• PROSPECT-UPDATE ARCHIVE
It's time to talk about the 2018 World Junior Championship. The tournament in Buffalo begins in less than two weeks, and one of its highlights will be an outdoor game between Team USA and Canada. Unfortunately, we won't be seeing any first-year draft-eligible prospect on this year's Canadian roster, and the U.S. roster will include only Quinn Hughes and Brady Tkachuk. They still have to make a final cut, but each has an excellent shot at a roster spot.
Russia is also light on first-year eligible prospects, with only Vitali Kravtsov, the youngest regular in the KHL, in contention. On the other hand, many Europeans from Sweden and the Czech Republic could be there. It will be a critical World Junior for Sweden's Rasmus Dahlin and the Czechs' Filip Zadina. Both will be among the top five picks in June, and they have a chance to make a Nico Hischier-style statement with exceptional play.
Two Russians landed on the five-player top-performances list for Wednesday, along with one World Junior A competitor. That tournament is now headed for its semifinal round. Check out the Wednesday list below:
ALEXIS GRAVEL -- Gravel was at his best on Wednesday night after being named to the Jan. 25 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game earlier in the day. It has been a roller-coaster year for the Halifax netminder, but things are really looking up of late. On Wednesday, he stopped 25 shots in the Mooseheads' 5-2 win at Cape Breton, including a perfect 17 saves over the final two periods. His performance enabled Halifax to break out of a 2-2 tie and coast to victory. Getting a chance to start more games, Gravel is 2-0-1 in his last three. (Note: Fifth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
NIKOLAI KOVALENKO -- Russian forward Kovalenko erupted for the highest single-game point total of his MHL career. He has really stepped up while several of his Yaroslavl teammates are away at the World Junior A event. On Wednesday, Kovalenko picked his career-high four points with two goals and two assists in Loko's 6-1 rout of Vladivostok. He began with a bang, scoring the game's first goal at 12:46 of the opening period. Not long after, he scored the eventual game-winner at 19:05 of the first for a 2-0 lead. Just 27 seconds into the third, Kovalenko assisted on his team's fourth goal, and then pushed the lead to 5-0 with the primary assist on a goal at 3:07. Kovalenko now has nine goals and 20 points on the season, as well as points in four of his last five games. He's doing everything he can to get drafted, just like his dad, Andrei, who was selected in 1990. (Note: Third appearance on this list in 2017-18)
JACK McBAIN -- Because of his size and strength, McBain is one of the most attractive prospects in the 2018 draft pool. On Wednesday, the big guy recorded a goal and assist in Canada East's 4-3 overtime loss to Canada West at the World Junior A. Both points came in the third period. The first was the primary assist on a power-play goal at 2:31 that pulled East into a 2-2 tie. His second point was a go-ahead goal just 21 seconds later at 2:52. Unfortunately, East couldn't hold on and saw its run end. McBain is tied for second in the tournament scoring race with four points (2-2) in three games. He has a very bright NHL future. (Note: Eighth appearance on this list in 2017-18)
OTAR SAKHOKIYA -- Sakhokiya is one of the lesser lights of Russia's MHL. He usually doesn't play more than seven or eight minutes per game, and had not scored in two months prior to Wednesday. Against Stupino at home, the St. Petersburg SKA Silver Lions forward got 10:19 of playing time and responded with a goal, an assists, and a plus-3 rating in a 7-3 win. He had the lone assist on a goal at 12:58 of the first period for a 2-1 lead, and later closed the scoring with a goal at 19:44 of the third. Given more icetime, he is showing that he can contribute.
RILEY STOTTS -- A huge night for Stotts on Wednesday, as Calgary ripped WHL rival Edmonton 6-1. Stotts, the No. 1 star, scored two goals, had an assist, and went 7-for-11 on face-offs. His goal at 11:34 of the second period stood up as the game-winner, giving Calgary a 2-1 lead. He later scored to make it 4-1 at 8:44 of the third, and he assisted on the 5-1 goal at 15:15. Stotts, a star at the 2016 World Under-17's, struggled with Swift Current, but a trade to Calgary has done wonders for him. He has been averaging two points per game over his current three-game scoring streak, and he has eight points in six games since the trade. With Swift Current, he had managed just three points in 20 games. (Note: Second appearance on this list in 2017-18)