Who to watch at U18 Worlds
by Chapin Landvogt|26 APR 2021
Russian scoring wunderkind Matvei Michkov will play his first U18 Worlds after having shone at the Youth Olympics last year.
photo: Vedran Galijas / justpictures.ch
As a result of the worldwide pandemic, this year’s 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships is the first installation of the tournament in two years. Taking place in Frisco and Plano, Texas, both being part of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the eyes of the hockey world will be watching like seldom before. It’s the only tournament of this category, which also means that there will be no relegation round and thus, no participant has to worry about being relegated out of the group this year.

What every team will have to worry about are the myriad of excellent young talents dotting the line-ups of just about all of the contestants’ rosters. This tournament will be chock full of special hockey players who we will be hearing about for years to come.

Now, you’re naturally going to want to check out all of the young men who’ll be suiting up for the tournament’s ten contestants over the next ten days, but the following players are kids IIHF.com feels you should keep a special eye on.

Group A



Ilya Gavrilov - D
Already 188 cm tall, Gavrilov got into 62 (!) junior games with the Spartak Moscow program this past season and will need to be an absolute general for this team. Mostly a defensive defenceman who likes to play it dicey, he’s going to have a lot of work to do and this will be his chance to show the international community what he’s made of.


Shane Wright - C
Imagine not having played all winter, yet finding yourself centering the first line for Team Canada at a world championship? Unthinkable, right? Well, this is basically happening and that’s how special Shane Wright is, who won’t even be draft eligible until 2022. In Wright, Canada has a player who really hasn’t shown himself to have any weaknesses of note and has been running the show in all three ends against players older than him for years now. Succinctly intelligent and often pure lightning on the ice, Wright is the type of player who will be gunning for MVP honours.

Connor Bedard, C
Say hello to about the only 15-year-old player in this tournament. Oh, and get ready to see him playing a top six role for one of the tournament's absolute championship candidates. The recipient of gobs of international attention, Bedard concluded a nice little intermezzo this winter in Sweden before joining the Regina Pats of the WHL, a team for which he collected 28 points in 15 games. In case you’re wondering, you’re right; you don’t see stuff like that from a 15-year-old all that often. Supremely talented in either a goal-scoring or set-up function, Bedard will be one of the most heavily scrutinized players in this tournament despite his age as the hockey world is wondering if it’s found its next Connor McDavid. Let’s just watch this kid play.

Dylan Guenther, RW
A hot topic heading into this season, Guenther just put up 24 points in 12 WHL games and has now entered the conversation to go first overall in the 2021 NHL draft. This tournament will now go a long way in making an argument for him, whether for or against. An upper echelon skater, passer, and shooter, Guenther should overwhelm a few opponents in the preliminary round and then be a cog in any playoff success Canada should enjoy.

Brandt Clarke, D
One of several Canadians to have taken a much different route this winter due to the global pandemic, Clarke spent the season in Slovakia’s top men’s league and, as a defenceman and despite a slow start, managed to contribute 15 points in 26 games. In fact, hockey fans across Slovakia are already talking about how special it was to be able to watch this cerebral talent before what they’re assuming will be a long NHL career. For now, Clarke is set to PK Canada’s power play and serve as the team’s go-to defenceman.


Kristians Samitis, RW
At 192 cm and 87 kg, the 17-year-old winger is coming into this tournament as one of Latvia’s more international players and personalities. Following in the footsteps of fellow countryman and current NHLer Rudolfs Balcers, Samitis has been playing his hockey this season with the Stavanger Oilers organization in Norway after playing for Assat Pori’s junior organization in Finland the year before. His size and nose for the net should be a handful for opponents.

Darels Dukurs, F
A three-year veteran of Switzerland’s junior programs, Dukurs is coming off his best season to date in which he had 43 points in 41 games for Langnau’s U20 squad. Not afraid of the rough stuff, Dukurs is a chippy player who knows where the goal is and how to stand in front of it. Expect the average-sized forward to be a mainstay on the power play.


Simon Edvinsson, D
A very big and very mobile defender, Edvinsson loves to move with the puck and does just that more than most. You should expect to see him galloping around the ice with the biscuit and manning the blueline on the power play. This winter, he got into 11 games of SHL action with the famed Frolunda program and another 20 games (eight points) with Vasteras in Sweden's second-highest senior league. He doesn’t always make the best decisions and he has been known to have the odd defensive breakdown here or there, but he can be a thoroughbred and has more pro experience than most in this tournament.

