These 4 Leafs prospects could play at World Juniors this year

Dec 1 2021, 6:34 pm

The World Juniors are just around the corner, and you can bet there will be a few storylines for Leafs fans to keep an eye on.

Sure, the days of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner representing their countries at the tournament might be long gone.

And with the Leafs near the top of the league standings right now, few fans are keeping their eyes on the highest-end draft eligible prospects available at the World Juniors.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something for Toronto fans to look forward to when the tournament kicks off in Edmonton and Red Deer on December 26.

Here are the prospects the Leafs have drafted over the last two years who are projected to represent their teams at this year’s World Juniors:

Ryan Tverberg, Canada (University of Connecticut)

Position: LW
Age: 19
2021-22 stats: 14 GP, 9 G, 7 A, 16 PTS
Drafted: 2020, 7th round, 213th overall

Topi Niemelä, Finland (Oulun Kärpät)

Position: D
Age: 19
2021-22 stats: 25 GP, 5 G, 17 A, 22 PTS
Drafted: 2020, 3rd round, 64th overall

Like Hirvonen, Topi Niemelä is coming back for an encore. Named the top defenceman across all teams in last year’s World Junior tournament with two goals and six assists in seven games, the 19-year-old Finn was a standout.

Niemelä was actually the third Finnish player taken in a row by the Leafs back in 2020 (behind Hirvonen and first-rounder Rodion Amirov). He’s had a fantastic start to his offensive season in the top Finnish professional league, as he is currently tied for fourth amongst all players in scoring.

Matthew Knies, USA (University of Minnesota)

Position: LW
Age: 19
2021-22 stats: 16 GP, 7 G, 8 A, 15 PTS
Drafted: 2021, 2nd round, 57th overall

The Leafs’ top draft pick in 2021, Matthew Knies is joining an American squad that defeated Canada in last year’s gold medal game.

The youngest player on his Minnesota team, the freshman forward is currently second on his roster in goals, assists, and points.

He hasn’t had any international experience before for the Americans, but is looking to find his way onto the roster after being named yesterday to the preliminary Team USA list.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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