USA Today’s Kevin Allen writes a bit about the five must watch players for the US team as the World Junior Championships kick off today. Those on his watch list include Charlie McAvoy, Luke Kunin, Clayton Keller, Tage Thompson, and Colin White. Allen writes that White is versatile and expected to be a boon for the American squad as a difference maker. Thompson, according to Allen, is a younger version of Blake Wheeler, while Keller is the “gamebreaker” who has the potential to be a dynamic player someday in the NHL. Captain Kunin, according to USA general manager Jim Johannson, is the “engine” of the team. McAvoy is a physical presence, and according to bench boss Bob Motzko, wants to “knock you on your rear end and score a goal on the same shift. He is going to be a guy we lean on heavily in all situations.” The Americans will look to build on their bronze medal finish from last year’s tournament.
- Allen also lists his 10 bold predictions in 2017. Some of the bolder ones include Patrik Laine outscoring Alex Ovechkin this season and that the Blackhawks will pay Artemi Panarin $7MM to remain in Chicago. Allen expects Ralph Krueger to be back in the NHL, and that the Canucks will finally embrace a much needed rebuild. Allen writes:
It’s past time. The Canucks will be first class and ask the Sedin twins how they want the organization to handle their future. They have always loved living in Vancouver. If they wait until the summer, they might be able to trade them both to one team. Maybe the Sedins would be comfortable mentoring a young team.
Finally, Allen believes that Kevin Shattenkirk will head to free agency and be pursued by the Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers, and Lightning. In the same vein, he expects John Tavares to get the “Stamkos treatment” with his impending free agency. Whether it’s a monster contract from the Islanders or a pricier offer from another team, Allen believes it to be one of the main storylines in 2017.