From the Maritimes to the Worlds
by Andy Potts|17 MAY 2023
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
The game’s top prospects are always in demand. Yet it’s an elite bunch that gets the call to play at World Juniors and the World Championship in the same season. Let’s meet the five rising stars doing exactly that in Tampere and Riga after featuring in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the turn of the year.

Cutter Gauthier and Lane Hutson (USA)
Team USA took bronze at the World Juniors, with Cutter Gauthier contributing 10 (4+6) points in the tournament. He had two tallies in a wild bronze-medal game win over Sweden and now he’s carrying that scoring form into World Championship play in Tampere, with two goals in the Americans’ first three games. The Flyers prospect reckons that his prior international experience (he also has a U18 silver medal from 2022) is a big help on the biggest stage of his career to date.

“You don’t get the opportunity for international play too often, so [World Juniors] is huge when you’re playing big name teams over here,” he said. “We had a great time, we had pretty good success and it was a lot of fun.

“Now we’re in a similar kind of environment but at a higher level. We’re playing against men, NHL stars, and that’s pretty cool. You don’t really get that playing college, juniors or whatever. This is the highest level of play for most of the countries in the world, so it’s a fun time and I’m trying to enjoy every day.”

Defender Lane Hutson is also playing his second big tournament of the season for Team USA. He’s been an impressively calm presence on the blue line in Tampere and, despite still awaiting his NHL debut, the 19-year-old Canadiens prospect doesn’t look out of place on this stage.

“The World Juniors definitely helped,” he said “I got a chance to play against all those other countries, they play similar styles of play to each other. It’s good experience, it’s been great to have for this tournament.”

Adam Fantilli (Canada)
It was hard to keep eyes away from Connor Bedard as Canada powered to Junior gold back in January. The projected #1 draft pick isn’t with team Canada in Riga, but one of his team-mates from Halifax is here. Forward Adam Fantilli, 18, is also likely to go early in the draft and right now the University of Michigan star is gaining valuable experience of men’s hockey for the first time.

Fantilli has two assists so far for the unbeaten Canadians, and he’s relishing the challenge of facing opponents with more experience and greater physical presence.

“It’s more of a pro-style game, it’s fast,” Fantilli said. “Everything happens quickly. The guys out there are physical, you have to make your plays quicker and be into the game as much as possible.

“These guys have been playing longer. They know how to use their sticks and bodies. It’s a more mature game, that’s the biggest difference.”

Leo Carlsson (Sweden)
Many rate Carlsson as the best European prospect in this year’s draft. That’s certainly an opinion shared in Sweden, where the Tre Kronor made the 18-year-old the youngest player to represent the country at any World Championship. 

At the turn of the year, Carlsson put up 6 (3+3) points at the World Juniors, including 1+1 in the bronze medal loss to the USA. But he spent much of this season in the SHL, contributing 25 (10+25) points to Orebro’s campaign. Maybe that explains why team mate Jonathan Pudas is impressed with Carlsson’s maturity.

“You forget that he’s so young,” the defender said. “It doesn’t feel like that in the locker room. It’s so impressive to see.”

Carlsson himself prefers to do his talking on the ice, but defined himself as a “big centre forward with good hockey sense. I can play both centre and wing, but centre is my natural position.”

With one goal at the Worlds already as part of Sweden’s top line, he’s another player attracting covetous glances from scouts in Finland.

David Reinbacher (Austria)
The World Juniors were tough for Austria. Allowing 31 goals in the first three games highlighted the extent to which the team was overmatched. Yet David Reinbacher held up well in difficult circumstances. The 18-year-old has plenty of high-level experience from his time with Kloten Flyers in the Swiss top division, and he also has the full confidence of Team Austria head coach Roger Bader here in Tampere.

In common with his belief that if a player is good enough, he is old enough, Bader handed Reinbacher a full international debut at this season’s Deutschland Cup. “I like to throw players in at the deep end and see if they sink or swim,” he said before the tournament.

At the Worlds, Reinbacher remained buoyant, enhancing his status as a desirable right-shooting blue liner – “the complete package,” according to Bader – until suffering an injury playing against Sweden. The Austrians hope he can return before the end of the competition, but he had to sit out Tuesday’s clash with Denmark.