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AHL Notebook: World Juniors to have heavy presence

Kaut, Brannstrom among NHL hopefuls who could represent league in under-20 tournament

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com Correspondent

The American Hockey League will again have a formidable presence at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

The 2019 edition of the annual under-20 tournament takes place in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The AHL has built a steady presence at the event in recent years and a parade of players have taken midseason breaks from their teams to compete in it.

Pending finalization of team rosters, here is a look at six AHL players expected to play in the tournament:

 

Czech Republic

Martin Kaut, Colorado (Colorado Avalanche)

The Avalanche selected Kaut with the No. 16 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, even after discovering that the 18-year-old forward had a congenital heart condition that required surgery.

Since then, Kaut (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) has handled the AHL adjustment well with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 26 games. The Czech Republic finished fourth last year, when Kaut had seven points (two goals, five assists) in seven games.

Martin Necas, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes)

It only seems a matter of time before Necas sticks as a forward with the Hurricanes for good.

Necas (6-2, 189) was chosen with the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. He's stepped into a deep Charlotte lineup and contributed immediately with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) in 25 games for a dominant Checkers team that is a top Calder Cup contender.

Necas turns 20 on Jan. 15, so he brings a bit more experience than some of his peers and excelled last year with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in seven World Junior games. He also earned a roster spot at the 2018 World Championship and finished with five points (three goals, two assists) in five games.

Filip Zadina, Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings)

Yet another Czech Republic first-round pick, the Red Wings selected Zadina No. 6 in the 2018 draft.

The Red Wings took a middle-of-the-road approach in Zadina's development. Rather than keep him with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, they sent him to Grand Rapids when he proved unready for the rigors of the NHL after training camp. 

Video: DET@BOS: Zadina nets Glendening's great feed in OT

The 19-year-old forward has 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 26 games. Zadina (6-0, 195) had a strong performance at World Juniors last year with eight points (seven goals, one assist) in seven games, landing him a spot on the tournament all-star team.

He has recovered from a lower-body injury and is expected to be loaned to the Czech Republic team later this week.

 

Russia

Klim Kostin, San Antonio (St. Louis Blues)

The Blues made Kostin the No. 31 pick in the 2017 draft and the 19-year-old forward is already a sturdy 6-3, 212 pounds.

Video: Blues draft F Klim Kostin No. 31

Last season, the Blues did not have their own AHL affiliate and placed Kostin with San Antonio, the AHL affiliate of the Avalanche at the time. He had 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 67 games last season. Now St. Louis runs San Antonio, meaning Blues management can better control his playing time and role in the AHL.

Kostin has 11 points (five goals, six assists) through 28 games. Last year for Russia, he had eight points (five goals, three assists) in five WJC games.

 

Sweden

Erik Brannstrom, Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights)

The Golden Knights have had two drafts to begin stocking a prospect pool, but they already have a gem in Brannstrom, a 19-year-old defenseman.

At 5-10, 173, there would have been a time that Brannstrom's size was questioned, but he possesses abundant skill tailor-made for the transition game. Vegas chose him No. 15 in the 2017 draft.

The AHL game affords Brannstrom an opportunity to adjust to the physical North American style and he is more than handling it with 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 24 games. He had four points (one goal, three assists) in seven WJC games for Sweden last year.

Rasmus Sandin, Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs)

The young talent continues to flow in Toronto.

Eight days after winning the Calder Cup last June, the organization added to its stockpile by taking Sandin with the No. 29 pick in the 2018 draft. Though Toronto has struggled at the AHL level, Sandin is handling a significant jump very well after spending last season with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 18 AHL games. This will be his first time at the under-20 tournament.

Video: Maple Leafs draft D Rasmus Sandin No. 29

Sandin's AHL teammate, Timothy Liljegren, a fellow Swedish defenseman, injured his ankle earlier this month and does not appear likely to play in the tournament.

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