The holiday season is a time to spend with loved ones, but for the average sports fan and NHL prospect predictors, it’s also one of the best times of the year for sitting in front of the TV with some good food and drinks. From college football bowl games and the NFL to Christmas Day NBA games, there’s plenty of can’t-miss sporting events. The World Junior Hockey Championship is another.
The 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship begins on December 26 with games being played in the Atlantic Canadian cities of Halifax and Moncton. This tournament brings together the best U20 players in the world outside of the NHL and presents a chance for undrafted players to showcase their skills on a global scale.
While most undrafted players at the World Juniors are still eligible to play in the tournament for another two years, it’s unlikely either of the three following players return next year as they could make the NHL as 18 year olds. One player, Connor Bedard, will undoubtedly be in the league next year as he’s being described as a generational talent.
Here’s a closer look at Bedard and three other top NHL prospects at the 2023 World Juniors.
Top NHL Prospect: Connor Bedard
To put in perspective just how dominant Bedard has been this season with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL), consider this: Bedard last played in early December and will miss nearly a month of regular season action, but will return to the team in January as the league leader in goals and points. Through 28 games, Bedard had 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 points. Only one other player as of December 20 had more than 50 points.
Bedard is the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and for good reason. He’s an incredibly shifty and dynamic forward. He has Connor McDavid speed and his wrist shot has been compared to Auston Matthews. He’s a can’t-miss future superstar.
Adam Fantilli may not be as flashy as his Canadian teammate Bedard, but he combines skill and physicality in a way that’ll make him a prized prospect for one lucky NHL team. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound forward cites Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron as his favorite players.
Fantilli, who is in his first year with the University of Michigan, is the No. 2 ranked prospect by most accounts, although TSN’s Bob McKenzie, among others, has him ranked No. 3. Despite being the youngest player on the Wolverines, Fantilli leads the team with 26 points in just 16 games. In contrast, Matthew Samoskevich, a 2021 first-round pick of the Florida Panthers, is second on the team in scoring with 21 points in 20 games.
Leo Carlsson is the most intriguing prospect to watch outside of the Canadian combo of Bedard and Fantilli. The talented Swede, who turns 18 on the opening day of the tournament, has an impressive 14 points in 25 games this season with Örebro HK in the SHL, Sweden’s top professional league. He also has 11 points in six games for the Sweden U20 team this season.
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