By DraftPro Staff

The IIHF U20 World Junior Championships is a marquee event highlighted on the annual prospect world’s calendar. A event with heavy focus from the national media, and NHL executives alike, that pits the best NHL prospects, those who in just a year or three will be suiting up against one another in the NHL, against one another in a best-on-best, high-emotion event full of highs and lows played out in primetime.

This year’s edition has some high-end, eligible in the next NHL draft prospects, who will likely take the spotlight for their teams at times in Edmonton.

Below are fifteen draft eligible names we are excited to see in Edmonton and Red Deer this holiday season.

MARCO KASPER, C, 6’1, 183, L, DOB 04.08.2004

This highly agile center was an absolute force in the Champions Hockey League with Rogle BK and has carried that momentum over to league play so far. He makes the most of his opportunities by hitting the dangerous areas on the ice and showing the escapability, high-end puck skill and decisiveness once faced with a chance. He has a quick shot release that hits its target and is no shy about taking contract to make a play either. Look for this well-balanced player to play a large role, especially offensively, for Austria. He is also no defensive slouch, playing a solid 200-foot game, and could see his draft stock skyrocket come most January rankings.

VINZENZ ROHRER, RW, 5’11”, 168, R, DOB 09.09.2004
A quick transition to Ottawa of the OHL has really helped boost his NHL draft stock producing just a shade under a point-per-game so far. The silky-smooth playmaking forward has shown versatility playing both wing and center this season, where he is almost automatic on the draw. He is a fluid skater, has soft hands to carry the puck, intelligence, and awareness to recognize an opportunity and great touch on his passes. He skates well using solid edgework to create time and space and shows off an accurate and often downright filthy shot selection, especially in tight to the net. In Alberta we expect him to be one of the bight spots for those seeing his game for the first time as he sees ice with the underdog Austria team.

JOAKIM KEMELL, RW, 5’11”, 176, R, DOB 04.27.2004

A surprise to some this season as a goal-scoring savant in the Finnish men’s Liga for JYP. Kemell showed our guy back in November 2020, during a couple U20 SM-Sarja games as we were watching Carson Lambos, that he is a sure top talent for the 2022 draft. Our scouts quote was “I standpat in describing Kemell as a pure goal-scorer but also add that he’s a confident, elite puck carrier in transition. Kemell shows a skill, skating, and scoring ability that will translate to higher levels of hockey. 1st rounder.” Strong, elusive, quick skater. Goal scorer that can also set up plays with skilled touch passes. Not hesitant to take a shot from anywhere, gets himself to the prime score areas, and has the ability to drive the offensive play. Confident. Should play a prime role in Alberta for Finland.

BRAD LAMBERT, RW, 6’0”, 179, R, DOB 12.19.2003

Brad has something to prove, and what better chance than the biggest stage in junior hockey to do so? After showing scouts his skills as a DY-2 and DY-1 prospect this year has been a classic case of others outshining the once No.2 overall projected prospect. His game revolves around his elite transitional skating ability, outstanding speed building crossovers, and getting him the puck so he can do some damage with his impressive shot release off the rush which just hasn’t happened much with JYP this season. His hands are soft and he is able to execute skilled passes at top speed. We are rooting for the kid as he has the tools to be a difference maker for the Finns in this short tournament. If he does succeed in Alberta watch for his name to push back up many draft boards.

SIMON NEMEC, D, 6’1”, 192, R, DOB 2.15.2004

Our team is looking for Nemec to either confirm or not if he is the drafts top defenseman with his play at this event. Confident offensive defenseman. Plays a direct, fast paced game. Makes quick decisions and catches opponents trying to change with crisp cross ice break out passes. Fluid skater who has solid top end cruising speed. Excellent anticipation, intercepts the puck frequently, and breaks out quickly. Competes hard, but it would be nice to see him develop more toughness in his game. Can get caught being the furthest player up the ice for his team; saying he likes to pinch is an understatement. He will need to play a little safer in Alberta than he does with his club team as a big ingredient on the Slovakian defense.

JOZEF VILIAM KMEC, D, 6’3″, 198, R, DOB 01.02.2004

Another WJC bright spot candidate for those who have not been able to view Kmec with Prince George of the WHL this season. While not lighting it up per se offensively, his two-way contributions have been noticeable on the Cougars backend. Plays a hard-nosed game, battling along the wall, using his reach to disrupt opponents and looks to really relish the physical side of the game, giving that extra whack and lining up hits. Plays in all situations for the Cougars, PP, PK and 5-on-5, and should not be considered a puck-rushing offensive minded blueliner as he is a defense-first rearguard. Skating could, and already has improved, but his stride is still a little sluggish and choppy. Should play a solid depth role for Slovakia at the World Juniors and really put his name on the draft map.

FILIP MESAR, RW, 5’10”, 165, R, DOB 1.3.2004

High energy and effort are what we expect from this offensively charged winger in Alberta. A skilled two-way forward, excellent straight-line speed, acceleration, and burst. His powerful stride makes him a key contributor on the forecheck. Takes aggressive routes to pucks and looks to intercept passes in the neutral zone. Has an ability to draw people to him and find a passing option under pressure. Impressive stickhandling ability, picking his moments and deking past defenders. Can make plays at top speed, has great vision, good understanding of where his teammates will be, and provides them with a tape-to-tape pass. Hits corners on his shots with a quick release. Will likely see a depth role for the Slovaks but should flash his skill at points.

