PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Forwards Brady Tkachuk and Oliver Wahlstrom, along with defenseman Quinton Hughes, are three of the youngest players with the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase.
As three of the top prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft, they're out to make a big impact on the USA Hockey staff as it gets its first look at players who could be on the roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Buffalo.
"I want to show that I'm just an all-around player," Tkachuk said. "I can play a 200-foot game. I can play any position they want me to. I can play in various situations. Just show my versatility."
Tkachuk, 17, is the younger brother of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. He excelled with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program under-18 team last season with 54 points (25 goals, 29 assists) in 61 games. He was third on the team in goals and fourth in points, and led them with eight power-play goals, 192 shots on goal and 133 penalty minutes.
At the 2017 World Under-18 Championship he was the captain and had seven points (one goal, six assists) to help the United States win the gold medal.
"Brady is a big (6-foot-2, 194 pounds), strong power forward," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "Makes something happen on almost every shift with an excellent compete level. He has very good hockey sense and thinks steps ahead of the play, especially on the offensive attack. He is tough to play against and is willing to go to the tough areas to make a play."
He'll play this season at Boston University, the same school his father, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Keith Tkachuk, played at.
"My dad's family still lives in Boston so it was an easy decision," Tkachuk said. "Coaching staff is unbelievable, facilities are great, school is great. Really excited to get things going."
Wahlstrom, 17, played part of last season with Tkachuk on the NTDP U-18 team after starting the season with the U-17 team. After being called up he had 15 points (10 goals, five assists) in 20 games. Then he had five points (four goals, one assist) in seven games to help the U.S. win the gold at the World Under-18 Championship. He'll play full-time for the NTDP U-18 team this season.
"You get the kid in practice and the size package that he's got, the ability to skate and the hands, it's a special collection of weapons," said John Wroblewski, who coached the NTDP U-18 team last season.
Wahlstrom (6-1, 198) is one of the youngest players in the camp; he won't turn 18 until June 13. But his youth hasn't affected his confidence.
"I'm lucky to get this opportunity and I just want to show them how I can play, how I can compete, how I stand up against these guys because I feel pretty confident," he said.
Hughes, 17, didn't look out of place during a scrimmage Friday that included him playing the point on the power play. The offensive-minded defenseman had 53 points (10 goals, 43 assists) in 65 games with the NTDP U-18 team, and five points (one goal, four assists) in seven games for the U.S. at the World U-18 Championship.
"Quinton is a smooth-skating, mobile defenseman," Gregory said. "He carries the puck very well and can transition from defense to offense with his feet or by making a pass. He reads the play very well and lets things develop to make a play. He uses good positioning and use of his angles to defend. Projects to be a top-four defenseman in today's game because his skating and puck skills allow him to possess the puck and dictate the play."
Hughes (5-9, 168) will be a freshman at the University of Michigan this season, and USA Hockey will be keeping a close watch.
"He's an absolutely dynamic skater," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations and general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team. "Classic puck-moving defenseman but also can break you out of your zone. Very active, great offensive instincts. What makes him dangerous is he does have the ability to score goals, especially on things like the power play. If he's top of the circles or better he can score."
The U.S. won the gold medal at the 2017 WJC in Canada, and with the tournament in the United States this year the expectations will be raised. However, Wroblewski said USA Hockey couldn't have passed on the chance to invite all three players to the Summer Showcase and put them in the running for spots on the team.
"Camp wouldn't be complete without Tkachuk and Hughes," he said. "And I think that Wahlstrom, how he showed up at that World Under-18 tournament and looked like a man in that tournament already, there's no surprise he got the call."