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2024 IIHF U18 World Championship – McKeen’s Team Predictions

231226 Konsta Helenius of Finland ahead of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship game between Finland and Canada on December 26, 2023 in Gothenburg.
Photo: Carl Sandin / BILDBYRÅN / kod CS / CS0473

The 2024 IIHF U18 World Championships kick off early Thursday morning (Eastern time) in Finland. This is one of the most important events in the scouting calendar and as such, McKeen’s staff brings you their predictions for the tournament.

Medal Predictions

Canada (7x)
USA (4)
USA (5x)
Sweden (3x)
Finland (2x)
Canada (1x)
Finland (4x)
Canada (3x)
Sweden (2x)
USA (1x)
Czechia (1x)
James Hagens. Photo by Rena Laverty.

Award Predictions

James Hagens, USA (4x)
Tij Iginla, Canada (3x)
Porter Martone, Canada (2x)
Trevor Connelly, USA (1x)
Konsta Helenius, Finland (1x)
Henry Mews, Canada (3x)
Aron Kiviharju, Finland (2x)
Alfons Freij, Sweden (2x)
Cole Hutson, USA (2x)
Logan Hensler, USA (1x)
Leo Sahlin Wallenius, Sweden (1x)
Carter George, Canada (4x)
Ryerson Leenders, Canada (2x)
Kim Saarinen, Finland (2x)
Nicholas Kempf, USA (1x)
Herman Liv, Sweden (1x)

Burning Questions


“That the tournament will see many fantastic performances from players not eligible for the 2024 draft. I foresee many late 2006 born players and the 2007 born players in this tournament coming out and making names for themselves. Gavin McKenna, Matthew Schaefer, James Hagens, Logan Hensler, Luka Radivojevic, Adam Benák, Jakob Ihs Wozniak, Olivers Murineks and Niklas Aaram Olsen are just a few names that could really show out for their respective nations as underage talents.” (Steven Graves)

Gavin McKenna will help Team Canada more than predicted.” (Jeremy Tremblay)

“The surprise is that Sweden loses in the quarterfinals, failing to make the semifinals for the first time since 2015 (when they had a disastrous 8th place finish). This also would end their run of five straight medals. This is made possible by a round robin loss to the Czechs, setting up a date with either the US or Finland in the quarterfinals. I'm just not confident in Sweden's depth and goaltending, in addition to the fact that they don't have a true game breaker in the lineup up front.” (Brock Otten)

“Finland's goaltending will be better than most people expect, and it will make them a very hard out in the semifinals but then carry them to a bronze medal.” (Derek Neumeier)

“Kazakhstan doesn't score more than one goal all tournament. With the sheer power level of Group B, Kazakhstan can't break through for more than a single goal. However, that goal will come against Canada. Because, well, of course it will.” (Felix Robbins)

“I think the surprise of the tournament for many people is going to be Cole Hutson. With the Hutson name sort of comes the expectation of high-octane offense, and I think that certainly could be there, but I think this tournament could really help show the progress he's made in making his game more well-rounded. I've found him to be inconsistent at times but in what is likely to be a big role for the Americans, Hutson could really surprise some people if he strings together a bunch of quality games where he plays strong two-way hockey.” (Ethan Hetu)

“I think Jett Luchanko ends up being the top forward for Canada in the tournament. I think his skating and compete level will shine in this short tournament.” (Jamison Derksen)

“Czechia - They're my dark horse for a medal this year. They clinched silver at the last Hlinka Gretzky Cup and are bringing many players from that squad to the U18s. The offense looks particularly strong with top players like Adam Benák, Max Curran, and Ondřej Kos. Moreover, Czechia boasts decent secondary scoring, which is crucial when competing with top nations. If Czechia performs well, expected leaders Adam Jecho and Tomáš Galvas could elevate their stock and contend for the first round.” (Matej Deraj)


Leo Sahlin Wallenius
Photo: Jesper Zerman / BILDBYRÅN

Leo Sahlin Wallenius, when people see his combination of skating prowess and offensive efficiency against the best of his peers - they’re going to realize that he has the tools to be a top-4 option in the NHL one day.” (Steven Graves)

Cole Eiserman will have a terrific tournament, helping his lately falling draft stock to rise.” (Jeremy Tremblay)

Jett Luchanko - I just see him featuring big for Canada as one of the team's natural centers. His speed will play really well on the bigger ice and I think they slot him between guys like Ritchie, Greentree, Martone, etc. He's going to prove that he is one of the draft's elite playmaking pivots.” (Brock Otten)

“Marek Vanacker's stock has been rising steadily throughout this season, but this will be his best opportunity yet to showcase his abilities, and his game will reach an entirely new level now that he finally has elite talent to work alongside.” (Derek Neumeier)

Alfons Freij. I've been hyping him up all year long, and I think that he's got the perfect opportunity to prove that he deserves FIRM 1st round consideration. Maybe even assert himself as one of the top D in the draft class.” (Felix Robbins)

“I think Emil Hemming has a chance to raise his stock the most. It's an interesting thing with guys who play professionally earlier than their peers, I think many of them get tagged with being "high floor, but lower ceiling" as a result of the fact that they're often operating in limited roles with their pro teams. Hemming is an example of a player who has had question marks related to his upside due to his league play with TPS. If he has an excellent tournament against his peers he can really firmly cement himself as a first-round prospect.” (Ethan Hetu)

