One of the most fun times of the hockey season is here as the 2019 World Junior Championship open Wednesday in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.
Ten countries will be competing for the gold medal led by host Canada, which defeated Sweden in the 2018 championship game in Buffalo, New York.
For Blackhawks fans, there will be six teams worth watching for prospect purposes.
Denmark and Russia are the two teams in this group without Blackhawks prospects.
MacKenzie Entwistle (Canada) — 2017 third-rounder via Arizona
Entwistle has shown more of his offensive game this season than expected, as he’s racked up 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 29 games in his fourth OHL season with Hamilton. The right winger with some size (6-foot-3, 181 pounds) to his frame, will probably slate into the fourth line and be used on the penalty kill for Canada.
Jakub Galvas (Czech Republic) — 2017 fifth-rounder
Galvas has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 26 games for HC Olomouc in the Czech Republic’s top division. The left-handed defenseman had two goals and 13 points in 42 games last season for HC Olomouc. The 5-foot-11, 165 pound blue liner had two assists in seven games for the Czech Republic as they fell to the United States in the bronze-medal game.
Ian Mitchell (Canada) — 2017 second-rounder
There’s been no sophomore slump for Mitchell at the University of Denver. The right-handed defenseman has logged heavy minutes and is proving to be one of the best blue liners in the NCHC. He’s already matched his goal total from last season and has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 14 games this season.
Philipp Kurashev (Switzerland) — 2018 fourth-rounder
The slick playmaker is probably the biggest surprise in Chicago’s system this season. Drafted with the fourth-round pick from Nashville in Ryan Hartman trade, the playmaking center is averaging more than point per game with 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) for Quebec in 33 games during his third QMJHL season. The center scored three points (a goal, two assists) at last year’s tournament.
Kazakhstan and Slovakia are the two teams in this group without Blackhawks prospects.
Evan Barratt (United States) — 2017 third-rounder
The Penn State sophomore is one of the biggest surprises in Chicago’s system and the NCAA. Barratt is tied for the with teammate Alex Limoges for the nation’s scoring lead at 29 points. Barratt has 13 goals and 16 assists in 17 games for the Nittany Lions while playing on the best line in the country.
Adam Boqvist (Sweden) — 2018 first-rounder
The 18-year-old defenseman has shined in his first North American season, with nine goals and 25 points in 23 OHL games for the London Knights. The 6-foot-1, 181-pounder will be making his first World Juniors tournament. He has played for Sweden before, however, as he was named the best defenseman at last year’s under-18 World Juniors after leading all blue liners in goals (three) and points (six) as The Three Crowns claimed bronze.
Henri Jokiharju (Finland) — 2017 first-rounder
Chicago loaned Jokiharju to Finland’s team after averaging 20 minutes per game with 11 assists in 32 NHL games. Jokiharju should one of the top defensemen in the tournament and be able to showcase his strong skating, puck moving ability and presence on the power play. He had four points (two goals, two assists) in five games for Finland at last year’s tournament.