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Canes Prospects Heading to the World Juniors

The Hurricanes should be well represented at one of the best U20 tournaments hockey has to offer.

USA-Blue v Finland Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

*Editor’s Note: With World Juniors getting underway Sunday, we’re re-publishing this piece Matt wrote a couple weeks ago on all 10 Canes’ prospects playing in the WJC.

We’re less than two weeks away from the most wonderful time of the year. That’s right folks, we’re less than two weeks from the World Junior Championships. The Hurricanes have always had a few prospects on various rosters at the World Juniors, but this year, the Hurricanes could be one of the teams with the most players at the World Juniors thanks to two straight years of strong drafting.

With Russia, Canada and the United States announcing their final rosters this week, the Hurricanes officially have 10 prospects on various teams at the World Juniors. They’re the team with the most prospects at the World Juniors, a testament to the excellent work that the Hurricanes’ amateur scouting department has done in recent years. The Canes’ 10 prospects heading to World Juniors ties the NHL record for most from one team in WJC history.

Canada

Ronan Seeley - Seeley has been a top defenseman for Everett in the WHL this season. He currently has 22 points in 24 games on one of the CHL’s top teams this season and has officially been named to Canada’s roster for the World Juniors. Seeley plays a responsible game at a high pace and can occasionally dazzle you with his puck skills and stick work in the defensive zone.

I’ve said before that he plays a similar style to Jaccob Slavin, although with less upside. Canada’s first team practice was Tuesday, December 14, which saw Seeley on Canada’s fourth pairing. It’s likely that Seeley will be in a depth role for Team Canada, but if they need someone to shut down the opponent’s best, Seeley is their guy.

USA

Scott Morrow - Morrow has been outstanding for UMass this season and should quarterback one of the United States’ power play units during the tournament. Morrow’s slick puck handling, smooth stride, hockey sense and vision make him a lethal presence in the offensive zone and will give the United States a boost there. The United States has a deep group of defensemen, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Morrow’s ice time is limited at even strength. His defensive game still needs some work, and while I feel that he has improved significantly in college, the United States might prefer to keep him in an offensive role more than anything else.

I’m expecting Morrow to be one of the USA’s top-scoring defensemen in this tournament. A lot of people are hyped to see Luke Hughes and are forgetting just how good Morrow is in the offensive zone. Morrow is underrated and should put himself on a lot of people’s radars over the course of the tournament. We’ve yet to see how the USA will utilize him in their line combinations, but The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler projects Morrow on the USA’s third pairing.

Germany

Nikita Quapp - That’s right folks, we’re talking Quapp Quapp Quapp. He is one of four goalies and one of two drafted players on Germany’s roster, so there’s a decent chance that we could see him get a start or two. Compared to recent years, the German roster for the 2022 World Juniors could be best described as thin, especially now that Chicago pick Lukas Reichel will miss the tournament. Needless to say, I’m not expecting Germany to do well. What I’d like to see is for Quapp to keep his team in the game and make timely saves. He plays on a terrible team in the DEL and has done fairly well, so all I want to see is more of that. If you’re unfamiliar with the player, I tweeted a few clips from his most recent start.

Finland

Aleksi Heimosalmi - Heimosalmi is the youngest defenseman on Finland’s roster, which is already a big deal. While he may not see a lot of minutes in this tournament due to Finland’s defensive depth, he should be able to play enough for Finland’s national staff to take notice. Heimosalmi will likely play in Finland for another season after this one, so it’s very likely that he’ll be one of their top defenders at the 2023 World Juniors. This year, however, I expect to see him take control of the game at even strength and play a strong two way game. Don’t let Heimosalmi’s point totals at the Liiga level fool you, he’s a very good defenseman. He’s more of a two way defender than an offensive defenseman, which is fairly atypical for a player his size.

