There’s no point denying it: this list has taken a hit of late.

Earlier this month, Finland decided to leave Aatu Raty off its preliminary world junior roster. Many were curious to see how the 18-year-old centre, who notched three points in seven games at last year’s tournament, would perform after struggling to open this season with Karpat of the SM-liiga and falling out of contention of the top pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, an honour for which he’d long been considered the front-runner.

Meanwhile, Sweden was forced to leave William Eklund at home after he was among those who tested positive for COVID-19 after an outbreak on the team. The hyper-skilled winger has exploded onto the scene as an 18-year-old with Djurgarden’s big club in the SHL and has surpassed Raty as the top European forward in the eyes of many. Then the team also cut Simon Edvinsson — a towering but mobile and skilled defenceman — who should be in the mix early in a draft class that’s loaded with talented rearguards.

While their absence is disappointing, there’s still plenty of tantalizing 2021 draft-eligible talent to watch out for at the tournament. Here’s a closer look at those that have piqued the interest of scouts.

Sweden

Jesper Wallstedt — Lulea, SHL

Wallstedt has a tough task in front of him, but there’s no question he has the talent to steal Sweden’s No.1 goalie gig.

Standing between him and the starter role is Sweden’s top netminder at last year’s tournament: Hugo Alnefelt, a 2019 third-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Last year, Alnefelt was the second-best goalie in the Czech Republic, trailing only Canada’s Joel Hofer for the tournament lead in goals-against average and save percentage.

But the 19-year-old has struggled to reproduce that success in the SHL this season, recording a 3.13 GAA and .901 SVV% with HV71.

On the other hand, Wallstedt — who has drawn comparisons to Nashville Predators stud Yaroslav Askarov and is the lone goalie projected on Central Scouting’s Players To Watch List to be a first-round pick — has been nearly perfect with Lulea, boasting a 2.06 GAA and .920 SVV%. Sam Cosentino had him ranked 32nd on his initial rankings.

0

There’s no point denying it: this list has taken a hit of late.

Earlier this month, Finland decided to leave Aatu Raty off its preliminary world junior roster. Many were curious to see how the 18-year-old centre, who notched three points in seven games at last year’s tournament, would perform after struggling to open this season with Karpat of the SM-liiga and falling out of contention of the top pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, an honour for which he’d long been considered the front-runner.

Meanwhile, Sweden was forced to leave William Eklund at home after he was among those who tested positive for COVID-19 after an outbreak on the team. The hyper-skilled winger has exploded onto the scene as an 18-year-old with Djurgarden’s big club in the SHL and has surpassed Raty as the top European forward in the eyes of many. Then the team also cut Simon Edvinsson — a towering but mobile and skilled defenceman — who should be in the mix early in a draft class that’s loaded with talented rearguards.

While their absence is disappointing, there’s still plenty of tantalizing 2021 draft-eligible talent to watch out for at the tournament. Here’s a closer look at those that have piqued the interest of scouts.

Sweden

Jesper Wallstedt — Lulea, SHL

Wallstedt has a tough task in front of him, but there’s no question he has the talent to steal Sweden’s No.1 goalie gig.

Standing between him and the starter role is Sweden’s top netminder at last year’s tournament: Hugo Alnefelt, a 2019 third-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Last year, Alnefelt was the second-best goalie in the Czech Republic, trailing only Canada’s Joel Hofer for the tournament lead in goals-against average and save percentage.

But the 19-year-old has struggled to reproduce that success in the SHL this season, recording a 3.13 GAA and .901 SVV% with HV71.

On the other hand, Wallstedt — who has drawn comparisons to Nashville Predators stud Yaroslav Askarov and is the lone goalie projected on Central Scouting’s Players To Watch List to be a first-round pick — has been nearly perfect with Lulea, boasting a 2.06 GAA and .920 SVV%. Sam Cosentino had him ranked 32nd on his initial rankings.

And Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, says the six-foot-two, 214-pound netminder could be a “difference-maker” for Sweden, thanks to level-headedness and mental makeup that are reminiscent of Carey Price.

“I don’t think there’s anything that he can’t do at the U20s and, certainly, he’s not a player that I would ever bet against because this is a guy that could win you a game,” he said.

“And in the world juniors, when it comes to a lot of one-game knockouts, that’s a key factor.”

Finland

Samuel Helenius — JYP, SM-liiga

Clocking in at six-foot-six, 201 pounds, Helenius is another towering teenager.

In his first season among men in the SM-liiga, the 18-year-old pivot has held his own, putting up eight points in 18 games for JYP.

The son of former NHLer Sami Helenius, plays a no-frills game, but is a good playmaker, has a decent shot and uses his reach well in combination with his vision.