It shouldn't come as any surprise that Edmonton Oilers top pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has impressed with his play at the World Junior Championships, currently being held in Ufa, Russia. But for me he is clearly the best player in the tournament.
But there are a lot of other top performers to talk about as well. In a tournament like the WJC, a prospect's value is often measured by your last game, and with the playoff round still to come (starts Jan. 2), there's still plenty of time for the players to make a good (or bad) impression. While I am not in Ufa attending the event in person, I've tracked the tournament via broadcast and have watched these prospects live for the past 3-4 years. Here is a look at each country's top performers.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers): Nugent-Hopkins deserves a great deal of credit for coming into this event after showing last season in the NHL why he was the clear first overall selection for the Oilers in 2011. Many think he would have been the league's rookie of the year had he not injured himself. His evasive slippery style of play with and without the puck makes him an offensive threat every time he steps onto the ice. He has been great for Team Canada through the pool play round.
Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets): Scheifele powers his way around the ice and has displayed offensive prowess while moving from the center position to the wing, allowing Canada to create what is being called the all-NHL line (along with Nugent-Hopkins and the prospect below). Many believe he would be on the roster in Winnipeg if the NHL was playing, but for now Canada is very pleased the former first-rounder is on its roster.
To see Grant Sonier's scouting analysis for all the top prospects in the World Junior Championships and get access to all of Insider's NHL draft coverage, sign up today.