World Juniors 2024

Chasing Glory: The top players to watch at the 2024 World Junior Championships

It’s the most magical time of the year. Sure, Christmas with its abundance of snacks, gifts, and family time is fun, but nothing compares to the World Junior Championships. The long-standing tradition of working off that turkey dinner with some Boxing Day hockey is right around the corner.

As always, Elite Prospects has you covered for this event. But this year we’re extremely excited to be the Official Career Partner for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

To help get the juices flowing for this edition, here is a bushel of players who have the skill, the will, and the opportunity to stand out and help lead their country to glory.

Macklin Celebrini, C - Canada

The presumptive first-overall selection next June will make his World Junior debut for the Canadians and will very likely do so as a top-line asset. Macklin Celebrini brings the complete offensive game. Power. Speed. Finesse. A rocket of a shot and hands that can embarrass. Don’t expect Connor Bedard-like numbers, but he has the skill to contend for MVP if Canada can get rolling.

Jonathan Lekkerimäki, LW - Sweden

A pure shooter if there ever was one, Jonathan Lekkerimäki has rebounded well after a disappointing draft-plus-one season. He's scoring goals at an impressive rate in the SHL. The Vancouver Canucks prospect is set to make his third appearance at this event and this time he will be looked at to lead. And the expectations will be sky-high.

Cutter Gauthier, C - USA

Cutter Gauthier was a monster at the 2023 tournament. Now he’s a year older, stronger and wiser. The Flyers’ top prospect is the horse who will pull the sled for the Americans up front. With an impressive international resume already to his name, a gold medal is the focus.

Adam Gajan, G - Slovakia

It’s not too often we have the reigning Best Goaltender from the previous year return to defend his crown. But that’s what Adam Gajan is looking to do. The Slovakian squad has some high-end talent sprinkled throughout the lineup but their tournament will surely be dictated by how their 19-year-old netminder fares.

Lenni Hämeenaho, RW - Finland

Lenni Hämeenaho will return to the WJC for his second and final turn. The New Jersey Devils' second-rounder exploded to begin his Liiga season but has cooled of late. He still sits tied for sixth in goal at the time of his departure. With Joakim Kemell not joining the team, Hameenaho will be looked at even more to provide timely goal-scoring. 

James Hagens, C - USA

We do not often see draft-minus-one players suit up at this event. But James Hagens isn’t like most players. The front-runner to go first overall in 2025 is a highly intelligent, versatile, and skilled centre. His value at this stage is that he could conceivably fit anywhere in the lineup and make an impact. Now he just has to make the roster.

Lane Hutson, D - USA

The most offensive defender in the tournament may even be the most offensive player in Gothenburg this year. Lane Hutson will skate miles and see heavy minutes for the Americans. Expect big point totals, flashy puck handling, and plenty of risk-taking. He has the offensive talent to push for the top of the scoring race. 

Jiri Kulich, C - Czechia

While unconfirmed at this point, all signs point to Jiri Kulich returning to the WJC for his second spin. The 19-year-old has been splendid internationally for Czechia, and equally splendid in the American League. He will be the top player on his club and as he goes, so will the Czechia offense. 

Denton Mateychuk, D - Canada

Denton Mateychuk lands at the World Juniors just as his season-long 23-game point streak comes to an end. The Moose Jaw Warriors captain is one of the very best defenders in the CHL this season and will bring an elite offensive game and high-end defensive presence as well. He will be the lynchpin on the Canadian blueline.

Axel Sandin Pellikka, D - Sweden

The host Swedes will lean heavily on their top power play unit and Axel Sandin Pellikka will play a major role. The 18-year-old leads all U24 defenders in SHL scoring this year. While Sandin Pellikka is a deft puck mover, his ability to finish plays is his calling card. Watch for the lateral agility and big one-timer to be present at this tournament.

Konsta Helenius, C - Finland

One of just a handful of draft-eligible players skating at this event, Konsta Helenius may just be the smartest of the bunch. The 17-year-old pivot has been producing at a clip in the Finnish Liiga that we seldom see. He’ll play a major role up front and if he can adapt quickly to this level, it’ll be huge in Finland’s quest for just their third medal in the last eight tries.

Dalibor Dvorsky, C/RW - Slovakia

This will be the third tournament for Dalibor Dvorský. The St Louis Blues first-round pick has failed to shine during his first two trips, but this year, he'll be the unquestioned leader of the group. The midseason move to the OHL has been fruitful and the 18-year-old comes into the event rolling red hot. If Slovakia intends to medal, Dvorsky will need to be all-world. 

Jordan Dumais, RW - Canada

No player has racked up as many points in Canadian junior hockey in the last two seasons as Jordan Dumais. The undersized winger will have an opportunity to thrive on the bigger ice sheet and show off his high-end offensive arsenal. Opportunity will be king. If he’s up the lineup, the points will flow rapidly.

Gabe Perreault/Will Smith/Ryan Leonard - USA

We decided to keep this trio together because that’s exactly how they will be deployed for this event. The combination of Gabriel Perreault, Will Smith, and Ryan Leonard has a plethora of experience torching the international game from their time together with the USNTDP. Despite having another year of eligibility ahead of them, this group should be ready to drive the bus upfront.

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This article is about:
World Juniors 2024 Canada U20 Czechia U20 Finland U20 Slovakia U20 Sweden U20 USA U20 WJC-20 AHL WHL NCAA SHL Liiga Macklin Celebrini Jordan Dumais Dalibor Dvorský Jagger Firkus Adam Gajan Cutter Gauthier James Hagens Konsta Helenius Lane Hutson Lenni Hämeenaho Joakim Kemell Jiri Kulich Jonathan Lekkerimäki Ryan Leonard Denton Mateychuk Gabriel Perreault Axel Sandin Pellikka Will Smith
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