The World Junior Championship is a great opportunity for scouting the world’s top teenage hockey players. At the same time, it’s ultimately a five-to-seven-game tournament in which players have minimal time to learn the team’s tactics and develop chemistry with linemates. Nonetheless, the games absolutely are informative.
“I don’t think you can let the stage influence your assessment too much, but there’s still information you can gather there,” one NHL scout told Bleacher Report. “You have to remember it’s still a six- or seven-game run in the course of a season where most of these kids will be playing 80 or so games.”
But yes, it is a major opportunity to see most of the world’s top teenagers all on the ice at the same time. It’s a different perspective in which scouts can see how players perform in a best-on-best tournament with a lot of internal and external pressures. There is a balance to be found, and some of the players at the event definitely caught the eyes of those watching.
Here are nine prospects who raised their stock at the 2023 World Junior Championship.
Connor Bedard, Canada (2023 NHL Draft)
Is it possible for the most hyped prospect since Connor McDavid to increase his stock in a short tournament? Apparently, the answer is yes. For the average fan, it’s one thing to read about him and look at the stats. It’s another to watch him dominate every shift he takes.
Bedard produced 23 points in seven games for Team Canada; the next-highest producer in the entire tournament was Logan Cooley, with 14. In fact, Bedard’s point total is fourth all-time in the World Junior Championship, demolishing the production of notables such as Eric Lindros, Jaromir Jagr and some guy named Wayne Gretzky.
For a U18 player at the tournament, he ranks first by a mile; Bedard beat Jagr’s record of 18 points at the same age.
Although Bedard has been the consensus first overall pick for multiple years, there has recently been a minority counter-movement among some scouts who questioned whether the University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli might challenge him.
Fantilli finished the tournament with five points, and while he remains a near lock to go top-three in July, Bedard removed all plausible deniability about his status at the top of the draft board. And he put himself in nearly unprecedented territory, to boot. A perennial battle with McDavid for the Art Ross Trophy looks close to inevitable.
Logan Stankoven, Canada (Dallas Stars)
Bedard, of course, stole the spotlight, but Canada’s Logan Stankoven also made some noise. The Dallas Stars draft pick fell all the way to 47th overall in 2021 for indescribable reasons beyond his 5’7″ stature.
Following the draft, I wrote that he was the “steal of the draft.” He validated that claim in Halifax.
Stankoven registered three goals and eight assists for Canada, finishing fifth in the tournament by points. He is electric with the puck on his stick and displays the vision of a high-end playmaker. Beyond that, he further proved that size doesn’t have to be his downfall. Of course, he won’t beat Tom Wilson in a wrestling match, but he showed his energy on the forecheck and used his stature well to dig for pucks.
Stankoven has 46 points in 22 Western Hockey League games this season, but that league is lower quality and is filled with players much younger and less physically developed. His performance in a tournament filled predominantly with the world’s best 19-year-olds is one step toward proving his size won’t hold him back.
He turns 20 in late February, and the likelihood that he spends most of the 2023-24 season in the NHL is quite high.