teams, including Russian defenders Vladimir Lukashevich and Artyom Grushnikov, we’re focusing on players deemed not eligible to attend the international tournament.

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From injuries to COVID protocol to league playoffs, here are five massive holes left in team rosters ahead of the World U18s.

Luke Hughes, D, Team USA

FCHockey ranking: 1

There’s no question that Luke Hughes would have been a part of Team USA for the World U18s had he not suffered an injury back on March 7. FCHockey’s top 2021 NHL Draft-eligible prospect was cut by a skate in the game against Chicago Steel, lacerating a tendon in his foot. He had surgery on March 17 and is back working out off the ice although his season has been cut short.

Hughes would have been the top defender for Team USA, as he has been all season long for the United States National Team Development Program. In 38 games, he collected 34 points (six goals, 28 assists). In 2019, he helped Team USA to a silver medal in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, putting up four points (one goal, three assists) in six games.

With Hughes out of the lineup, look for teammate Sean Behrens to really step up in this tournament. The defender has 31 points (six goals, 25 points) in 39 games and has been named an alternate captain for Team USA. This will be an excellent test of Behrens as he looks to be the number one defenseman for the Americans. Other players that will need to step up are defenders Aidan Hreschuk and 2022-eligible Ryan Chesley as offensive leaders from the back end.

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Carson Lambos, D, Team Canada

FCHockey ranking: 22

Carson Lambos was named to Team Canada on the initial roster announcement on April 1, despite leaving the WHL’s hub on March 17 to treat an unspecified medical condition. But on April 12, Hockey Canada announced that Lambos was unable to participate in the tournament due to his injury. He was replaced by 2022-eligible Denton Mateychuk.

Lambos has slid down draft boards this season but remains a top defensive prospect in this class. With the WHL delayed this season, Lambos took his talents overseas, playing with JYP, mainly in the U20 SM-sarja. In 13 games, he collected 11 points (two goals, nine assists), adding three assists in two U18 SM-sarja games and dressing for two Liiga games. He played just two games with the Winnipeg Ice, before being taken out of the hub.

In 2019, he played for Team Canada White in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, helping with five assists in six games, and was named to the All-Star Team.

Team Canada is stacked on the back end, even without Lambos in the lineup. With Mateychuk filling Lambos’ skates, he’s the first player that comes to mind when thinking about who will step up. As well, leadership and offensive weight will be added to Brandt Clarke and Corson Ceulemans‘ plates, as the two top defenders on the team. Don’t be surprised to see Ethan Del Mastro impress in this tournament either, as a defender who hasn’t played this season, will be looking to prove himself, and definitely has the skill to help to fill the Lambos void.

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Chaz Lucius, C, Team USA

FCHockey ranking: 12

Just days before the tournament started, Chris Peters reported that top forward on the team Chaz Lucius was being held out of the tournament, along with forward Andre Gasseau and defender Jake Martin. While the reasoning has yet to be announced, the likely reasoning is COVID protocol. Again, this is not confirmed.

Lucius missed the start of his season to injury, only recently getting back to the ice for the USNTDP and impressing quickly. The centerman has played in just 13 games, racking up 18 points (13 goals, five assists). One of the best goalscorers in this class, Lucius would have been one of the top players in the tournament.

He’s already shown that he can excel at the international level against many of the same players, piling on 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in six World U17 games in 2019. He was named to the tournament All-Star Team, leading in goals and points en route to a silver medal.

It will be tough to replace the goal-scoring prowess left by Lucius, but if there are any players to do it, keep an eye on Sasha Pastujov and Dylan Duke. The two forwards are now the top players on offense, and should look to lead the way for the team. However, look for 2022-eligibles Logan Cooley, Isaac Howard, and Rutger McGroarty, to help share the offensive load.

Cole Sillinger, C, Team Canada

FCHockey ranking: 13

Another blow to Team Canada, Cole Sillinger, like Lambos, was originally named to Team Canada. But on April 19, Hockey Canada announced that he was taken out of the tournament, further explained by Bob McKenize that this was due to COVID protocol.

Sillinger would have been one of the most offensively gifted weapons on Team Canada. After transferring to the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede while the WHL season was delayed, the centerman has put up an impressive 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in just 31 games. He’s shown that he can score at the international level too, collecting five goals in six games for Team Canada White.

There’s no question that the Canadian team is elite on the offensive front, and they shouldn’t have any problem scoring. While Sillinger would add another level of offensive weaponry, forwards Dylan Guenther, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Francesco Pinelli, Logan Stankoven, 2022-eligible Shane Wright, and 2023-eligible Connor Bedard will be more than willing to shoulder some of the offensive weight.

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The QMJHL

Alright, calling the QMJHL a player is a stretch, but the league is a “player” in the Canadian hockey scene. By not sending its players to the World U18s, we can say that the QMJHL is a “player” missing the U18s. Just humour us.

The league didn’t release its players for the tournament, resulting in a number of players not making their nation’s teams. This is especially true for Canada, who could have selected Zachary L’Heureux, Zachary Bolduc (if healthy), Zach Dean, Joshua Roy, Cameron Whynot, Evan Nause, and Oscar Plandowski (among others) for the final roster.

However, other teams were impacted as well. Finland is without Viljami Marjala, Switzerland is without Lorenzo Canonica, and Russia is without Maxim Barbashev and Alexei Prokopenko. It should be noted that for some reason, Swiss player Attilio Biasca for the Halifax Mooseheads will be dressing at the World U18s. But many of these other players will definitely be missed at the tournament.

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