The 2013 edition of the World Junior Championships was one of redemption for Team USA, as it left Ufa, Russia, with the gold. For Canada, who boasted about being able to ice a roster enhanced by NHL "locked out" talent, it will be a fourth-place finish to forget.
The question going forward is how some of these players will perform in the NHL, some as early as this season. As NHL camps finally get under way, here is a look back at my top 10 performers from the World Juniors and, where applicable, how they look going forward as NHL prospects.
Keep in mind while you comb through the list that individual stats do not always measure on my radar as a prerequisite to being a top talent in the NHL. Just because you can light up Team Germany doesn't mean you can light up the Los Angeles Kings. Scouts are asked to project future performance, not just count up the goal column of the box score.
1) John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks | Kitchener (OHL)
Named the tournament MVP, what else is there to say about this netminder who was amazing from start to finish? Even when his team lost to Canada and Russia in the round-robin portion, his play was stellar, and in seven games he posted a 1.29 GAA and .957 save percentage. The Ducks' second-rounder showed great poise, an ability to make the big save at crucial times in the game, all while being extremely humble. Any team in any league would be happy to have this type of goaltending. His size (6-foot-3.5) and strength were assets in dealing with traffic and any contact made.
2) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Playing in Ufa due the NHL lockout, this young NHL star met expectations by not only leading the tournament in scoring but demonstrating skill that was clearly a level above most, if not all, WJC participants. His 15 points in six games do not tell the full story of how he weaved his way around the ice. His ability to evade checkers with the puck was on full display, one of the characteristics that makes him a very good NHLer already. Canada's disappointing finish is not on his shoulders. Expect him to continue his magical offensive play as the NHL season gets under way.
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