Anton Olsson, D
Olsson is a mid-sized defenceman who is coming off a full season for the Malmo Redhawks in the SHL. With four points and a +2 rating over 39 games, Olsson is one of the few players at this tournament to accumulate such a pro resume this past winter. A heady player who knows how to do what’s expected of him by the coach, expect him to eat up those important minutes when the team needs to keep the opposition off the board.

Elias Salomonsson, D
Just 16-years-old, Salomonsson debuted in the SHL this season and is already looking like a very special talent who will make waves in a deep 2022 NHL Draft. Very capable in all three zones, it is felt he’ll already be an impact player in this tournament and when you’re 187 cm and 83 kg, you’re not worrying about being physically outmatched.

Fabian Lysell, RW
Moves, moves, moves, and more moves. Shifty as can be and very hard for defenders to keep up with, Lysell is one of the absolute top prospects for the upcoming NHL draft. Despite a minimal role for a very strong Lulea team in the SHL, he did get into 26 SHL contests this winter and often showed the types of skills that make coaches and scouts alike salivate. Now it’s time for him to do the same in Texas and chances are that he’s going to wow you out of your seat a couple of times along the way.

William Stromgren, LW
He’s already 191 cm tall and yet, will probably be one of the strongest and swiftest skaters in this tournament. A special talent with a nose for the net, he had nine points in 27 games this winter in Sweden’s second-tier senior league while also collecting 18 in 14 U20 games and another 12 in 11 games in Sweden’s third pro circuit. Yep, that too is not something you’ll see every year. Any possible metal ambitions for Sweden will need to have Stromgren playing a key role in the offence.

Isak Rosen, F
Rosen suited up for 22 SHL games this winter and although he never got on the score sheet, he often showed the kind of sideline speed that pushes defences back and can break open a game. He was a PPG player in 12 junior games, so everyone knows he can score at the U20 level. He should be an integral part of Sweden’s attack.

Simon Robertsson, RW
Another forward who got into 22 SHL games, Robertsson is hard on the forecheck and loves to shoot. Give him time and space, and you won’t be able to stop that shot of his. In fact, he’s very adept at getting it off even when he doesn’t have time and space. Figure to see him along the walls for one-timers on the power play.


Dario Sidler, D
Sidler is one of the smallest players you’ll see at this tournament, but he made some serious headway with time in Switzerland’s top two pro circuits and an almost flawless season in the nation’s U20 league. A last-minute cut from the U20 team this past winter, Sidler is a strong all-direction skater and knows how to keep the puck away from opponents while making a solid first breakout pass.

Brian Zanetti, D
Considered perhaps the most talented all-round Swiss defenceman for this year’s class of players, Zanetti was scheduled to play with Peterborough of the OHL this season but ended up spending the whole season being the ne plus ultra for his junior team Lugano. He’ll get some minutes here.

Lian Bichsel, D
Ok, the main reason you’ll want to watch Bichsel is because he’s 195 cm and 96 kg although he’s just, gulp, 16 years old. He also had a fairly dominant junior league season that saw him get a 4-game cup of coffee in the NL. Yep, you won’t be able to miss him.

Attilio Biasca - C/LW
Biasca played for Switzerland’s U20 team at the World Juniors this past winter and scored what was the team’s only goal over the first few games. A strong U20 league outing in Switzerland was then followed by a 19-game debut in the Canadian QMJHL, where he collected eight points. He’ll be the go-to guy up front for Switzerland and has a lot of motivation to really make a name for himself in this tournament.

Group B


Czech Republic

Tomas Suchanek, G
When it comes to Suchanek, we’re talking about one of the goalies who may have to buy his team a victory or two on his own. The top Czech goalie for the upcoming NHL draft, he spent the entire season playing in the Czech Republic’s second pro league and gathered an 8-10 record in 21 games. But will that experience prove him to be a difference maker in this tournament?

Stanislav Svozil, D
Having turned 18 in January, the slightly built Svozil is coming off his second full season in the Czech Republic’s top men’s league. He’s not put up much in the line of offence over either season, but no one questions his skating prowess and top-flight outlet passes. He also has strong blueline instincts. After an appearance with the U20 team in Edmonton, this is the tournament Svozil really wants to put his mark on as he’ll surely be counted on heavily by the scouting staff.

