Team Canada took home the gold at the most recent IIHF World Junior Championship.

Man what a ride that was. The IIHF World Junior Championships is always one of our favorite events as it gives us a chance to not only see the top NHL Draft talent play up a level but also allows us to get a look in at the previous classes we scouted in years past and how they have progressed. No to mention that you have over two hundred highly talented, highly emotional kids excited to throw on their nations colors and go to battle.

DraftPro had many sets of eyes on the event and offer this review of participating 2020 draft eligible performers.

Alexis Lafreniere, Left Wing, Rimouski (QMJHL), 6-1, 192, DOB 10.11.2001 – Team Canada
“Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere was the top rated draft eligible available before the tournament and did nothing but substantiate that viewpoint through his play in the Czech Republic. Lafreniere was one of the top play drivers controlling the offensive game whenever he was on the ice and producing strong numbers despite missing two games due to a knee injury. His shot release is NHL ready, his vision is outstanding, he is incredibly shifty and very strong on the puck, he puts the puck exactly where he wants to, he identifies his options quickly and plays hard but also with intelligence.” – Draft Prospects Hockey Director Dan Stewart

“Clearly the number one draft choice, his play in this tournament really showed me how good his vision is. Great patience when getting in position for passing. Seems to relish those real difficult passing lanes. Then makes brilliant passes. Nice hard accurate wrist shots. Puck seems to follow him. Excellent poise.” – Draft Prospects Hockey Western Canada Evaluator Murray Caldwell

“His ability to control a game from the wing position is impressive and elite. Quick and soft hands let Alexis stick handle through traffic with speed and confidence. He is so strong on the puck below the goal lines using his edge work and big frame to shield the puck. Alexis is an elite playmaker using his vision and skilled passes to find his teammates. He was the quarterback for the Canadian power play as they looked to cycle the puck through Lafreniere. Alexis played the point with ease scoring wicked wrist shots from outside as well as finding his trigger man Barrett Hayton cross seam multiple times. Lafreniere won the tournament MVP even after missing games due to injury.” – Draft Prospects Hockey Eastern Canada Evaluator Matt Donald

Jamie Drysdale, Defense, Erie (OHL), 5-11, 175, DOB 8.4.2002 – Team Canada
“Drysdale had a solid tournament as an underage defender on a gold medal Canadian team. He earned a spot on the roster and then convinced his coaches he could play big minutes. He was a huge part of the penalty kills all tournaments and had a monster game in the Gold Medal game. He had multiple big blocks on the penalty kill showing his defensive IQ to read the play and character to sacrifice his body. Drysdale played big minutes 5 on 5 in the semi finals when Byram went down to illness. Jamie didn’t miss a beat. Drysdale is so poised with the puck he never rushes any decision defensively. His ability to break the puck out with his passing and skating makes me believe he will be an elite playmaker at the next level.” – Donald

“Showed he is a really good defender especially on the defense where stayed aggressive during every shift he played and looked calm with the puck.” – Draft Prospects Hockey European Evaluator Joel Lander

“This player showed us all how valuable of an asset he will become for one lucky NHL team when he is drafted. For a youngster he has an incredible feel for the game, understands the flow and structure. He can skate with best of them whether it is a break out or defending the rush. He has nice stride with balance, speed, change of pace, agile, stops, starts, turns all with mobility and when carrying the puck. Stick handles in traffic maintaining puck control. Hockey knowledge of an older player. Good work ethic, plays with determination a willingness to battle in hard areas and the drive to succeed.” – Caldwell

Quinton Byfield, Center, Sudbury (OHL), 6-4, 215, DOB 8.19.2002 – Team Canada
“Quinton had a quiet tournament on a very deep Canadian team and slowly saw his minutes diminish as the games went on. I thought Byfield had some good solo rushes in his limited shifts. You can see the speed and skill for his size and age. He had several one on one rushes going in and out of the defender. Quinton just seemed to be forcing the play a little bit throughout the tournament in a struggle to create the high-octane offense he normally does. Quinton provides a big frame that he will continue to grow into. The way Quinton is able to use his edges at his size gives him the chance to protect the puck and keep possession in battles. He has a quick brain and can make decisions on the fly. Quinton has an accurate shot that he is becoming more and more comfortable using off the rush. Quinton is a center that makes his wingers better and does not need a goal scorer on his wing to pick up points. Byfield will be heading back to Sudbury with the confidence of a gold medal and I would expect him to finish the season on a tear.” – Donald

“A big man that can play in small areas, tree limb length arms allow him the ability to control the puck in small areas. Patient and does not force the play, will skate with the puck in the OZ until a seam or lane opens up. He is going to be a brilliant player in another year. In this tournament he seems a little tentative. Could easily be over thinking the game.” – Caldwell

“It has been a tuff tournament for Byfield so fare. And in this game he didn’t see much of ice time. But he flashes some really good stuff late in the game where was great with puck around the net winning some board battles, but he doesn’t look comfortable playing on the wing.” – Lander

