World Junior A Challenge prospect evals
The World Junior A Challenge is starting to develop a reputation among NHL talent evaluators as one of the top tournaments to scout each year. While this tournament may not carry the weight of some others, like the Ivan Hlinka summer tournament or the World U-18s held each year in April, the World Junior A Challenge is gaining a lot of momentum, particularly after featuring some premier draft-eligible talent in recent seasons.
More than 150 participating players have been drafted since the tournament started seven years ago, and alums include last year's No. 1 overall pick, Nail Yakupov. While no prospect entered the competition this year with the same level of expectation that surrounded Yakupov, there were a number of players who attracted the attention of the fleet of scouts in attendance. One foreign-born underager in particular seems to be on track for a high selection in 2014, but there were plenty of other standouts as well.
American Ryan Fitzgerald, who hails from the Boston area and is the son of former NHL player Tom Fitzgerald, is climbing the charts. Hot off his MVP recognition at the recently held USA prospects game last month, the forward was again impressive. Already-drafted forward Vince Hinostroza (Chicago Blackhawks, 6th round, 2012) has taken big steps in developing his game and showed me several "wow" moments. As the tournament heads into the semifinals Friday night (featuring Canada West vs. Canada East on one side of the bracket and the U.S. vs. Switzerland on the other) here are some of the top performers whom I see getting drafted in June in Newark, N.J.
F Ryan Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald continues to show he is a player on the rise with signs of elite hockey sense. He is not blessed with size, but really competed in his one-on-one battles, often winning and making things happen. He is certainly no longer an unknown player around NHL circles, and he's not showing many poor traits in front of a high number of NHL team scouts present in the stands. One of his more noticeable assets is his shot.
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