Most Jets fans will be cheering for the red and white of Canada with the 2018 World Junior Hockey Tournament beginning today in Buffalo, New York.
But Jets fans will also be keeping a keen eye on three Jets prospects who will be playing on three other teams when things get under way. Here we’ll take a look at the three players we’ll be keeping an eye on over the next few weeks.
Kristian Vesalainen – Forward – Finland
The Jets 24th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, the 6’3″ 207 pound center elected to go back to HPK Hameenlinna of the Finnish Liiga where he’s put up eight goals and 11 assists in 26 games played with the club. This isn’t Vesalainen’s first tour as a member of Team Finland as he has represented his country in multiple U17 and U18 tournaments, winning gold in 2016 and silver in 2017 in the IIHF U18 World Championships. He also played on Finland’s rather disappointing World Junior team last year, picking up a goal and assist in six games played. This year should be a little better for Finland, but they are still in a tough group with tournament favorites Canada and USA.
Mikhail Berdin – Goaltender – Russia
Jets fans had their first look at the 2016 157th overall pick during the 2017 Young Stars tournament in Penticton where he turned some heads with solid positional play as well as a knock for puck handling around his net. A couple of months later, his puck handling skills – as well as his fun personality – was on display for the hockey world as he scored a goal…
In 18 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, he has posted a .930 save percentage with a 9-4-2 record. He was named to Team Russia even before joining the team in camp. He’ll have a standout group of forwards in front of him and it’s possible his work in goal may even get more attention.
Dylan Samberg – Defenseman – USA
Samberg was a bit of a surprise addition to the American roster but possessing a big shot and being able to add good size made his presence hard to ignore for US coaches. He’s the Jets second round (43rd overall) pick in 2017 and so far in 19 games played with University of Minnesota-Duluth he’s picked up 4 assists. This is his first experience on the international stage and he joins a US team that is heavy on experience. Samberg may not be a focal point of the American defense, but the experience of higher level international play should be a positive for his development going forward.