The U20 World Junior Championship, which is the biggest time of the year for many of the world's best prospects, starts on the 26th. Participating countries are playing tune-up games this week to prepare for the tournament as well as to determine final cuts. Brady Skjei, representing the USA, was never in any danger of not making the team, but he's still battling for playing time.
Today, the USA played Finland, and Skjei was put on the top pairing alongside Capitals defenseman Connor Carrick. Skjei made the most of the opportunity and scored the game-winner in a 3-2 victory with a one-timer. Skjei's had what Chris Peters has called a "lukewarm" camp, but his strong performance today makes it likely that he opens up the tournament on the top defensive pairing.
Keep reading for some other prospect news.
Anthony Duclair scored a goal and added two assists last night in Quebec's 4-2 win. With that, Duclair has 51 points this season in 35 games. To compare, he produced 50 points in 55 games last season. You expect a prospect to increase his production with every passing season as he gets older and more mature, but that's a radical improvement from Duclair that particularly stands out. Though there are other prospects in the pool who maybe are better than Duclair, he is quite possibly the one who has shown the most improvement from last season. Duclair is now 6th in the QMJHL in points as well as 3rd in goals.
The Hartford Wolpack lost 2-1 in a shootout last night, giving them a 1-7-0-2 record in their last 10 games and what is now the worst record in the AHL. The one silver lining on the night is that Jesper Fast, returning to action from an ankle injury, earned the primary assist on the only Hartford goal.
Defenseman prospect Samuel Noreau, currently playing with the Rangers' ECHL affiliate in Greenville, is rumored to be going back to his junior club in the QMJHL, Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Noreau, 20, would be an overager in the league. It's a bit disappointing that Noreau was unable to crack the Hartford roster despite a pretty barren group of defensemen, but I think playing in juniors will be better for his development. He'll receive a lot of playing time on one of the best junior teams in Canada.
Some final notes:
Michael St. Croix: Two goals in an 8-4 win for Greenville. Josh Nicholls also had an assist while Scott Stacjer made 31 saves on 35 shots.
Ryan Graves: Had six shots and was a -2 in Charlottetown's 2-0 loss.
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