David Jiricek, D
Jiricek is another defenceman who spent this past season patrolling the blueline for a top league team, suiting up for 36 games and collecting 10 points in the process. First eligible for the 2022 NHL draft, Jiricek is quite possibly seen as his nation’s top overall defensive prospect in recent years. Having put up two points in five WJC contests, the youngster is, like Svozil, looking at some heavy responsibility in this tournament.

Simon Marha, F
It’s not often a Czech player takes a developmental path via Switzerland, but the son of former part-time NHLer Josef has a Swiss pass and has been honing his craft in both Switzerland and Sweden in recent years. After 39 points in 39 U20 games, it is felt that some offense is simply going to have to be generated by Marha in this tournament. Despite good height, Marha is but 75 kg and has been known to play a perimeter game. Still, his hockey sense is unquestionable.


Brad Lambert, LW
Get used to this name, because, as un-Finnish as it is, this guy is the team’s star and should be one of the best players at the tournament whatsoever. A bull in a China shop, he already starred for the nation’s U20 team in Edmonton with four points in seven games and simply plays a powerful and relentless game. There won’t be many players who can skate with him at this tournament, so he should be in the middle of many offensive opportunities. By the way, the 17-year-old played the entire season for JYP Jyvaskyla of Liiga, Finland’s top league.

Joakim Kemell, RW
With 36 points in 38 games for his U20 squad, Kemell was 18th in scoring in Finland’s highest junior league - as a 16-year-old. Kemell is now entering this tournament having been the first 2004-born player to score in Finland’s Liiga. In so doing, he was also the only 16-year-old to play at the top level this winter. His 17th birthday is this Tuesday and the strong skater who can handle the rough stuff will surely be motivated to make it his best birthday ever. In fact, he’s probably planning on turning it into a 10-day party.

Oliver Kapanen, C
Does that name sound familiar? Well, it should, as ice hockey is in his blood. The tall centre just clicked at over a PPG pace this past winter in Finland’s top U20 league before putting up five points in five Mestis games, Finland’s second highest pro men’s league. Expect the skinny forward to play a top six role for this team and look to follow in his uncle’s footsteps with respect to U18 success.

Topias Vilén, D
The 88 kg large defenceman spent just about the entire season playing for Lahti in Liiga action, collecting eight points and a +3 rating in 35 games. Mature beyond his years, he’ll be in line for a huge role on Finland’s blueline at this tournament.


Julian Lutz, C/LW
Germany will be without a few players who many felt would be lining up on one of the top two lines at this tournament. Even if they were here, Lutz is the go-to guy everyone is waiting to see. Germany’s top prospect for the 2022 NHL Draft is a powerful forward who can simply do it all at an above-average level. Despite having just recently turned 17, the 187 cm tall, 81 kg forward will be the team’s go-to player and combines a terrific shot with terrific vision and top-end passing skills, and spent this past winter playing for men’s pro teams in three different leagues. If Germany manages to surprise at this tournament, Lutz will have played a key role in that. Guaranteed.

Nikita Quapp, G
The 191 cm large goaltender has been the talk of the German goaltending prospect town the past few years and entered this season as its most exciting prospect at the position. The season certainly didn’t start off as expected as Quapp looked overwhelmed at times playing in Germany’s third highest pro circuit, the Oberliga. Then something happened and he was thrust into duty for the Krefeld Penguins at the DEL level, the top in Germany. He proceeded to pleasantly surprise all onlookers by winning a few games and keeping his team in many others that it had no business being part of. We’re now going to see if just what he’s picked during this winter’s overly positive adventure, as a game or two where he stands on his head could be all Germany needs to get a ticket to the playoffs.


Nikita Chibrikov, RW
Above slightly below average size, Chibrikov is in Texas serving as the team captain and he’s coming in with quite a resume, including three points in three games with the senior national team in the European Hockey Tour. More impressively, in addition to solid stints in the VHL and MHL, he even suited up 16 times for SKA in the KHL. Having just turned 18 a little over two months ago, Chibrikov is mature beyond his years and will be one of the players scouts will be keeping a close eye on.