“I think Henry Mews has an awesome opportunity to revitalize his draft stock this tournament. It’s pretty easy to see him establishing himself as the #1 D on Canada’s blueline and having a huge tournament.” (Jamison Derksen)

Tomáš Galvas - I feel like he needs to perform at a bigger stage to truly showcase his talent. Galvas had a strong year with Liberec in Czechia top tier league, however, he's still a bit in Adam Jiříček's shadow and doesn't get the recognition he deserves, in my opinion. He's a brilliant skater, a smart two-way defenseman who loves to join the rush and make plays with the puck. Due to Jiříček's absence, he should be the key defenseman for Czechia and show he belongs to the first two rounds of the upcoming NHL Draft.” (Matej Deraj)


Darels Uljanskis - I want to see just how good he is in a best on best tournament with his peers. He is the most promising talent among the 2006 born players out of Latvia, so I want to really see how his two-way game holds up playing lots of minutes for Latvia. This could be a big tournament for him, as this will be the place where the most eyes will be on him.” (Steven Graves)

“Definitely Kiviharju, who missed a good amount of time this season.” (Jeremy Tremblay)

Aron Kiviharju - Once hyped, now a bit of an afterthought because of injuries this year. What will we see from him now that he's (assumingly) healthy? Finland is going to need him at the top of their game because they are top heavy this year and will be playing the crap out of their big guns. Has his development truly plateaued?” (Brock Otten)

Emil Hemming. He was a force of nature early in the season at the U20 level in Finland, but then his game cooled off a lot once he got called up to the Liiga. This tournament will be a fresh opportunity for him, and he has the potential to be one of the best players there and one of the top point producers.” (Derek Neumeier)

Lucas Pettersson, since I haven't been too sure of what to make of him as of late. He's fallen out of my first round due to others in the region outperforming him, but I think being surrounded by very talented teammates is going to give him the chance to play a more elevated game and showcase the dominant offensive ability he's flashed throughout the J20 season. I feel like we'll get to know who Lucas Pettersson really is, once and for all.” (Felix Robbins)

“I'm most intrigued to see Aron Kiviharju here. It's a bit of an obvious answer, but the reality is he was once viewed as a high-end prospect but has had injuries completely derail his progress.This is his chance to really make his mark before the draft.” (Ethan Hetu)

“I think it will be pretty nice to see Liam Greentree with some better linemates after the season in Windsor. It’ll also be interesting to see how his skating looks on the bigger ice.” (Jamison Derksen)

Konsta Helenius - After a massive year in Finnish Liiga, Helenius is ready to represent his country at the home tournament. As the anticipated leader of Finland's offense, all eyes will be on Helenius to see how he performs and elevates his stock. A successful tournament could put him in the top five conversation for the upcoming draft. He's an extremely smart, well-rounded player who projects as a future top centre. It'll be interesting to watch him play against his peers again after a successful season in the Finnish top tier league.” (Matej Deraj)


Logan Hensler - Hensler is a name you’re going to start to hear more and more as the 2025 draft comes around. I think he is the best defender in the 2006 class of Americans, and I think he’s just scratching the surface on what he could be. He is going to impress with his skating and his two-way play the entire tournamen. Hensler will solidify himself as a top-5 player going into the 2025 draft. He has all the tools to be a top-2 NHL defender, and I think he’ll showcase why at the tournament.” (Steven Graves)

James Hagens will prove himself to be the best available player for the 2025 NHL draft.” (Jeremy Tremblay)

Matt Schaefer - This is such a tough question because of how many outstanding late born 2006's there are at this tournament like Hagens, Hensler, Martone, McQueen, etc. However, I think Schaefer is a guy people are underrating because his offensive production in Erie this year was pretty pedestrian compared to some of the other top young defenders out of the CHL in recent years. Yet, he proved at the U17's that he was one of the best defenders in this age group and I think he's up for the challenge here, to show that he's a candidate to be the best 2007 born defender.” (Brock Otten)

James Hagens will have a tremendous tournament, leading the United States in scoring and cementing himself as the undisputed frontrunner to get picked 1st overall in the 2025 draft.” (Derek Neumeier)

Viggo Nordlund. Undersized, shifty, dynamic playmaker from Skelleftea who absolutely took over the J20 Playoffs this season, scoring nearly 3 points per game. Like Victor Eklund at the Hlinka Gretzky, Nordlund is going to bulldog his way to the spotlight and show off that offensive toolkit as well.” (Felix Robbins)

James Hagens - The obvious choice, but he's going to play a leading role on a really strong Team USA and is surrounded by exceptional offensive players. He's a dynamic creator and I think this tournament will mark the beginning of his hype cycle as teams that don't win the Macklin Celebrini lottery shift their focus towards him.” (Ethan Hetu)

“Definitely Luka Radivojevic, he will be leaned on heavily on the back end for Slovakia. I don’t expect Slovakia to have a great tournament but Radivojevic will be the one to watch in those Slovakia games.” (Jamison Derksen)