Team Canada v Team USA
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Rejoice, the World Junior Championships have arrived. Over the years the tournament has produced the next generation of NHLers and this year’s crop is no different. Luckily for fans of the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils they have plenty to root for.

New Jersey Devil fans, what a year for you guys. The future looks to be even brighter as the Devils lead the way of the metro area with 7 prospects playing in the tournament.

Michael McLeod headlines the strong group of prospects. A 2016 first-rounder, McLeod has a very nice combination of size and skill. A captain for the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, McLeod is a returning player for Team Canada and should bring a leadership element to the group.

Joey Anderson is another returning player for his team, a member of last year’s Gold Medal-winning team. Anderson was recently named captain for Team USA. Not a prolific scorer, Anderson is known more for his intangibles and strong two play. Aarnie Talvitie is a Finnish forward picked in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. Talvitie has some international success to his name, registering seven points in seven games at the WJC U18’s. A good sized forward, he is a sensational skater and brings a very strong presence to both ends of the ice.

Jesper Boqvist is a Swedish skater drafted in the second round this past season, Boqvist is pure skill. A slick player with deft one-on-one moves, Boqvist, if he can master the defensive side of the game, will bring some serious excitement to the Prudential Center.

Slovakian forward Marian Studenič is a Devils’ fifth-round pick from this past seasons draft who is currently enjoying a near point per game pace in the OHL. A small player at 6 feet tall and only 165 pounds, Studenič will look to help ignite the Slovakian offense. The final forward on the list is Mikhail Maltsev from Russia. The tall, lanky forward with skill and puck wizardry was a fourth round pick from the 2016 draft. In 17 KHL games, the 19-year-old has five assists.

The Devils will have one defenseman prospect playing in the tournament. Yegor Zaitsev was a seventh round pick in this past season’s draft. An undersized defenseman, he uses positioning and skating ability to outthink opponents. He rounds out a really exciting group of prospects for Devils fans with lots of skill and ability. It should be a fun tournament overall for Devils management to keep an eye on.

Onto the New York Islanders and their draft property! They will have three prospects playing. The most notable of the group is Kieffer Bellows who will suit up for Team USA. A returning player from last year’s Gold Medal-winning team, Bellows will look to take on a more offensive role for USA. Bellows moved from Boston University onto the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL where he is enjoying much more offensive success.

The Islanders will also have Finnish prospect Otto Koivula playing. Koivula is a massive power forward at 6-foot-4. He needs to work on his skating ability before he can make an impact at the professional level, but he will certainly be a go-to player in this tournament.

The Isles also have Robin Salo playing, a Swedish defenseman. The 2017 second-rounder is a phenomenal two-way defenseman with solid ability to read forechecks and start breakouts. Salo projects to be in Sweden’s very exciting top four defenseman group.

Finally, onto the New York Rangers. By this time, everyone should be familiar with the name Filip Chytil, who suited up for two games with the Rangers this season, is excelling in the AHL with 12 points in 17 games. Chytil will be the key to the Czech Republic’s offensive machine.

Lias Andersson, the seventh overall pick from the past season’s draft, will be representing Sweden for the second time at the U20’s. Andersson will be a huge part of Sweden’s leadership group as they look to win Gold. Andersson was sent back to Frolunda this season and has recorded 14 points in 22 games.

The forgotten name is Finnish defenseman Tarmo Reunanen. The Rangers selected Reunanen in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Reunanen returns to the Finnish World Junior team after recording a goal and four assists in last year’s tournament.

There is definitely a lot of exciting talent in the pipeline for all three metro area teams that will make definite impacts for their respected countries. Look for Team USA to be playing for the Gold Medal this year as they return a strong core and have added some serious skill to the forward group. Sweden will also be a strong contender with consensus future no. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin. Canada can certainly spoil anyone’s medal hopes. They bring a weaker team than in year’s past, but have a group of really good two-way players that are tough to play against.

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Neal Purcell has a tremendous passion for New York Rangers hockey and the sport of hockey in general. A graduate of SUNY Cortland in Upstate NY, Purcell coaches both a high school hockey team and a travel team in the winter. Purcell is also a part of a small family business in the Central New York Region.