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2020 World Junior Championship: Blackhawks prospects Antti Saarela, Michal Teply to play

After having seven players in last year’s tournament, Chicago only has two this time around.

Brad Repplinger / Second City Hockey

The Blackhawks will have two 2019 fourth-round prospects in Antti Saarela (Finland) and Michal Teply (Czech Republic) playing at the 2020 World Junior Championship under-20 tournament, which starts Thursday and runs through Jan. 5 in the Czech Republic.

Chicago had seven players in last year’s tournament and could have had a big contingent once again, but the Blackhawks decided not to loan defenseman Adam Boqvist (Sweden) and center Kirby Dach (Canada) to their respective country’s junior teams and three players were either not invited to selection camps or cut from them.

Goaltender Alexis Gravel (Canada) attended the World Junior Summer Showcase in July in Michigan with Dach, but had a slow start to the season, missed almost a month due to a foot injury and was not invited to the team’s selection camp. Right wing Niklas Nordgren (Finland) played in only six Liiga games for HIFK due to an undisclosed injury and was cut from the team’s camp. Defenseman Alec Regula (United States), who was acquired from Detroit in October for forward Brendan Perlini, was among the final roster cuts. Regula missed the the WJSS due to a knee injury, and despite averaging more than a point per game with the London Knights was sent home as Team USA coach Scott Sandelin (Minnesota Duluth) opted to take all NCAA defensemen into the tournament.

Antti Saarela, F (Finland)

Saarela has seven points (two goals, five assists) and is 42.4 percent on faceoffs at center for Ilves in 23 Liiga games during his second professional season. The 5-foot-11, 183-pounder is expected to play on the third line for Finland at center or wing. He’s a stronger skater with good acceleration and solid puck-handling skills that projects more as a wing than a center long term.

Michal Teply, LW (Czech Republic)

Teply is playing in his first season in North America with the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL. The 6-foot-3, 192-pound left wing’s 13 goals and 30 points rank second on the team in 29 games. He’s a skillful player with strong stick-handling abilities and a quick release for his shot. His play at World Juniors will likely stand out more than Saarela’s because the Czech Republic’s team isn’t as talented as Finland’s.