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Canucks Prospects Update: World Juniors

...four Canucks prospects will compete at the World Juniors

by Ryan Biech @ryanbiech / Freelance writer

The World Juniors kick off in Vancouver and Victoria on Boxing Day with the best junior players representing their respective countries.

Hockey fans in BC will get an up close look at these players over the eleven-day tournament, but a few will be of particular interest - the Canucks prospects.

The organization could be very well represented with four players being named to the preliminary rosters.

We'll look at which players were named, what they've done to get invited, and what role they could play for their country.

G Michael DiPietro (Canada)

One of the least surprising Canucks prospects to be named to a preliminary roster is 2017 3rd round pick Michael DiPietro.

The athletic netminder is currently second in the OHL in goals-against-average (2.32) and sixth in save percentage (0.920). Although he has posted a 11-8-1-1 record thus far, DiPietro has been very good in the early parts of the season and is well deserving of the addition to the roster.

After being named to the Team Canada preliminary roster on Monday, the Canucks prospect was traded to the Ottawa 67's in a blockbuster deal that sees DiPietro move to a championship contender. The 67's play three games this weekend, so DiPietro should make his debut quickly before heading to Victoria for Team Canada's selection camp.

Once he returns from the event, Ottawa will lean on DiPietro to help them remain first in the OHL and challenge for the championship.

DiPietro is widely expected to be the starter for Team Canada.

They will play their Group A games in Vancouver with Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Denmark rounding out that group.

D Toni Utunen (Finland)

The least known prospect of the players named is Finnish defenceman Toni Utunen.

Playing for Tappara in Liiga, Utunen has appeared in 19 games and registered one assist. He has also appeared in one game for LeKi in the Finnish second division (Mestis)

Utunen isn't known for his offensive production, but more of a puck moving two-way defender who oozes leadership qualities. The Canucks prospect was the captain of the Finnish team at the U18 World Juniors last season and also served in that role for the recent U20 Four Nations Cup.

He has a decent chance of securing a spot in a bottom pairing role that should allow him to showcase his smart and consistent play.

D Quinn Hughes (United States)

Like DiPietro, Quinn Hughes was expected to be named to his countries roster for as long as anyone can remember.

The Canucks top pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft has been on fire with the University of Michigan over the last few weeks. In fifteen games thus far, Hughes has 19 points, which includes the current nine game point streak that he is on. This season, he has failed to register in only three games and never for multiple contests in a row.

Hughes was more of a depth piece for the Americans at last season's event, but should be a major part of their offensive game. He is expected to be on the first power-play unit and logging heavy minutes at five-on-five.

Hughes teammate Josh Norris was also named to the US roster.

All of Canucks fans eyes will be on Quinn Hughes for this event.

C Tyler Madden (United States)

The Canucks 2018 draft class is well represented this year with Tyler Madden also being named to the American preliminary roster.

The 3rd round pick from this past June has been off to a fantastic start for the Northeastern Huskies this year. Playing as the first line centre and on the first power-play unit, Madden has been showcasing his work ethic and effective two-way play. In his freshman season in the NCAA, Madden has five goals and six assists in 13 games.

Madden wasn't an invite to the Summer Showcase this past July, but his play has earned him this invite. It will be interesting to see if he shows that he deserves a spot on the big stage. With only 16 forwards named to the preliminary roster, Madden has a decent shot to land a spot in the bottom six due to his versatility.           

If they make the team, Hughes and Madden will play their preliminary games in Victoria against Kazakhstan, Finland, Slovakia, and Sweden.

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