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The World Junior hockey tournament held every year over the Christmas holiday season is some of the best and most exciting hockey you will ever see. It is also a great source to find an edge in your fantasy league.

We are always looking for the next hot rookie or prospect to own, and if you are in a deep keeper league with a prospect roster, the World Jr. is must watch T.V., and gives you one more reason to watch. The tournament has seen memorable performances from great players such as Peter Forsberg and Pavel Bure who went on to have Hall of Fame careers in the NHL. There have been players who were also great in the tournament such as Justin Pogge, who were not as successful in the NHL so remember to keep things in perspective.

Each year the tournament is comprised of the best players in the world who you do not get a chance to watch live very often, if ever. It is a great opportunity to give some prospects you have heard about or read about the eye test. It is one thing to buy magazines or read online articles such as this one and get opinions about players, but no opinion is better than your own.

This will be the first in a series of articles focusing on specific countries players who have a good chance of playing in the NHL and becoming a future contributor to your teams drive for a Championship. What better place to begin with than the defending Champions, Team USA.

Most of the players in the tournament are drafted by a NHL team, and some exceptional players make their nations team in, or even prior to their draft year. A lot of hype exists for Canada’s Connor McDavid who will be drafted first overall in 2015, but the USA’s Jack Eichel is another phenomenal talent who is projected to be drafted second overall, right after McDavid. Jack Eichel is a 6’1” 191 pound player for the U-18 NTDP program and in only ten games has 13 goals and 23 points.

“He’s a dynamic offensive player” said U.S. Junior Team general Manager Jim Johannson. Eichel has deceptive speed, and a Brett Hull like shot said TSN’s Craig Button in an article from USA Today.

“It’s not one thing that stands out with Jack,” Button said. “It’s the whole package.”

Expect the 2015 draft hype for McDavid and Eichel to ramp up in this tournament.

Last year’s Gold Medal win had a lot to do with the play of goaltender John Gibson, but Gibson has graduated and the reins will be turned over to Big Jon Gillies. Gillies stands tall in the net at 6’5” and 216 pounds and is a draft pick of the Calgary Flames. In his rookie season with Providence in HE, Gillies has a GAA of 2.08 and a save % of .931 in his 35 games. Last year’s backup, will be the starting goalie this year.

Ryan Hartman Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images. Ryan Hartman was drafted by his hometown Chicago Blackhawks and will make his second appearance for team USA at the World Juniors. Hartman was selected with the final pick of the 2013 first round and is a versatile, and talented agitator. He is the type of player you can quickly become a fan of, similar to how Steve Downie was a stand out for Canada a few years ago.

QUE_Erne_Adam_201213Adam Erne is another grinding forward for USA who was picked three places after Hartman by Tampa in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft. Erne made quite an impression in his only NHL preseason game where he scored two goals and laid out Vladimir Sobotka with a hit that landed him a three game suspension. He can make an impact.

FaschingHudsonHudson Fasching brings even more size to team USA. The LA Kings drafted the 6’3”, 214 pound power forward in the fourth round and he may be a gem. He is very difficult to move off the puck and is excellent in the offensive zone. The knock on Fasching is his defensive liabilities, so keep an eye out for that.

The blue line will feature Connor Carrick, who started the season in the NHL, playing three games and scored his first NHL goal. He was sent to the AHL rather than the CHL, so he may see more NHL action as the season rolls on. He is close to ready.

Brady Skjei is a New York Rangers first round pick from the 2012 who brings advanced skating and size at 6’2”, 196 pounds. A shutdown defender who won’t score a lot of points, but plays big minutes and if your league scores hits, blocked shots and PIM’s he has value. Ian McCoshen is another big, mobile shut down defender at 6’3” 205 pounds and was drafted by Florida Panthers with the first pick of the 2013 second round draft.

Anthony DeAngelo who plays for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL and is a 2014 draft eligible player will be relied on to bring the offense from the blueline. DeAngelo is running away with the defense scoring lead in the OHL with nine goals and 37 assists in 32 games. He will run the powerplay for team USA and has tremendous offensive fantasy upside. I will be watching him closely.

The games begin December 26th and will be broadcast live on TSN and on the radio on SiriusXM NHL channel 211.

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