Dawson Mercer, Right Wing, Chicoutimi (QMJHL), 6-0, 180, DOB 10.27.2001 – Team Canada
“Dawson had an excellent tournament after earning himself a roster spot due to a strong camp. Mercer was used on the 4th line for the Canadians and made sure his minutes were impactful. He is a good skater that can use his quick feet to get in on the forecheck and pressure defenders. He brought lots of energy to the 4th line with his physicality and puck possession. Mercer has a great feel for the game and high hockey IQ that allows him to seek out open lanes to attack.” – Donald

Tim Stutzle, Center, Adler Manheim (DEL), 6-0, 187, DOB 1.15.2002 – Team Germany
“Stutzle was arguably my biggest riser on the draft boards after the World Juniors. A big body center that stood out for a good German team every shift. Stutzle had an excellent tournament as Germany’s top player and goal scorer. He was the quarterback on the German power play and was able to execute all tournaments. He has excellent speed and edges that he uses to cut through traffic with ease. Stutzle was able to play the wing this tournament showing his ability to play throughout a line up at multiple positions. He brings a lot of energy to every shift and was a factor away from the puck causing turnovers. Stutzle has game breaking talent as he can score from outside and around the net because of his grit and willingness to go to the dirty areas. He has excellent vision and is able to find the seams to feather perfect passes through on.” – Donald

“Played on top line at this U20 WJC. Quick soft hands and releases has allowed him to become a prolific scorer. Makes high value passes at top speed for scoring opportunities. People have described him as a natural center, winning face offs in key situations, good on both sides of the ice. Good weight distribution for age and size. Thinks the game at high level. Quarterbacked the German PP in this tournament. Will take a hit to make a play. Tenacious, agile, grit and balance that allows him to win board battles. Excellent work ethic either side of the puck.” – Caldwell

“Top Germany forward, elite skating and was always on the move, working over big areas of the ice and always taking new position when he delivered the puck to a teammate. Stutzle always sets up his teammates with good scoring chances. Shows no fear to battle along the board besides that he is a little bit smaller. Also, he is not afraid to sometimes try creative plays to spark offense.” – Lander

J-J Peterka, Left Wing, EHC Munchen (DEL), 5-11, 192, DOB 1.14.2002 – Team Germany
“Peterka had an excellent tournament for the Germans. He was able to score multiple goals showing he can produce with the top talent of this draft class. Peterka has been solid in the DEL playing against men on big ice. He was able to use his speed in the tournament games to get open down the wing and expose defenders. He has a great knack for scoring and is often around the net looking for rebounds.” – Donald

Lukas Reichel, Left Wing, Eisbaren Berlin (DEL), 6-0, 172, DOB 5.17.2002 – Team Germany
“Reichel had a good tournament for the Germans as an underage player producing 5 points in 7 games playing deeper down the line up. Reichel is a good skater and has a nice long stride that should see him get even faster. Lukas has good tendencies around the net as he is aware of the soft areas on the ice. I was impressed with his ability to drive through the lane with the puck and use his skill. He has solid hands but can use his decision making to choose a less risky play. He can be erratic on the boards at time as he does have a good compete level despite some turnovers early in the tournament. He showed a consistency in effort that shows me he has a pro game already.” – Donald

Jan Mysak, Left Wing, Hamilton (OHL), 6-0, 175, DOB 6.24. 2002 – Team Czech Republic
“Dangerous offensively. Active on his skates, protects the puck, gains speed through the neutral zone. Instinctively jumps to catch the opposition sleeping and gain a breakaway chance once he sees his teammates gain possession. Quick release on an accurate shoot. Great hands and feet. Wins most puck races. Great mobility carving it up on his edges. Strong on the forcheck and balanced along the boards. Works hard on the backcheck and creates turnovers just by working with his legs and the stick. On the down side he was caught sometimes trying to be to creative in the own zone forcing some turnovers.“ – Lander

“Mysak had a great tournament for the Czechs. He showed his skillset and speed as he was able to score a couple goals off the rush. While two goals is not dominant, that he was able to produce at this level at such a young age was impressive. He has quick feet that move well when he has the puck. He is able to switch directions quick and stick handle with speed. His release is a strong part of his shooting package as he has a sneaky heavy shot. He seemed to surprise goaltenders with his ability to shoot from anywhere in full stride.” – Donald

Simon Kubicek, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), 6-2, 194, DOB 12.19.2001 – Team Czech Republic
“A big minute-munching blueliner that player beyond his years anchoring the Czech defense and powerplay. He played strong, physical defense along the wall, in front of his net and deep in his own zone and was willing to step up and play the body whenever the situation arose. His feet look quicker than previous views reacting to shifty attackers as well as the speed to transition to defend. Great ability to skate a stride, gain separation and reduce pressure before hitting a teammate with a strong breakout pass. A heavy point-shot and impressive puck distribution ability contributed to his 3 points in 5 games stat line.” – Stewart

