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2017 World Junior Championship: Which Dallas Stars Prospects Will Be In Action?

With five players taking part it’s going to be a busier event than normal for the Stars

Kamloops Blazers v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Following an NHL team’s prospects is usually not an easy thing to do.

With prospects playing in isolated rinks all the way from Swift Current, Saskatchewan to Jyväskylä, Finland, and in countless other place in between, it’s an incredible challenge for fans to get to observe these players in the most important of ways: watching them compete live.

Luckily for fans, however, every year one such grand opportunity takes place: the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Consisting of ten different nations, the best prospects from each country compete against one another to fight for international hockey glory. Yesterday I wrote a more detailed preview of this year’s tournament and all of the nations involved, which can be found here.

While the majority of Dallas Stars prospects will not get to take part this year, there are nevertheless five different names that will all be there, split between five different countries. If you want to see some of the Stars’ top prospects in action against many of the world’s best hockey players under the age of 20, this will be a great opportunity to do so.

Let’s now take a closer look at these five.

Denis Gurianov - Right Wing - Russia

For Denis Gurianov, this year’s World Juniors provide an opportunity for redemption.

Gurianov was considered a strong candidate to make the Russian club for last year’s tournament, only to find himself last-minute as one of the final cuts after taking an irresponsible slashing major in Russia’s final exhibition game.

Now back as a more mature player, he should play a huge role in Russia’s offense. The highest-drafted prospect on the entire roster, Gurianov might get to skate on the team’s top line and on their first powerplay unit. This event will be an excellent opportunity for Stars fans to get a great look at one of their team’s top prospects as he plays against the best competition his age group has to offer.

“He’s going to play with his same age group, and that’s going to grow his confidence more,” said Dallas Stars assistant general manager Scott White recently to Sean Shapiro. “I think that’s going to springboard him into a great second half in the American Hockey League.”

Fredrik Karlstrom - Center - Sweden

Sweden has a deep group of players at forward, but given Karlstrom’s skyward trajectory so far this season, don’t be surprised if he gets a few good looks in some important situations.

An effortless skater that can still handle the puck well while in movement, he is currently 3rd in scoring on his team in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league, so he’s already shown the ability to contribute on the score sheet. Considering Sweden is usually a top contender at this tournament, this could be an excellent development opportunity for the 2016 Dallas 3rd rounder.

Markus Ruusu - Goalie - Finland

Normally a source of strength for Finland, goaltending is uncharacteristically their biggest question mark this time around. Veini Vehvilainen is the projected starter, but there’s still a chance that Ruusu could see some ice.

It’s been something of a tale of two seasons for Russu, as he’s posted some ghastly numbers in Finland’s second-highest men’s league, the Mestis, but has fared significantly better in a small sample size at their highest level, The Liiga. He’s a quick goalie with sharp reflexes, but still needs to work on his positioning and rebound control.

Joe Cecconi - Defense - United States

As the biggest defenseman on Team USA, Cecconi should be an easy player to notice out on the ice. Just don’t expect anything too flashy from him.

Cecconi is a steady, stay-at-home defender that will protect his team’s crease and rely mainly on outlet passes and chips off the glass to clear the zone. The University of Michigan Wolverine could see some regular time on the penalty kill as most of his blueline compatriots on Team USA lean more on the offensive side of things.

Ondrej Vala - Defense - Czech Republic

Vala is still a very raw prospect, but there are a few aspects of his game that make him a very interesting player to watch live.

He’s a big, big man, in the neighborhood of 6’4” and 210 pounds, and he certainly isn’t afraid of pushing people around if they get too close to his team’s net. He also, however, likes to occasionally use some surprising speed to jump up in the rush, and has a heavy, accurate shot from the point. It still remains to be seen how much or how little ice time he is likely to receive from his coaches in this tournament, but given that he is the biggest defender on his club, he might get some big chances to contribute if his coaches want a particular look.