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2016 World Junior Hockey Championship: Top 10 Draft-Eligible Prospects

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Want to get a great early look at some of the top prospects for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft? Here's your chance

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

They grow up so fast, don't they?

Before they become NHL superstars, many of the world's top young hockey players under the age of 20 take part in the annual World Junior Hockey Championship.

While the event provides a great opportunity to get an early live look at prospects that have already been drafted by NHL teams, it also occasionally gives fans and scouts a chance to observe players heading into their initial draft years. Many probably remember watching Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel showcasing their abilities for all to see in last year's tournament.

This year is shaping up to be no different. If anything, it seems like this year's WJC is going to feature a higher than normal number of top draft-eligible draft picks that will be taking part.

The following 10 players will all be representing their home countries, and all are likely to go in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Anyone interested in a sneak peek?

10) Chad Krys - United States

Following in the steps of Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski last year, Krys makes the American team as a 17 year-old defenseman. Smart and sublime with the puck, he has an impressive track record in international events that he will look to continue here.

9) Alex DeBrincat - United States

Some players truly do have a better nose for the net than others, and DeBrincat is one of those players. He's small and not the best of skaters, but he still scores goals in bunches. Could be lethal this tournament if he plays with linemates that can keep getting him the puck.

8) Charlie McAvoy - United States

Still a very raw player in many regards, but McAvoy has a good set of physical tools that makes him appealing. He's having a mixed season for Boston University, but a strong showing at the 2015 World U18s boosted his stock for Team USA.

7) Olli Juolevi - Finland

A smart, fluid, two-way defenseman, Juolevi does a little bit of everything from the back end. The type of all-around blueliner that every team loves to have.

6) Julien Gauthier - Canada

6'4" and over 220 pounds. 29 goals and eight assists in 30 games in the QMJHL. Those numbers pretty much tell the story of what type of player Gauthier is. Expect to find him camped firmly in front of the net of whatever team Canada is playing.

5) Alexander Nylander - Sweden

The younger of the Nylander siblings isn't quite as electrifying as his older brother William, but he's still incredibly skilled in his own right. Watching the two play together for Sweden could be a real treat.

4) Patrik Laine - Finland

Laine may be a teenager, but he already has a grown man's size at roughly 6'4" and 200 pounds and a professional-level release on his shot. Was absolutely dominant for Finland at the World U18s this past spring with eight goals in just seven games and could easily have a similar impact here.

3) Jesse Puljujarvi - Finland

Size, skating, stickhandling...there's no shortage of things to like about Puljujarvi's game. He was held pointless as a 16 year-old at last year's WJC, but the fact that he made the Finnish team at all at that age is a testament to just how good he is. He'll be given plenty of opportunities to showcase his burgeoning talents.

2) Matthew Tkachuk - United States

The son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk doesn't play with the same physical edge that his dad did, but he still uses his nice frame effectively as more of a modern day power forward. Excellent playmaker both in the cycle and off the rush. Will probably be one member of the top line for Team USA. Which brings us to...

1) Auston Matthews - United States

Could it be anyone else?

At this point in time Matthews is unanimously considered as the top prospect heading into the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He's a complete offensive weapon and will be leading the offensive charge for Team USA. Keep your eyes glued to your television screens every time he touches the puck.