3 European players to watch at the world juniors
With four gold medals split among Russia, Sweden, and Finland since 2010, Europe's powerhouses have seen steady growth in terms of impact and success at the world juniors over recent years.
On the strength of consistently churning out high-end prospects, Europe's top three hockey countries are always threats to capture a gold medal, and below is a player from each team who's worth watching when festivities get underway next week in Buffalo.
Rasmus Dahlin, Sweden
As the consensus No. 1 prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft, the spotlight on Dahlin promises to be one of the tournament's most dominant storylines.
Already being compared to countrymen Nicklas Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson, the 17-year-old blue-liner is a can't-miss prospect, equipped with all the tools required to single-handedly change the outcome of a game.
Dahlin appeared in all seven games for Sweden last year, although in limited minutes, registering one goal and one assist. He's also produced 11 points in 26 games with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League this season - a remarkable feat given he won't be 18 until April.
Eeli Tolvanen, Finland
(Photo Courtesy: Getty Images)
With world junior experience already under his belt, Tolvanen, the 2017 30th overall pick by the Nashville Predators, should be one of the top offensive players in the tournament.
Like Andrei Svechnikov, Tolvanen lit up the USHL in 2016-17, recording 30 goals in 52 games. This season, with Jokerit of the KHL, Tolvanen's scored 17 as an 18-year-old - an unprecedented level of productivity for a teenager in Russia's top league.
Finland fell completely flat attempting to defend its 2016 gold medal last year in Montreal and Toronto, and they'll surely be looking at redemption this time around, with Tolvanen leading the charge.
Andrei Svechnikov, Russia
While Dahlin will likely be the first name called on draft day in June, Svechnikov could very well be the player who follows.
The 6-foot-2 winger is a pure scorer, netting 29 goals in 48 games with Muskegon of the USHL last season, only to follow up with 14 tallies in 16 contests with the Barrie Colts as the first selection in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.
Svechnikov missed time earlier this season with a hand injury, but is back and healthy, and should induce nightmares for opposing goaltenders as one of Russia's top threats.
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