“Kubicek played very well stepping in and defending the cycle in his own zone and playing the body. He can be a little bit too much of a puck watcher where he sometime loses his cover, and he can also be little bit to aggressive where he leaves his position around the crease to chase without leaving his goaltender any support. His offensive contribution came mostly from transitioning the puck quickly as well as bombing shoots from the blue line and creating rebound chances.” – Lander

Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgarden (SHL), 6-0, 183, DOB 01.23.2002 – Team Sweden
“An impactful pure goal scorer for sure. He seemed to find the soft spots in coverage and wait for his chance to get a one-timer or quick wrist shot off. Bounced between the first, second and third line and used as a trigger man. Did look to contribute a two-way game but was just not as active as I would have liked to see as he would often shy away from puck battles along the wall or just haphazardly jam his stick in there looking to disrupt. Ended the tournament with 5 points including 3 goals including the game winner against the rival Finns.” – Stewart

“It was a hot and cold, but mostly hot as he was a strong goal scoring option for the Swedes. Holtz can be invisible, standing around for stretches of time but in a flash, he finds some open space and releases a canon of a one-timer. He also owns a deadly wrist shoot and goal scorers instincts. His passing game was also strong as he found his teammates with some strong passes. Consistency in effort will go along way as he showed some great effort without the puck, winning some 50/50 battles and breaking up a few passes.” – Lander

Lucas Raymond, LW, Frolunda (SHL), 5-10, 165, DOB 03.28.2002 – Team Sweden
“Didn’t get as much ice time as we thought he would but when he was utilized, he looked like a dominant player. A strong puck handler who skates well and can beat defenders with a quick move or deke. The two-way work ethic is excellent, he plays with good pace and is often found battling for pucks winning many of those battles. Was not afraid to go to the net and battle for position. The strong passer also has a good and quick release on the shot.” – Lander

“Love the playmaking skills, elite vision and two-way awareness as well as the effort level he has in his game. He won many one-on-one puck battles not by overpowering his opponent but by using his quick stick and intelligence. Always looking to create offense, he did a solid job in a secondary scoring role with 4 points in 7 games.” – Stewart

Yaroslav Askarov, G, SKA Petersburg (VHL), 6-3, 176, DOB 6.16.2002 – Team Russia
“Was pretty excited to see Askarov in action against the worlds best teenagers and to hear he was going to get the nod, but that excitement turned to sympathy quickly on my part as teams seemed to have a book on where to shoot on the talented goaltender who was yanked in two games. He was also playing with far too much nervous energy and not limiting his movements. He learnt a valuable lesson here about preparation and that high calibre shooters will always find the holes. I expect the youngster to respond with improved play down the stretch.” – Stewart

“Had a really rough start of the tournament. Seemed to have quite a difficult time tracking the puck especially in the first game. Low point was letting in a stoppable shot from the blueline. Pulled in two games. Still even with the disappointing play you saw flashes of the impressive Askarov like his puck handling, overall reaction time and ability to fill the net.” – Lander

Marko Stacha, Defense, HK Dukla Trencin (Slovakia), 6-1, 190, DOB 3.21.2002 – Team Slovakia
“Full of pep and energy, but also aware and intelligent. Always involved in the play and willing to get his nose dirty sticking up for himself or his team. Physical and feisty, he plays a full on, completely engaged defensive style. Uses his body on the man or to get in front of shots. Has solid speed and smarts which he uses to defend but also to carry the puck up ice which he did on numerous occasions during this event. Has a solid shot and ability to get pucks to the net. Was voted as one of the top three Team Slovakia players at the tournament despite only playing in three games.” – Stewart

Samuel Knazko, Defense, TPS U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga), 6-0, 185, DOB 8.7.2002 – Team Slovakia
“Knazko had stretches where he looked good, like on the power-play, and some where you felt he was out of his depth, like against higher talented teams deep in his own zone. His ability to move the puck, skating it or passing it, was solid and he was able to quickly find his breakout passes. He as also solid on the blueline in the offensive zone distributing and getting what shots he could on net but finished the tournament with a single assist. Where he was exposed was on puck retrievals in his own zone and during physical battles along the wall. He will need to gain strength.” – Stewart

Simon Knak, Right Wing, Portland (WHL), 6-1, 185, DOB 1.27.2002 – Team Switzerland
“Loads of talent, this speedy, intelligent winger that makes great passes, slippery in and out of traffic. Agile and well balanced, with excellent anticipation. Can play a physical style if the game is chippy. He has surprising quickness and foot speed, when stick handling to explode through traffic to get quick passes or shots off. Seems to have the ability to get passes through those tight cross seams. Not a flashy player but someone to be aware of when he is on the ice.” – Caldwell

“Like most of his Swiss teammates, he boasted a strong work ethic and drive throughout the event. He scores a couple goals and was a positive impact player. His stick handling was strong as was his body positioning. Loved the way he continually tried to drive the net or cut to the middle of the ice for scoring chances. He has a goal scorer shot release but does not shoot the puck enough. He is shifty on his blades and has healthy speeds plus makes smart decisions. Gets himself open.” – Stewart

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