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Three Red Wings Prospects Will Compete in 2017 World Junior Championship Tournament

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds v Mississauga Steelheads Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images

The Red Wings are usually a team that is well-represented during international tournaments, whether they’re junior circuit, or a higher level. This year is no exception, as the Wings will have three of their top prospects representing their countries in the 2017 World Juniors. You might not have heard about it because surprisingly the team has spent more time retweeting Steve Ott than covering their prospects... Anyways, here’s a look at the young guns representing the Winged Wheel this year...

Filip Hronek

Position: Defense
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: 2016 - 53rd overall

Hronek has emerged to be one of my “dark horse” picks in the 2016 class for the Wings. His offense never flourished in the Czech leagues, but has found the inside track playing the North American style. Coming into the draft, he was touted as a defensive-minded defenseman, but his mobile skating abilities and smooth passing have helped him land in the top-15 scoring defenseman so far this season with the Saginaw Spirit.

There’s a good chance Hronek will be leaned on as a top-pair guy with Team Czech. He’s a project prospect, for sure, but keep an eye on him. He’s got the goods.

Vili Saarijarvi

Position: Defense
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 165 lbs
Drafted: 2015 - 73rd overall

Since making his return from a wrist injury that sidelined him for a good chunk of his sophomore OHL season, this shifty Finnish rearguard has broken out with his new team in Mississauga. Saarijarvi has rattled off 12 points (5-7-12) in nine games of play with the Steelheads, his new home after being traded from the Flint Firebirds after a disastrous season.

This will be Saarijarvi’s second appearance in the WJC after winning gold last year, playing a key role in a very dominant performance by Team Finland as a part of their captaincy. Finland has become a very low-key powerhouse in terms of producing high-end talent. Names like Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kasperi Kapanen, and Mikko Rantanen all lead the pack, but Saarijarvi has emerged as an exceptional point-producing defenseman who will make an impact wherever he plays.

Joren van Pottleberghe

Position: Goaltender
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 187 lbs
Drafted: 2015 - 110th overall

JvP is, again, another project prospect. It’s so difficult to project goaltenders (in my opinion), and I’ll admit I am not an expert on his style of play since I have only seen him play a few games. He got roughed up in the WJC last year with a weak Swiss team. Joren has played 12 games so far this season in the NLA with HC Davos. His stat line isn’t too shabby with a GAA of 2.99 and a SV% of .901.

Outside of Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson, the Red Wings’ goaltending crop is iffy. But the depth they have in net with Mrazek and Coreau (Howard when healthy) gives players like JvP time to develop. I expect him to shoulder most of the load for Team Switzerland in a relatively weak group A.

Not exactly the hottest crop of prospects, but some solid names to keep an eye on. I think Hronek and Saarijarvi have a good shot at developing into the long-term plans for the Wings. If you have a way to watch the WJC, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not watching the Red Wings players, it’s still great hockey.