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U18 World Championships Preview: What you need to know and who to watch for

As the U18 Worlds get underway Thursday in Switzerland, take a team-by-team look at some of the top prospects in this year's event

USA NTDP U17 vs Youngstown
Minnesota commit Oliver Moore is one of several potential first-round picks on the Team USA roster.
Rena Laverty / USA Hockey

The U18 World Championships get underway Thursday in Basel and Ajoie, Switzerland. Ten teams will compete for a gold medal and will be divided into two five-team pools – Pool A and Pool B.

Games will be played at Raiffeisen Arena (Ajoie) and St. Jakob Arena (Basel). To view the full schedule and rosters, click here.

Here’s a look at some of the top players to watch in this year’s tournament.



Colby Barlow and Macklin Celebrini headline Canada’s roster and like seemingly every other international tournament, Canada’s roster is loaded with talent. Canada opens the tournament against Sweden, the defending champions in the event.


Barlow scored 46 goals and racked up 79 points in his second OHL season while Celebrini turned heads in the USHL with 46 goals and 86 points in 50 games. Celebrini is still just 16 and the Boston University commit will be one of the youngest players in the event. Celebrini isn’t draft-eligible until 2024.

From Celebrini's five-goal night to another Des Moines OT win, USHL writer Jordan McAlpine takes a look at Saturday's action

Matthew Wood is another intriguing prospect for fans to keep an eye on. Wood scored 11 goals and had 34 points in 35 games in his freshman season at UConn. The right-shot forward should hear his name called in the early rounds of this summer’s draft.


The Czechia roster features multiple intriguing skaters, including Eduard Sale — who also represented Czechia at the WJC — and defenseman Adam Jiricek, a rising 2024 draft prospect, along with Michael Hrabal between the pipes.

From handling the extra pressure of being a top prospect to navigating a new country, Omaha's Michael Hrabal dealt with a lot during his first USHL season but finished on a high note

The 6-foot-6 goaltender is the second-highest rated goalie prospect in North America and based off his frame alone, Hrabal checks a lot of boxes going forward. Czechia opens tournament play on Friday against Slovakia.


The German roster might not feature the same star power as some of its Pool A competition. However, Germany has some weapons in forwards Kevin Bicker and Linus Brandl, along with defenseman Norwin Panocha. The three were ranked Nos. 124, 109 and 114 respectively in NHL Central Scouting’s final list of international skaters.

Germany, who hosted the event in 2022, scored just eight goals over its four games last spring. They’ll look to have a stronger showing this time around, starting Friday against Canada.



Slovakia’s roster features a pair of familiar names to USHL fans in Sioux City goaltender Samuel Urban and Sioux Falls defenseman Maxim Strbak. Strbak, who came in at No. 48 in Central Scouting’s final draft rankings of the season.

The right-shot defenseman scored five goals and added 13 assists over 46 games in his USHL rookie season.

Slovakia’s roster also features Dalibor Dvorsky — another potential high pick this summer — is no stranger to international play and has played in two WJC’s. He’s also produced in those games with two goals and three assists.


Sweden defeated Team USA in a thrilling gold medal game last April and will look to defend its crown this time around. The Sweden roster has the talent to go on another run, led by Axel Sandin-Pellikka and Otto Stenberg.

Sandin-Pellikka, a 5-foot-11, right-shot defenseman, headlines Sweden’s blue line and is one of the tournament’s biggest offensive threats from the back end. Sandin-Pellikka has 16 goals and 36 points in 31 games this season and is considered a top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft.

Stenberg helped Sweden win the gold last year and is a potential first-round pick.




Finland won bronze last year and the Finns will look to earn another medal this time around. Kasper Halttunen, a 6-foot-3, right-shot power forward, will look to lead Finland’s offense. Halttunen had 18 goals and 24 points in 18 games with Helsinki’s U20 club this season.

Finland hopes his production follows him to the international stage, along with defenseman Aron Kiviharju. The 16-year-old defenseman was the youngest player on TPS Turku this season and had a strong showing at last year’s U18s with six assists. Finland opens against Switzerland on Thursday.


Latvia will get tested right out of the gate against Team USA. Latvia played Team USA in the quarterfinals at last year’s event and lost 13-3. Latvia finished seventh in the eight-team field.

Although the roster might not feature a Macklin Celebrini or Will Smith, Latvia has some play-makers, including forwards Kristers Ansons and Davids Livsics. Ansons racked up 17 goals in 31 games this season for HS Riga. The 17-year-old left-shot forward added seven assists as well. Ansons also played for Latvia at the WJC and is 2024 draft-eligible.

Livsics had 42 goals and 78 points between 42 games with HK Kurbads (Estonia League) and HK Kurbads U23 (Latvia2). Aksels Ozols could also be key between the pipes.



Similar to Latvia, Norway's roster lacks the firepower of the traditional powers in the event. However, both will look to make some noise in Pool B.

Left-shot forward Felix Granath played for Frolunda this season, one of the top organizations in Sweden, and put up alright numbers with 30 points across 48 games. Elias Straume Vatne also enjoyed a strong season with Farjestad and has a stat line of 11-13-24 in 18 games. Norway opens against Switzerland on Friday.


The host country will look to have a solid showing in its own backyard. Switzerland’s roster has a heavy European flavor and they’ll look to start fast against Finland.

Center Simon Meier is an intriguing name to follow along with forward Lenn Zehnder. Meier has 10 goals and 37 points in 30 games with Kloten U20 this season while Zehnder has 48 points (23-25-48) in 47 games for the GCK Lions U20 club.

United States

Rounding out the group is Team USA, which once again features a roster full of future first-round picks. Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, Oliver Moore, Gabe Perreault, Cole Eiserman (2024) – the list goes on.

The Americans have one of the deepest lineups in the tournament and as the U18’s showed their skill and ability to win in USHL and international play, along with their success at the college level. Now they'll try to cap off an impressive season with a gold medal.


Team USA lost to Sweden in the Gold Medal Game last year and the Stars and Stripes looked poised for another deep run. Team USA opens up against Latvia on Thursday in Basel.

Jordan McAlpine is a junior and prospects reporter for The Rink Live.
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