Sport 5 NHL prospects who stood out for Team USA at 2018 World Juniors

20:03  05 january  2018
20:03  05 january  2018 Source:   SB Nation

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Playing well at the World Juniors can be a springboard to big success at the professional level. So with that in mind, here’s a look at five players from Team USA who impressed at the 2018 World Juniors , even if a bronze medal is the best-case scenario.

Playing well at the World Juniors can be a springboard to big success at the professional level. So with that in mind, here’s a look at five players from Team USA who impressed at the 2018 World Juniors , even if a bronze medal is the best-case scenario.

Casey Mittelstadt #11 of United States celebrates his goal against Finland with Brady Tkachuk #7 in the first period during the IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on December 31, 2017 in Buffalo, New York.© Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images Casey Mittelstadt #11 of United States celebrates his goal against Finland with Brady Tkachuk #7 in the first period during the IIHF World Junior Championship at KeyBank Center on December 31, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. The United States couldn’t follow up last year’s gold medal thriller against Canada with another triumph at the World Junior Championships. A stacked Sweden team was just too much in the semifinals as the U.S. bowed out in a 4-2 loss.

But even as the Americans head to the bronze medal game Friday afternoon, there’s a lot to be proud of for head coach Bob Motzko’s team. Wins over Canada, Finland, and Russia are nothing to sneeze at, and the 4-3 shootout win at New Era Field was one of the most fun hockey games we’ve been treated to in a long time.

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Team USA is slated to return to action on Thursday with game against Slovakia. That showdown will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network. The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec.

Team USA is slated to return to action on Thursday with game against Slovakia. That showdown will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network. The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec.

A number of players also boosted their stocks as NHL prospects. It can be easy to focus on who wins and loses when the games are actually going on, but it’s worth remembering that this event is also important for scouts and other evaluators from the 31 NHL teams. Playing well at the World Juniors can be a springboard to big success at the professional level.

So with that in mind, here’s a look at five players from Team USA who impressed at the 2018 World Juniors, even if a bronze medal is the best-case scenario.

Casey Mittelstadt, Sabres

Mittelstadt made a good case not only as the best player for Team USA, but as the best player in this tournament. He’s always been incredibly gifted with the puck on his stick, and in Buffalo, that finally translated into big production as he led all players with 10 points in six games. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman named him MVP of the tournament.

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Team USA is slated to return to action on Thursday with game against Slovakia. That showdown will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network. The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec.

Team USA is slated to return to action on Thursday with game against Slovakia. That showdown will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network. The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec.

I mean, look at this goal:

There’s so much to love about Mittelstadt as a prospect. He’s an elite skater and stickhandler who sees the game well and makes plays that other players wouldn’t even try. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he fails to make the Sabres out of training camp next fall. Between Mittelstadt and Jack Eichel, that franchise may finally have the one-two punch it’s been searching for.

Brady Tkachuk, 2018 draft prospect

The son of Keith and brother of Matthew, the youngest Tkachuk showed in this tournament that he’ll be one of the top picks in the 2018 NHL draft. The winger already has an NHL frame at 6’3, 196 pounds, and he used it to rack up three goals and five assists in six games.

Tkachuk shows some similar traits to his family members in his willingness to play physically, cover 200 feet, and battle in tight spaces, but it’s his high-level skill in such a big package that stands out more than anything.

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Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn.), who guided Team USA to its fourth-ever gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto, Canada, is returning as head coach for the 2018 U.S. National Junior Team .

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Russia’s Andrei Svechnikov is widely expected to be the first forward off the board in June, but Tkachuk made a case to challenge that in Buffalo. Now he returns to Boston University, where he’s racked up 19 points in 14 games as a freshman.

Adam Fox, Flames

One of the few players on Team USA to return from last year’s gold medal-winning team, Fox has been the Americans’ best defenseman in the tournament. He’s tied for second in the tournament among blue liners with five points, including the game-winning goal against Finland to wrap up the group stage.

The Flames prospect is a bit undersized, which is why he fell to the No. 66 overall pick in 2016, but there was no doubt who stood out on the U.S. blue line in this event. He was the steady leader for a defense that otherwise had some disappointing performances.

Kieffer Bellows, Islanders

After watching Mathew Barzal tear up the World Juniors a year ago, Islanders fans were treated to the team’s next first-round pick doing the same thing in Buffalo. Bellows, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, is second in the tournament in shots on goal (33) and tied for first in goals scored (seven).

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Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn.), who guided Team USA to its fourth-ever gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto, Canada, is returning as head coach for the 2018 U.S. National Junior Team .

What happens next in the World Juniors ? Team USA is slated to return to action on Thursday with game against Slovakia. That showdown will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network. The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec.

The only other players in the tournament to record 30-plus SOG are Finland’s Eeli Tolvanen and Czech Republic’s Filip Zadina, two of the best prospects in the entire competition. Bellows might not be on that level as a prospect, nor will he likely follow Barzal’s path and become a top player immediately upon joining the NHL.

But Bellows showed he’s making progress as an offensive creator and finisher, and he was one of Team USA’s best players.

Dylan Samberg, Jets

Unlike Mittelstadt or Tkachuk, who were impossible to miss anytime they were on the ice for the U.S., Samberg impressed by being steady and reliable. The Jets’ 2017 second-round pick emerged as one of the team’s top defensemen during the tournament, including a two-assist effort against Russia in the quarterfinals.

Samberg isn’t the kind of player who will blow you away with overwhelming skill, but he delivered on the back end as a puck-moving defenseman who held his own in his own zone.

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