Ville Koivunen - Koivunen has been tearing up the Liiga this season, and with Aatu Raty missing the tournament due to quarantine, he’s my pick for Finland’s breakout player. Koivunen is one of the smartest players on the ice at any given moment and he won’t give up on a play. His stride has improved tremendously this season and it isn’t a liability in the men’s league, which was something that worried me a bit. Koivunen might have one of the best shots in the tournament and his stickhandling and hockey sense should make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Koivunen could turn a lot of heads at the World Juniors and it should give Canes fans a look at the latest promising player to come from Karpat.

Russia

Vasiliy Ponomaryov - Ponomaryov was wearing the “C” for Russia during their training camp, so it’s safe to say that he’ll be the team’s captain at the World Juniors. Ponomaryov has been at the World Juniors once already and should be one of the highest-scoring Hurricanes prospects at the tournament due to his experience and overall skill. Ponomaryov is smart and can make some dazzling passes, particularly from behind the net. He plays a power forward game and will be leaned on heavily with some of Russia’s top players having to miss the tournament due to...playing in North America?

Alexander Pashin - Pashin is good, folks. Like, really good. He’s one of those players that can score from almost anywhere and his speed and hockey sense allow him to create offense in a variety of ways. Pashin should see time on the power play for Russia and will be one of the team’s snipers if they deploy him properly. It’s unreal that the Hurricanes were able to draft Pashin in the seventh round. He has top six upside, and if the Hurricanes can convince him to leave Russia in a few years, he could be a legitimate NHLer. I’m excited to watch Pashin play in this tournament.

Nikita Guslistov - Guslistov is another goal scorer that plays at a high pace. Sensing a trend? Guslistov has been a KHL regular this season and is coming into his own offensively. He does some excellent work around the net and is a good screen in front of the goalie, something not usually seen in smaller forwards. Guslistov may not be a well-known name in the prospect world, but I like what I’ve seen from him this season. The Canes love to take smaller players with high offensive upside in the later rounds, and Guslistov is an intriguing prospect.

Sweden

Zion Nybeck - Nybeck played well in a depth role for Sweden at last year’s World Juniors, but this year, he should be one of their top players and offensive forwards. His creativity with the puck and overall hockey sense make him one of the most exciting players to watch in the offensive zone, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s on their top power play unit. This Swedish roster is much better than last year’s, at least in my opinion, so we should see the Swedes contend for a medal once again.

I talked to Mikael Holm, a Swedish scout, about Nybeck, and here’s what he had to say:

“Zion Nybeck hasn’t been super impressive in HockeyAllsvenskan this year but he looks solid. He doesn’t play that much so he does the most he can with what he can get. There’s real questions surrounding his projectability to the NHL. Will be interesting to see how he fares in a bigger role for the Swedish WJC team.”

Joel Nystrom - Nystrom wasn’t a player that I paid much attention to when he was drafted, but he’s been a dominant force in the SHL this season. This season, Nystrom is averaging 17:40 of ice time per game, nearly an 11-minute improvement over last season’s average. He is currently tied for the lead in U20 scoring in the entire SHL alongside Detroit’s sixth overall pick, Simon Edvinsson. Nystrom plays a responsible, modern NHL game and should be a solid pro for the Hurricanes. I’m excited to see him in Sweden’s top four and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’s on their shutdown pairing. I’ve been impressed with Nystrom the few times I’ve watched him this season and it’ll be nice to get a look to see how he holds up against the best U20 players in the world.

Mikael had thoughts on Nystrom as well: “Joel Nyström plays like he’s one of the better defensemen in the SHL so far this season. He plays big minutes on a team that should be one of the best teams in the league but hasn’t been so far. For a 7th round pick he’s proving himself worth much more than that right now.”

Other Prospect News

  • Pyotr Kochetkov was recently named the KHL’s Goalie of the Week thanks to three straight wins and a .945 save percentage.
  • Alexander Nikishin will play for the Russian National Team at the Channel One Cup starting December 15. He is already 20 so he is too old for the World Juniors, but getting the call to the men’s team is a huge honor. Nikishin was also given another honor on Tuesday as he was announced as Spartak Moscow’s representative for the KHL All Star Game.