JURAJ SLAFKOVSKY, LW, 6’4”, 225, L, DOB 03.30.2004

The big power winger, who blends a beautiful style of power and finesse making him a threat on the forecheck and all over the offensive zone, will be leaned upon heavily at the World Juniors for offensive production as well as leadership for the Slovaks. Excellent puck control, puck protection skills, and vision. An absolute hound on the puck. Reads plays extremely well and never gives up in his puck battles. His long and powerful stride generates healthy speed and gains him separation to make plays. We fully expect him to be a must see draft eligible in Alberta.

LOGAN COOLEY, C, 5’10”, 174, DOB 05.04.2004

Jumped out to a great start to the 2021-22 season as one of the U.S. National U18 Team’s top offensive performers while also being one of if not the team’s best two-way guys. He showcases intelligence, a consistent engagement level, deadly speed, skill with the puck, playing a full 200ft game, reading plays well and getting his stick in lanes. He shows great compete off the puck to win pucks back and quickly transition back to offense. Rocketing up draft boards this season, a strong showing in Alberta could push him into top five consideration. Likely to play a middle of the lineup role playing center and brings some energy and skill to the table as the American’s hope to repeat.

SHANE WRIGHT, C, 6’1”, 187, R, DOB 01.05.2004

Off to a slower start this season than most expected in Kingston, especially after seeing him tear it up in Texas at the spring U18’s, but is starting to heat up these past couple weeks in the OHL. The projected top prospect for 2022, and one with ability to become a top line center at the NHL level. He will not wow you with overly flashy skills, although his shot is close to NHL elite already, instead using his intelligence and vision on the ice, and quick overall awareness to recognize opportunities both in contributing offense as well as disrupting opponents on the defensive side of the play. A master at using open space, opponents movements, and his change of pace. Will play a major role as Canada hopes to win gold.

DAVID JIRICEK, D, 6’3”, 187, R, DOB 11.28.2003

Big, sturdy, two-way defender has looked strong this season with HC Plzen in Czechia’s Extraliga. He is a lengthy, rangy defender who makes a strong first pass but is also more than willing to skate the puck up ice and deep into the offensive zone. Owns a booming shot. Likes to play aggressive and close gaps in the neutral zone and defend his blueline. Uses his long reach and body’s his man in the corners and in front of the net. He is battling Nemec currently for this draft crops top defender on our teams list. Offensive upside and decision making with the puck is the main question, but his play in Edmonton may provide those answers.

JIRI KULICH, C, 6’0”, 172, L, DOB 04.14.2004

Enjoying a strong draft year in the Czech Extraliga playing against men this season, Kulich has been a guy we see as rising as the season has gone along. He is a leader, a positive kid who just loves to win, shows a feisty side to his game standing up for his teammates and engaging in scrums after the whistle. His offensive game is not overly flashy, although he does have a fair amount of talent, plays a north-south go to the net type of game that produces results. Possess a wicked wrister and accurate one timer. A skilled forward who plays the crash and bang game and someone who we feel will stand out in Edmonton.

DANILA YUROV, RW, 6’1”, 179, L, DOB 12.22.2003

Not getting much ice time with Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL this season, but just tearing it up in the junior league to the tune of two points per game. An electrifying playmaking winger with silky smooth hands and amazing puck skills. Excellent skater who has mastered the outside edge, creates offense anytime he steps onto the ice. Elite read and reaction time, a very quick shot release and always seems to be in prime position to let it rip. Doesn’t hesitate to shoot the puck and attacks down the wing like a missile, often creating his own opportunity. Hopefully he gets a prime offensive role with the Russian WJC entry and can show his abilities off to the North American crows.

VLADIMIR GRUDININ, D, 5’10”, 159, L, DOB 12.09.2003
An exciting, highly mobile, puck-rushing defenseman who has played at all three levels – the MHL, VHL and KHL – in Russia this season after an impressive showing at last spring’s U18 Championships. His size and physical strength are not great but he makes u7p for it in swift feet, creative puck skill, strong vision and ability to find passing options and even a quick wrister that can find the corner when given the chance. We fully expect him to help run the Russian powerplay and take a regular shift in Edmonton. Watch for the smaller rearguard to work his way up draft boards after this showcase.

LIAN BICHSEL, D, 6’5”, 216, L, DOB 05.18.2004

Big, strong, physical, mobile two-way defender looks to help lead the Swiss defense corps in Alberta and raise his draft stock in the process. Though his foot speed isn’t something to rave about, he has a strong yet smooth stride that is effective. His edgework is solid for a dman of his stature, sturdy yet swift on his turns to cut back from forecheckers. Has a ton of poise as the puck carrier leading the attack. Is great along the boards and always engages his stick at the right times and suppresses anyone in the physical department. Has a ton of poise as a puck carrier on the attack, showing good stickhandling and puck protection skills while driving to dangerous areas of the ice looking for opportunity. May end up looking a little overmatched on a weaker Swiss squad in Alberta but the pro potential is still solid.


The 2022 IIHF World Juniors also represents the next chapter in the battle for top prospect in 2023. With Russia bringing goal-scoring winger Matvei Michkov, Canada showcasing elite playmaking center Connor Bedard and add in Slovakia having offensive dynamo center Dalibor Dvorsky and the next draft class will be well represented. Each of these three will play an important role int heir team’s offensive game. Stay tuned to see how their play in Edmonton and Red Deer shapes the 2023 draft landscape.

For more in-depth 2022 NHL Draft coverage pick up your copy of the 2022 Draft Preview Magazine. From the Draft Prospects Hockey family to yours, Merry Christmas … Happy Holidays … and here is hoping we all have a great 2022!