Look who’s back!
by Andrew Podnieks|25 APR 2022
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
The U18 is usually the most unpredictable tournament because so few players play more than once. Every year is a challenge creating a roster from scratch, and this year is no exception. Of the eight teams and 200 players registered, only 21 were at the 2021 U18. Every team has at least one returnee, and the U.S. leads the way with six. Here is a quick look at who they are, what they did last year, and what they have been doing in between.


Connor Bedard—He won’t turn 17 until July, but he’s had a sensational season, and barring some sort of alien invasion he will be drafted 1st overall in 2023. Bedard got better and better during last year’s tournament, scoring 7 goals in as many games and averaging two points a game. He scored the opening goal in the team’s 5-3 gold-medal win over Russia, and then had a great start to the 2021/22 World Juniors which was cancelled after two of Canada’s games in which he scored four goals against Austria, including a natural hat trick in the first period. He is THE player to watch now in Germany.


Simon Slavicek—Held pointless in five games last year, Slavicek played on a team that finished 7th. He is playing in the OHL this season with the Flint Firebirds, hoping to improve his draft position this summer.

Matyas Sapovaliv—He played just three games last year without a point, and is now also in the OHL, with Saginaw. He is considered a 2nd-round draft prospect for the upcoming draft thanks to good two-way play. 


Kasper Kulonummi—The 18-year-old defender has been playing in Finland this year and is considered a solid prospect because of his puck movement and overall game. Not a star in any one area, neither does he have a particular weakness. Finland finished 4th last year, though Kulonummi didn’t record a point. 

Joakim Kemell—Kemell had three goals in 7 games last year, one against Germany and two against Russia. He also played at the World Juniors in Edmonton this past Christmas, averaging nearly 13 minutes of ice time a game. Kemell has been playing in the top Finnish league, with Jyvaskyla, and not looking out of place thanks to his great shot and creativity. 


Simon Wolf—One of only two returning goalies, Wolf played in a single game last year, a 5-3 loss to the Americans. He started and lost his first game of this year as well, a 4-2 decision to Czechia on Saturday.

Rayan Bettahar—He played only three games on the 10th-place German team last year. The Polish-born defender has been playing with Swift Current in the WHL this year.

Julian Lutz—A Leap Year baby from 2004, Lutz had a lone assist last year and has been playing in the DEL this season.


Rainers Darzins—Darzins scored his lone goal last year against Belarus and has been with Riga this year. The Latvians hope to improve on their 9th-place finish last year during which they didn’t win a game. 

Dans Locmelis—He scored against Switzerland last year in a 4-2 loss. Locmelis left Latvia for Sweden at the age of 15, and has been playing with Lulea ever since.

Sandis Vilmanis—He had a goal and assist last year and is a teammate with Locmelis in Lulea. He is projected to be a late draft prospect this year.


Hugo & Mattias Havelid—The other returning goalie, Hugo Havelid recorded a shutout in his one and only game last year, stopping 30 shots in a 7-0 win over Latvia. He and brother Mattias, also returning, are the new skater-goalie superstar twins in Sweden, replacing Henrik and Joel Lundqvist. They are both lifelong members of the Linkoping organization. Their dad is Niklas Havelid, who had a great career for Tre Kronor, notably helping his team win Olympic gold in 2006.

Elias Salomonsson—A solid defender who, in the eyes of scouts, has had a bit of a flat season with Skelleftea, despite a solid performance at the cancelled U20 last Christmas. Nonetheless, he will likely go in the early rounds rather than later, and has a great opportunity to re-establish himself in Germany.


Noah Greuter—The only Swiss returnee, Greuter has carved a reputation as a skilled forward who plays with a little truculence and sandpaper. 


Ryan Chesley—His only goal in 2021 came in a wild 7-6 loss to the Russians, but the defender is one of the more promising prospects in Germany. He has good size and strength and brings a competitive streak to every shift.

Lane Hutson—He didn’t score in five games last year, but he did score the winning goal of a shootout win against Czechia. As well, Hutson had five assists and was one of the team’s top players in 2021. His play with the USNTDP has been impressive, but he is small, making his ambitions to make the NHL all the more challenging.

Rutger McGroarty—A Nebraskan, McGroarty has developed and grown in the last year with impressive results. He is a likely 1st-round draft choice this summer after captaining the team both last year and this, the first two-time captain in USA’s U18 history.

Isaac Howard—Howard had a goal and four points a year ago, and then started this year equalling those numbers, in reverse, in his first game, scoring four goals and adding an assist in an 8-3 win over Canad to open the 2022 U18s. He is the 12th-ranked prospect among North American forwards and has had a great season with the USNTDP.

Logan Cooley—The only American to play 2021 U18, 2021/22 U20, and now 2022 U18, Cooley is not only a sure 1st-round selection this year, he has everything in his game that might see him in the NHL come October. He has size and skill. He can produce in the o-zone and is sensational defensively. He is great in the faceoff circle and has the character of a winner. 

Charlie Stramel—He scored the game winner against Germany last year and added a second goal in a 5-4 win over the Finns. A big man, he will likely take a bit longer to develop, and he has already committed to the Wisconsin Badgers for the 2022-23 season.