Taking a look at WJC prospects for Canadian NHL teams (minus the Maple Leafs)

Canada’s Reid Schaefer breaks away from Switzerland’s Dario Sidler, right, during second period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship pre-tournament hockey action in Moncton, N.B., on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. (CP)

Every year (well, pandemic awfulness aside) hockey fans receive one of their best presents one day after Christmas when the World Junior Championship kicks off.

Twelve months ago, the event was nixed in the very early stages thanks to COVID. The re-do, you may recall, was just five months ago in Edmonton, with Canada taking the gold in a thrilling overtime final versus Finland. Now, we’re ready to tee it up again in Halifax.

Canadians are usually glued to the tourney to see how the guys in red and white fare. That said, those who support one of the seven NHL clubs north of the 49th are also interested in how their team’s prospects make out. (OK, make that six because Toronto isn’t represented this time out.)

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at every WJC player whose name has been called by a Canadian club at the NHL Draft.

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Lane Hutson, D, Team USA

You don’t have to be a Canadiens fan to pull for Hutson. This kid — all 150-ish pounds of him — is having an incredible freshman season at Boston University, validating the Habs’ decision to snag him with the 62nd pick in the 2022 draft. Captain Luke Hughes will dazzle on the first pair, then the Americans can send Lil’ Lane over the boards on the second and let him work his offensive magic.

Joshua Roy, W, Canada

Roy returns after being part of the crew that won gold in August. He’s been a huge riser since Montreal called his name in the fifth round in 2021. Roy is the kind of player you can plunk into any one of the top three lines and he’ll do just fine.

Filip Mesar, C, Slovakia

Juraj Slafkovsky got the headlines, but Mesar was the second Slovakian the Canadiens took in the first round (26th overall) in July after snagging Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick. Mesar has made a seamless transition to North America while playing with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. He’ll be a go-to guy on a Slovakian team that might be able to give the top clubs a decent shake.

Vinzenz Rohrer, C, Austria

The right-shot pivot is having a strong year in his second OHL season with the Ottawa 67’s. The third-rounder from 2022 is going to see a lot of ice for the Austrians. Rohrer is not big, but has the skills to make an impact.

Oliver Kapanen, C, Finland

A second-rounder in 2021, Kapanen — who played for the Lions at the WJC in the summer — is finding his way in Finland’s top league this year posting a 7-7-14 line in 32 games. He might not be a lead horse for the Finns, but he’ll be a very dependable body up the middle.

Adam Engstrom, D, Sweden

Engstrom is making his WJC debut in his final year of eligibility. The 92nd pick of the 2022 draft could play an important role for the Swedes, especially with Simon Edvinsson passing on the tournament. Engstrom has good size and a notable shot.

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Zack Ostapchuk, W, Canada

The big man returns after being part of the gold medal-winning squad in the summer. Nothing fancy here: just a tall, strong frame that’s going to make its presence felt on the third or fourth lines. The Edmonton native was a second-round pick in 2021.

Tyler Boucher, W, Team USA

The 10th-overall pick from 2021 is already in Ottawa, having jumped from the NCAA to the OHL’s 67s last season. Skill-wise, he was likely a reach where Ottawa took him. But nobody is going to question his intensity. He’ll be a banger at this tourney for the Yanks.

Oskar Pettersson, W, Sweden

Pettersson has been a very productive player at the junior level in Sweden this year and has showed very well for the country internationally, with 11 points in seven outings with the national junior squad. The six-foot-two winger can thrive in tough areas of the ice and should get a look at a scoring role in this tournament. Drafted in July, the 18-year-old is starting to look like a nice third-round pull.

Tomas Hamara, D, Czechia

Hamara, the 87th pick in 2022, returns for the Czechs after suiting up for his country at the 2022 WJC. Nothing really jumps off the page with this average-sized defender, but he’s a smart, reliable player who can be trusted with the puck.

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Rutger McGroarty, W, Team USA

McGoarty is having a good freshman season with the Michigan Wolverines, where he’s basically been a point-per-game player. The 14th-overall pick in the 2022 draft has a high-RPM motor and can make creative plays with the puck. In pre-tournament action, he lined up beside another Jets prospect who’s next …

Chaz Lucius, C, Team USA

For a variety of reasons, including the injuries he’s battled, Lucius will finally suit up for America at the WJC in his final year of eligibility. The 18th-overall pick from 2021 is holding his own as an AHL rookie and will be leaned on to produce offence for Team USA.

Brad Lambert, W, Finland

For a guy who nearly fell to the second round last year, we’ve heard a lot about Brad Lambert. A late 2003 birthday, the Jets grabbed him with the 30th pick, which is about 25 slots or so farther down than he was expected to go at certain points of his development.

Thus far, Lambert hasn’t been able to get rocking in the AHL, registering two goals in 14 games. Let’s see how this gifted skater looks against his own age group.

Fabian Wagner, W, Sweden

A sixth-rounder from 2022, playmaking is Wagner’s calling card. He’s a productive player at the junior level in Sweden, but figures to start the tournament toward the bottom of the lineup.

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Jonathan Lekkerimaki, W, Sweden

There’s no getting around it: It’s been a tough go for Lekkerimaki since the Canucks were thrilled to call his name with the 15th pick in July after a killer World U-18 Championship showing. The five-foot-11 winger failed to score at the summer WJC in Edmonton and has one goal in 20 games with Djurgardens in Sweden’s top circuit this season.

Hey, he’s only 18 and has a rocket of a shot. Maybe this event will restore all that excitement we saw when Vancouver drafted him.

Elias Pettersson, D, Sweden

You forgot the Canucks drafted a guy (80th overall in 2022) with the exact same name as their franchise centre, didn’t you?

The six-foot-three defenceman is one of the younger guys on what is always a strong team, so he’ll likely play more of a support role in 2023. This kid is not afraid to mix it up.

Aku Koskenvuo, G, Finland

One of an ever-growing number of Europeans coming over to play NCAA hockey, Koskenvuo has seen just a couple games of action as a freshman with Harvard. The six-foot-four stopper has been very good, however, in three international showings for Finland’s U-20 squad this year, posting a .925 save percentage.


Reid Schaefer, W, Canada

The final pick of the 2022 first round can be a Swiss Army knife for Canada. He’ll likely be a bottom-six guy at this event, but could get a power play look if the situation called for it. At six-foot-three, you’re going to know Schaefer is there.


Topi Ronni, C, Finland

Ronni has good size, at six-foot-two, and sees the game well. A second-rounder in 2022 (but Calgary’s first selection), he figures to fill the 3C rile for Finland in Halifax.

William Strogmgren, W, Sweden

The 2021 second-rounder is big and moves well, but that hasn’t really translated to great offensive output. He figures to be a bottom-six/depth guy for Sweden.

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