In preparation for the 2015 World Junior Championships, Team USA holds an evaluation camp for top eligible players in Lake Placid, New York, and two other countries take part in practices and games, as well.
This year's group at the national junior evaluation camp included Sweden and Finland, and I was able to gather intel on all of these players, a group that includes drafted prospects (including multiple first-rounders from recent drafts) as well as top prospects for the 2015 and 2016 drafts.
Here are the players who stood out the most from viewings at practices and games, as well as conversations with scouts, coaches and other folks at the event:
Auston Matthews | RW | USA | 2016 NHL draft eligible
Matthews was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, and had some very impressive flashes. A player who was a regular at Arizona Coyotes games as a toddler and is not a second generation professional hockey player, he may be the first elite prospect to be influenced by that area's investment in NHL hockey.
"He's so talented," said one NHL scout about Matthews, "he can make defensemen look foolish."
As the clear youngest player at the camp, his physical game obviously needs work; however, he'll bulk up over the years. On the other hand, in terms of offensive skill and offensive IQ, he's already really high end.
"If [Matthews] and [Jack] Eichel were in the same draft year, I'd flip a coin," as one scout put it. It's somewhat safe to say that Matthews' development is close to the same point now as Eichel's was at this time last season.