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The World Junior Championship is always seen as the ultimate test for the best prospects in the world, both drafted and undrafted. And while the 2020 edition will have its fair share of top drafted NHL prospects, such as Barrett Hayton (ARI), Cole Caufield (MTL), Ville Heinola (WPG) and Rasmus Sandin (TOR), there will be plenty of attention paid to the 2020 draft prospects, which is considered by some experts to be the best draft since 2003.
As many as six players who will appear at the world juniors will land in the top 10 of the 2020 draft: Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Alex Holtz, Lucas Raymond, Yaroslav Askarov and Tim Stutzle. (It would have been seven had an injury not taken Anton Lundell out of the tournament.) By comparison, just four of the top 10 selections from the 2019 draft played in the tournament earlier that year. Furthermore, 29 first-year draft eligible players are slated to skate at the world juniors, one shy of tying the previous record set in 2008.
Consider Canada. With a deep talent pool, it’s rare the Canadians bring draft-eligible prospects to the tournament. But this year, coach Dale Hunter’s staff invited nine undrafted players to training camp, led by projected first- and second-overall picks Lafreniere and Byfield, both of whom made the cut. Forward Dawson Mercer, defenseman Jamie Drysdale and goalie Nico Daws, Canada’s only over-aged draft-eligible prospect, made the team, as well. That’s five draft-eligible players. Given Canada’s vast player base, that’s a high number. Last year, the two undrafted forwards – Lafreniere and Brett Leason (WSH) – both made the team and played pivotal roles out of selection camp. Prior to that, the last time a draft prospect made Canada was 2014. That was Connor McDavid.