Vancouver Canucks Prospects to Watch at the World Juniors

Who should you have your eye on at the upcoming tournament?

As Vancouver hockey fans surely know by now, B.C. is playing host to the 2019 World Junior championship December 26 to January 5, which pits the best Under-20 hockey players in the world against each other.Luckily for residents of the ‘Couve, a majority of games will be played at downtown’s Rogers Arena. (The rest will be held at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.)Of course, the home crowd will be cheering on Team Canada at every contest the boys in red play. But there will also be a fair amount of avid Vancouver Canucks fans keeping a watchful eye on some of their favourite NHL team’s draft picks.Here are the four prospects Canucks aficionados should be scouting when the tournament begins on Boxing Day.World Juniors Credit: Ottawa 67s/TwitterMichael DiPietro, G, Team CanadaOne of the best goalies in the Ontario Hockey League, DiPietro is expected to back Team Canada’s bid for the championship. Though he was cut from last year’s roster, DiPietro shined for the Windsor Spitfires and was named OHL Goaltender of the Year. He earned an entry-level contract from the Canucks for his efforts.The young goaltender was traded to the Ottawa 67s as the team looks to ride him to a Memorial Cup birth. After all, he’s already won one of those with Windsor. And while that is nothing to sneeze at, this will be DiPietro’s first real test in front of the fans in Vancouver, who can be a tad fickle, to say the least.Tyler Madden, C, Team USAIt’s no guarantee that Madden makes Team USA’s roster, and the 2018 third-rounder’s size (5’11, 152 pounds) makes him a bit of a natural underdog. But he’s had a great year thus far with current Canuck Adam Gaudette’s alma matter Northeastern University. Madden has 15 points in 14 games and the determination in his game to will himself onto the roster. Hopefully Canucks fans get to see the son of former NHLer John Madden in action.World Juniors Credit: Vancouver Canucks/TwitterQuinn Hughes, D, Team USAVancouver Canucks fans were overjoyed when Quinn Hughes slipped to the club at seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. That’s because Vancouver hasn’t seen a defenceman with Hughes’ puck-moving prominence since, well, ever. Hughes has been tearing up the collegiate ranks with the University of Michigan and leads his team in points (remember, he’s a defenceman) with 20 in 17 games.We caught a glimpse of Hughes in action at a Canucks’ prospects game earlier this preseason. The kid can skate. Like, better than most NHLers.Toni Utunen, Team FinlandVancouver’s fifth-round selection in last June’s draft, Utunen is likely to make Finland’s team, as the blueline isn’t exactly flush with NHL prospects. But the nation shouldn’t be underestimated, either. With a roster that will likely include budding prospects like Nashville Predators forward Eeli Tolvanen and highly touted L.A. Kings centre Rasmus Kupari, the Finns can’t be taken for granted.It’ll be interesting to see how the slightly undersized Utunen blends with the rest of the roster. He’s been playing with and against men for two years now, and is seen as a steady, smart rearguard who makes a good first pass.And, of course, in the case Vancouver somehow lucks out and wins the draft lottery, fans might want to keep an eye on Quinn Hughes’ brother Jack. The younger Hughes looks like a lock to be selected first overall in the 2019 draft.