Danila Yurov, F
Having just turned 17 in December, Yurov spent 21 games in the KHL regular season and then another three in the playoffs, scoring a goal there along the way. Sturdy with good height, Yurov likes to create off the wing and is an above average skater. His 28 points in 26 MHL games indicates that he’s very good at scoring against his own age group. Will he do just that in Texas too? 

Matvei Michkov, RW
All this kid does is score. He’s coming off a season in which his 56 points broke famed NHLer and Stanley Cup winner Nikita Kucherov’s U17 player record in Russia’s MHL. He loves to score, and he loves to make opponents look foolish in the process. Darting in and out of defences, it often looks like the puck is glued to his stick until it’s in the back of the net. Amazingly, Michkov isn’t even eligible for an NHL draft until 2023!

Ivan Miroshnichenko, LW
Fast as lightning and armed with a shot that probably needs a license, even in Texas, Miroshnichenko has played a bit with Michkov in the past and has been an MHL star in his own right, even if his season was cut short. Dishing out checks that are highlight reel worthy, he was expected to play in the USHL this season, it never came to pass due to visa issues, but the player is on US soil now to make a name for himself and earn Russia a gold medal. It’s been a while.


Sean Behrens, D
A bit of a tiny tot at 175 cm and 79 kg, Behrens is a solid two-way defender who excels in an offensive capacity. In 62 games with the USNTDP program this winter, he collected 10 goals and 49 points. An assistant captain in this tournament, you can count on seeing Behrens in most all situations and on the plus side of most of the action.

Aidan Hreschuk, D
Yes, Hreschuk is being thought of as a likely first round draft pick this summer, but his value for viewers at this tournament will be that of the smooth skating blueliner who quietly does everything a coach asks of him to win games. He collected 50 points for the USNTDP this winter but isn’t a run and gun style dynamo. He’s the type of defenceman who is simply there when things matter most. You know, the kind medal winners have in the line-up.

Ryan Chesley, D
Possibly on board for this tourney as a bit of a replacement for super prospect Luke Hughes, who will miss this tournament after March surgery, the 85 kg heavy Chesley was the U17 club’s top offensive defenceman and manages a whopping 17 goals and 49 points over the course of 70 games this winter. The 17-year-old has a heavy right-handed shot and may just be a fixture on one of the power play units. By this time next year, he may be THE go-to guy on the US blueline.

Isaac Howard, LW
Howard is a slightly smaller left wing who oozes intelligence and hockey sense. With 99 points in 72 games this winter, many of them at the U17 level, Howard was the program’s clear-cut top scorer and weighs in as a true goal scorer despite his healthy number of assists. As an underager at this tournament, the offensive responsibility may not be placed on his shoulders, but he has what it takes to lead this tournament in scoring. Let’s see if he does it. His strong defensive play and positioning will make him a mainstay one way or another.

Chaz Lucius, C
You want goals? He’s going to score some. It’s been a topsy turvy season for Lucius, primarily due to lingering issues with an injury, but when he plays, he can be a dominant factor and gives opposing defences a hit. If he’s feeling good, he could be an MVP candidate for this tournament.

Logan Cooley, C
Another underager on the team, Cooley is felt to be the best overall player in the program at the U17 level. He can do it all and may be thrown into more of a lower line defensive role for now but be sure that you’re watching one of the top 2022 draft candidates when he steps out on the ice. His versatility should make him an option that the coaching staff makes clever use of when games are on the line. 

Red Savage, C/LW
Son of former NHLer Brian, Red has been one of the U18 program’s core players all winter long, racking up 26 goals and 58 points in 62 total games. He’s one of the players on the team who doesn’t get the accolades but is there to do damage when opponents place an emphasis on the team’s top guns. Well-schooled and promising, don’t be too surprised when he lives up to his name.

Sascha Pastujov, LW
Yep, 33 goals and 78 points in 52 games are numbers you can write home about. The third in a line of three hockey playing brothers from Bradenton, Florida, he’ll surely be doing just that from across the Gulf of Mexico the next ten days. A first line player and key ingredient to this year’s squad, the mid-sized winger is a bit of a magician with the puck and has a keen sense of finding open teammates.

As mentioned, you’ll want to see all these players and all ten teams, but the gentlemen above are guys you’re simply not going to want to miss. Click here for information on how to watch the U18 Worlds.