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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
The World Juniors begin next week and although the Habs won't have as strong a presence this year in terms of the number of prospects participating, the players that are going will make their presence felt. All three prospects expected to play will have important roles and are likely to be strong contributors on the scoresheet. Here is a look at which Habs are going and how they fit in on their respective teams.
Sebastian Collberg - Sweden
Sweden's final roster hasn't officially been named yet but barring injury, Collberg will assuredly make the team.
The Habs' 2nd rounder in 2012 played an important role for the now-defending champions in last years' event and will be looked upon to at the very least repeat his performance in Russia. The team will be missing a pair of quality forwards in Mika Zibanejad and Pontus Aberg, the latter being a notable surprise omission off their list of camp invitees while Ottawa is not letting Zibanejad play. That should all but solidify a top-six role for Collberg who should also see considerable powerplay time. The Swedes are also missing a pair of top defencemen due to injuries (Oscar Klefbom and Jonas Brodin) which could very well cost them a shot at repeating but they still will be a threat throughout the tournament. In terms of potential linemates for Collberg, it's believed Elias Lindholm, a highly touted prospect for the 2013 draft is likely to centre Collberg's line while Emil Molin and Alex Wennberg could play the opposite wing.
2011-12 tournament stats: 6 GP, 4 goals, 3 assists, +2 rating, 0 PIMS,
1 GWG, 10 shots, 2/2 shootout (see highlight below for one of his goals)
Season Stats - Orebro: 15 GP, 6 goals, 2 assists, +4 rating, 2 PIMS
Alex Galchenyuk - USA
Like Collberg, it should be noted that Team USA hasn't finalized their roster. That said, does anyone think Galchenyuk is getting cut?
Team USA was a high scoring group last year (although 23/30 goals were scored against Denmark and Latvia) and that is once again expected to be the case is this tournament. As is the case with the Canadians (more on them later), the Americans are expected to roll three offensive lines and early indications are that the Habs' top prospect could be starting off on the second unit. Galchenyuk has skated with Vincent Trocheck (who only plays C), one of the OHL's top scorers and Riley Barber, one of the NCAA's top players so far this season as well as centering Barber and Johnny Gaudreau sometimes.
With Trocheck playing centre, it appears that Galchenyuk will be playing on the left wing if that trio stays together, a position he has played with Sarnia for most of the year so far. I suspect whichever line he is on will be interchangeable with other scoring trios so I wouldn't worry much about him if he's not a front liner to start while he'll have plenty of powerplay time as well. Team USA is often a 'wildcard' team in this tournament but they almost always are a contender, something I would expect once again this time around.
Season Stats - Sarnia: 33 GP, 27 goals, 34 assists, +16 rating, 22 PIMS
Charles Hudon - Canada
Montreal's 5th rounder in 2012 is the only forward selected from the last draft to make the squad. Unlike Collberg and Galchenyuk, a top-six role isn't likely going to be in the cards (at least at the start) but he is going to play perhaps the most versatile role of the three. Hudon's projected linemates based on early practices are Boone Jenner and Ty Rattie, two strong scorers in their respective leagues (OHL and WHL) but are also reliable defensively. This is a line that will be expected to shut down some of their opponents' top players but will also be counted on to provide some secondary offence.
His powerplay time will probably be limited (perhaps he'll see '3rd unit' time at the end of the man advantage) but his defensive abilities will earn him plenty of time on the penalty kill; currently, he and Jenner form the projected top PK pairing. While you can't label Hudon as a go-to impact player like you can with the other two Montreal prospects in this tournament, he will be a very important role player who will play a strong part in any success the Canadians have - and right now, they're a strong favourite to win it all.
Season Stats - Chicoutimi: 27 GP, 18 goals, 18 assists, +7 rating, 32 PIMS