Rasmus Dahlin – Sweden
While he’s not quite reached such scoring levels in international play before, it’s no surprise Team Sweden’s Rasmus Dahlin is among the World Junior Championships’ top-ranked in points after the preliminary round – tied for first among defensemen with six points.
In fact, including all skaters, only the torrid Casey Mittelstadt’s nine tourney points bests the projected top pick in the next NHL entry draft.
Dahlin has been given a better chance to showcase his two-way game this time around.
In last year’s WJCs, the then 16-year-old received primarily sheltered minutes as Swedish coach Tomas Montan predominately deployed Dahlin to spark Sweden’s offense.
With another year under his belt, Dahlin’s being trusted in all situations for Group B’s top seed entering the semifinals.
From serving on the power play alongside Vegas’ 2017 first-round selection and fellow d-man, Erik Brannstrom, to skating lengthy shifts including fending off opponents in his own zone, Dahlin has excelled everywhere displaying his physical yet well-rounded game on the big stage.
Andrei Svechnikov – Russia
While the speedy and agile Dahlin has increasingly been held as this June’s top selection, his perhaps closest challenger is also excelling.
With five points (all assists) in four contests forward Andrei Svechnikov, showcasing his blazing speed and ability to create offense out of thin air. He has have helped Team Russia advance to the semifinals as the third seed in Group B, facing a Tuesday evening tilt against the second-ranked Group A USA squad.
The 17-year-old puck-handling master has yet to net a WJC goal, but that could easily change as Svechnikov takes his rifle shot into the tourney’s next round.
In his first OHL campaign, he’s fought through a hand injury to pot 14 goals to go with seven assists in 16 Barrie Colts’ contests. That’s on the heels of a 2016-17 USHL year featuring 29 goals and 29 assists in just 48 games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Svechnikov’s also registered 13 goals in 21 prior international contests for the Russian U17 and U18 teams, including an eight-goal, four-assist performance just over a year ago as a 16-year-old in four 2016 World Junior A Challenge games.
Jakub Skarek – Czech Republic
Conversely, in net one of the top draft-eligible prospects, Jakub Skarek has not had the best tourney thus far.
Considered the latest in a line of promising Czech goaltenders, particularly after his gold-winning 2016 Ivan Hlinka Tournament showing, (1.69 goals-against, .939 save percentage in four games), the recently-turned 18-year-old Skarek has posted a 4.39 goals-against and .859 save percentage in the WJCs thus far.
Nonetheless, buoyed by six points each from recent Carolina draft selection forward Martin Necas (12th overall) and current Saskatoon Blade defender Libor Hajek, their offensively dangerous squad, has kept pace registering a 3-0-1 record, good for second place in Group B.
Skarek’s 6-3, 196-pound frame and impressive technique in the crease set him apart from the pack.
While his skating is considered by some a work in progress, he makes up for it with an intuitive, cerebral approach to the game, exhibiting maturity beyond his years.
Skarek has a chance to boost his stat line, and perhaps draft standing, in the Czechs’ next contest, kicking off the semis against Finland Tuesday at noon EST.
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