Aside from Connor Bedard, who is being hyped to be the consensus number 1 overall pick in next year’s draft, there are other players to watch at the 2022 WJC. Here are some 2023 NHL Draft prospects to watch at the 2022 WJC.
Related: Connor Bedard vs Matvei Michkov
1. Dalibor Dvorsky, F, Slovakia
Dalibor Dvorsky is a name you should be looking out for at the 2022 World Juniors with Slovakia. Dvorsky helped Slovakia to the gold medal at the 2022 U18 Division IA Worlds tournament, recording 11 points in five games. He’s been playing over in Sweden for a few seasons now, most recently lighting up the J20 Nationell with AIK J20, recording 40 points in 33 games. He also made his pro debut in Sweden’s second-tier professional league, HockeyAllsvenskan, at just 16 years old. The scoring center is considered to be a potential top-five candidate for next year’s draft and he should be one of the centerpieces for a Slovak forward group. Not only will Dvorsky be a player to watch at the World Juniors, but he will also be a player to watch closely this season because should he have a phenomenal year, he could shoot up the draft rankings, similar to his fellow countrymen, Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec.
2. Charlie Stramel, F, USA
Charlie Stramel is another player from this draft class to watch at the 2022 World Juniors. If you’ve watched any of the U.S. NTDP games this season, it’s hard not to notice Stramel. Listed at 6-3, 215 lbs, he plays a power forward role, never shying away from the physical aspect of the game. He suited up in 26 games for the national program, recording 22 points, as well as 7 goals and 15 points in 16 games for the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL. He is set to play at the University of Wisconsin this fall, where he looks to build upon his impressive skillset. Stramel was one of the youngest kids on the U.S. NTDP U18 roster, making him one of the lone players not eligible for the 2022 draft. He’ll certainly be taken next year, as the big forward is slated to be a top-10 candidate in the draft, despite not really playing a huge role on the US World Junior team this year. Depending on how well he plays this season, he could be ranked as high as 7th in the draft next year.
3. Samuel Honzek, F, Slovakia
The next player to keep an eye on in this year’s tournament is another prospect who will be playing for Team Slovakia is Samuel Honzek. Few 16-year-old players are mature enough physically, mentally, and skill-wise to play in professional hockey leagues against grown men, but Honzek is one such player. After playing 15 games across the top two professional leagues in Slovakia during the 2020-21 season, Honzek played 49 games last year, all of which were in the top Slovak league, the Extraliga. Honzek scored 14 points in those 49 games, 10 of which were goals. He began the season in the top Slovak junior league, but he was leaps and bounds above most of his competition, scoring seven points in five games before making the jump to the professional level. Honzek was selected in the first round of the 2022 Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Import Draft by the Vancouver Giants. Honzek could very well be one of the top contributors for a Slovak team that is looking for offense in the absence of top prospects Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec.
4. Maxim Strbak, F, Slovakia
Maxim Strbak is one of the defensemen to watch at the 2022 World Junior Championships. Strbak was one of the youngest players on the World Juniors team in December for Slovakia and joins the squad again this summer. The Slovak defenseman has been playing over in Finland with Jokerit’s program, getting his first taste at the U20 level during the 2021-22 campaign. He recorded eight points in 39 games with Jokerit’s U20 team, as well as skating with Slovakia at the U18 tournament where he has three points in five games. The defenseman has committed to the University of Vermont but is not expected to make his way over to North America until the fall of 2023 at the earliest. Strbak should see a good amount of time on ice with a weaker Slovak blue line without Simon Nemec there. Slovakia is obviously not going to be as strong as they were last season, but there are still some solid players to monitor on the team, and Strbak is one of the few at the top of the list.
5. David Reinbacher, D, Austria
David Reinbacher is another player to watch at the 2022 World Juniors, despite playing for an underdog Austria team. Reinbacher has spent the last six seasons over in Switzerland. He split time this season between Kloten U20 of Switzerland’s junior league and EHC Kloten of the Swiss League (SL), the country’s second-tier of professional hockey. At the U20 level, he recorded 22 points in 23 games, while he had 11 points in 27 games in the SL at the age of 17. This is the same league that Anaheim Ducks prospect Mason McTavish played for during his draft year, where he scored 11 points in 13 games, for reference. Reinbacher scored at roughly half the rate that McTavish did despite being a defender who is a year younger. If he can take another step forward this year, he could begin to generate some real buzz in the 2023 draft as a big right-shot defenseman. With Marco Kasper deciding not to play for Team Austria in the tournament this year to prepare for the upcoming SHL season, someone will have to step up as a leader, and Reinbacher might be that guy. The Austrian blue liner is expected to not only be the leading force on the back end for the country but should be one of the top performers in Edmonton at the World Juniors.
6. Rainers Rullers, F, Latvia
The top Latvian prospect for the 2023 draft is Rainers Rullers, who has played quite well in the top two tiers of Latvian professional hockey. He spent eight games in the second league, where he scored seven points and showed that his strength and skating could keep up with a higher level of competition. Rullers then received a promotion to the top Latvian league, where he scored 17 points in 28 games as a 17-year-old. Rullers has a massive frame for someone of his age, standing at 6-foot-3 and 181 pounds. He was the second highest scorer amongst U18 skaters in Latvia and was the fourth highest among all U20 skaters. It’s unclear where he will be skating in the fall, as a move to a better European league is probably in the cards for Rullers’ development. For now, with Latvia getting its first crack at playing at the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, the country will rely heavily on the 17-year-old.
7. Ian Scherzer, F, Austria
Ian Scherzer is another 2023 draft prospect to watch at the 2022 World Juniors in Edmonton; he should be a standout for Team Austria alongside David Reinbacher, another 2023 eligible player. Scherzer is coming off his first season playing in Sweden, where he spent time with Rögle BK’s U18 and U20 teams. He recorded 15 points at the U18 level but went pointless
in eight games with the U20 team. Without Marco Kasper, Austria is going to need the likes of Scherzer to step up if the team wants to be competitive.
8. Peteris Bulans, D, Latvia
Peteris Bulans is another 2023 draft prospect to watch at the 2022 World Juniors in Edmonton; he should be a standout for Team Latvia alongside Rainers Rullers, another 2023 eligible player.
While Latvia will lean on Rullers up front, on the back end it will be Bulans. Like Rullers, the defenseman started with Latvia’s second-tier of professional hockey before moving up to the
top league. He also skated with HS Riga, recording nine points in 22 games with the club. Similar to his countryman, Bulans’ plans for the 2022-23 season have not been determined,
but I would expect him to try to play elsewhere. If Latvia is to be competitive in the World Juniors, they will need both Rullers and Bulans to be impact players.