By Thomas Harrington
Yesterday, preliminary rosters for the upcoming 2016 World Junior Championships were released. The Anaheim Ducks had three players selected, Julius Nattinen of Finland and Jacob Larsson and Marcus Pettersson of Sweden. The Ducks chose Larsson in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, Nattinen in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, and Pettersson in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Teams will announce their final rosters of 23 before the tournament opens on December 26th. Sweden currently has 26 players on its roster and Finland has 27. Both teams will have a training camp and a couple of exhibition games before the tournament begins.
Finland named 14 forwards to their preliminary roster, meaning that Nattinen only needs to beat out one or two players to officially make the team, but Nattinen is expected to make the roster. Nattinen is playing in the OHL this season, his first season spent in North America. He has 10 goals and 32 points in 24 games, tying him for 22nd in league scoring. He’ll probably line up as one of Finland’s top two centers and should see a lot of powerplay time. I’ve been lucky enough to watch a couple of his games this season, and he has looked very good. He’s more of a pass first type of player, but isn’t afraid to shoot the puck and knows how to bury it when he has the chance. He’s currently suspended for two games for being the third man in a fight.
Similar to Nattinen, both Larsson and Pettersson are expected to make Sweden’s final roster. Sweden named eight defensemen to its roster, meaning the two Anaheim prospects need to beat out one or two other players in order to make the roster. Both Larsson and Pettersson have spent this season playing in Sweden, and both primarily saw action in the SHL, Sweden’s top professional league and arguably the third best hockey league in the world. Larsson has been playing for Frolunda this season and has three goals and eight points in 24 games. For an 18 year old, those are very good numbers in the SHL. Larsson is a smooth skating defenseman who models his game after Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Pettersson is a tall player, standing at 6’4”, but needs to put more muscle on his frame. In the SHL this season he has played in 25 games and scored two goals and four points. Pettersson is more of a shut down player, and the hope is he will learn to use his size effectively. I have yet to watch a game with either player, and look forward to my first chance to see these two players for the first time. It’s doubtful either player will end up on Sweden’s top pair, but expect Larsson to get a good amount of powerplay time and both to see significant time on the penalty kill.
If you get the chance, I highly recommend watching the World Junior Championships. You’ll get a chance to see three players who will probably be a large part of Anaheim’s future, plus several other future NHL stars. The first time I ever saw Corey Perry, Cam Fowler, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, and Connor McDavid play was at their respective World Juniors tournaments. Besides giving you a glimpse into the future of the league, the level of competition is incredibly high. I still maintain the game where the US lost to Canada on New Year’s Eve during the 2010 tournament is one of the best hockey games that I have ever seen. It’s a great tournament to watch and the perfect way to recuperate from the holidays.
The 2016 World Junior Championships will start on December 26th. For schedule and more info please visit: 2016 World Junior Championships
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