International Ice Hockey Federation

They grow up so fast

They grow up so fast

WJC stars who could play Worlds in May

Published 01.01.2015 19:16 GMT+1 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
They grow up so fast
Possible players for the next step in international hockey in 2015: Jack Eichel, Kevin Fiala, William Nylander, Martin Reway. Photos: Andre Ringuette, Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
It takes a special player to make the leap from playing the World Juniors to competing at the senior IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in the same year.

Looking at this year’s rosters in Montreal and Toronto, we’ve identified four players who are certainly special and could suit up with the big boys in the Czech Republic. The tournament runs 1-17 May hin Prague and Ostrava.

Players with potential NHL, AHL, or Canadian Hockey League commitments are harder to predict, and that’s why we’ve excluded them from this list. Denmark’s Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (Portland Winterhawks, WHL), for instance, would both be strong candidates if available.

And in another year, emerging Czech stars like Jakub Vrana (Linkoping, SHL) or David Pastrnak (Providence Bruins) might get more consideration. But with the spotlight on Prague, it’s likely that the top Czech NHLers will turn out in force.

Jack Eichel – United States

USA Hockey traditionally likes to test some of its top-tier NCAA talent at the Worlds – think of how current Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau excelled in Minsk last year with 10 points in eight games. So Eichel, the 18-year-old American World Junior captain, is a prime candidate.

The gifted centre is off to a solid start at these World Juniors, and has racked up 27 points in just 16 games with Boston University. Showcasing his skills in the Czech Republic could also boost his case to be taken #1 overall in the NHL draft instead of Canada’s Connor McDavid.

Kevin Fiala – Switzerland

Fiala falls into the “been there, done that” category. Last year, the 2014 first-round pick of the Nashville Predators (11th overall) played in Minsk, earning two assists in seven games. That made him one of just three players in hockey history who have participated in IIHF U18, U20 and senior World Championships in the same season.

Enjoying another good season with HV71 of the SHL (5-9-14 in 20 games), the speedy 18-year-old winger will likely get the call to suit up in May again, since Switzerland can always use more offensive creativity.

William Nylander – Sweden

With Sweden’s depth, this is far from a sure thing. But it’s not out of the question. Nylander, shining in his World Junior debut, is a point-per-game player in the SHL, going 8-11-19 in 19 games with MODO Ornskoldsvik this season.

If the 2014 first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs (8th overall) does get chosen by Tre Kronor head coach Par Marts, he’d be ahead of his father in one regard. Michael, who scored 679 points in 920 NHL games and has suited up for AIK Stockholm in the Allsvenskan this season, didn’t appear at the Worlds until he’d starred at two World Juniors.

Martin Reway – Slovakia

The Slovak captain, a three-time World Junior participant, feels a solemn sense of responsibility for his national team. When he scored a hat trick in a 5-2 win over Germany, giving Slovakia third place in Group A, he said: “The guys are looking to me. I feel they have big respect for me, and I’m trying to be a good leader for them.”

Interestingly, the 19-year-old winger was born in Prague, and he’s making a strong pro debut with Sparta Prague of the Czech Extraliga this year (5-16-21 in 23 games). Although the Slovak senior national team will start off the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship closer to the two countries’ border in Ostrava, you can be sure Reway would love to get to his hometown and help his country medal there on 17th May.


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