2016 U18 World Championship Preview: Finland should be in the medal round mix

by Tony Piscotta
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Markus Niemelainen - Saginaw Spirit

Photo: Saginaw Spirit defenseman and 2016 prospect Markus Niemelainen netted a goal and 27 points in 65 OHL games in the 2015-16 season (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

With some of Finland’s top players in this age group playing all over the world — and four competing for the Finland U20 team that won a gold medal in Helsinki at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship — the 2015-16 season has been one of experimentation and mixing and matching for Finland U18 head coach Jussi Ahokas. Read more»

2016 U18 World Championship Preview: Czechs hoping for return to medal round

by Chapin Landvogt
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Libor Hajak - Team Orr - 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Photo: Saskatoon Blades defenseman Libor Hajak competed for Team Orr at the 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, picking up an assist in his team’s 3-2 win over Team Cherry (courtesy of Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

After a big silver medal win in Finland at the 2014 U18 IIHF World Championship, where players such as David Pastrnak and Jakub Vrana had the scouting community licking their chops, last spring’s Czech Republic squad proved to be competitive but bland despite featuring players such as Pavel Zacha and Jakub Zboril, both of whom ended up being first round draft picks. Despite making the playoffs rather handily, the team was stopped dead in its tracks by eventual gold medalist Team USA, getting spanked by a 7-2 score. Read more»

Columbus Blue Jackets boast abundant pool of prospects

by Chris Roberts
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Photo: Zach Werenski finished with 36 points in 36 games for the University of Michigan. (Courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Photo: Zach Werenski finished with 36 points in 36 games for the University of Michigan. (Courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets may have had a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, but there is plenty of organizational depth in the system in terms of prospects. It’s not as though the team is due for another few years of rebuilding either. General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen is committed to building a winner and he showed that last summer by trading for budding star Brandon Saad. Read more»

Once a source of strength, questions abound for Detroit Red Wings prospects in Europe

by Ryan Womeldorf
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Axel Holmstrom - Detroit Red Wings

Photo: Detroit’s seventh-round pick of 2014, Axel Holmstrom, has been the team’s top-performing prospect in Europe for two seasons (courtesy of Skelleftea AIK/Champions Hockey League via Getty Images)

Though many of the best prospects in the Detroit Red Wings system to start the 2015-16 season have graduated into the NHL, the franchise still has some quality prospects across the system. In particular, the team seems to have invested heavily in the European hockey scene. They have a half-dozen prospects playing abroad right now, led by names like Joren van Pottelberghe and Axel Holmstrom. Though the majority of their top prospects are CHL products, there are a few potential gems hidden across the pond. In addition to those prospects, the Red Wings have taken a chance on a few prospects who will develop at the collegiate level. No one on the list possesses the quality of one-time Michigan Wolverine Dylan Larkin, but there are a few late-round picks that have the talent to develop.

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2016 U18 World Championship Preview: Inexperienced Latvia squad hard-pressed to avoid relegation

by Chapin Landvogt
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Team Latvia - 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship

Image: Team Latvia will send a mostly internationally inexperienced team to the 2016 IIHF World Championship, where they hope to avoid relegation to D-1.

After making their way up from Division I in 2014, the Latvians played a wonderful tournament in Switzerland at the 2015 IIHF U18 World Championship. Things started off with a wild 11-6 loss to Canada, but the team showed that it would not back down and would find ways to be dangerous. Read more»

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