2024 IIHF Men's U18 World Championship

NHL Draft Prospects To Watch At U18 Worlds Highlighted By Eiserman, Iginla

NHL Draft Prospects To Watch At U18 Worlds Highlighted By Eiserman, Iginla

Cole Eiserman and Tij Iginla are among the many 2024 NHL Draft prospects set to participate in the 2024 U18 World Championship.

Apr 23, 2024 by Chris Peters

The 2024 IIHF Men’s World Under-18 Championship is a great opportunity for top NHL Draft prospects to make a strong last impression on scouts. There are plenty of players that have more to prove and more to show, which makes this tournament a big one for a lot of players.

With this being one of the premier scouting events of the season, I wanted to give NHL Draft watchers an idea of the players that are high on draft boards, as well as some that have a little more to prove.

On top of being a big 2024 NHL Draft event, there are players eligible for 2025 and even 2026 that can get a bit of a jump on the hype machine with a big performance at this tournament.

Last year, both Canada’s Macklin Celebrini and USA’s Cole Eiserman had big tournaments that set the table for the season ahead. So there are a few notes on the others that are worth knowing about. This year, much of the hockey world will be introduced for the first time to 2026 NHL Draft top prospect Gavin McKenna with Team Canada.

2024 NHL Draft Prospects To Watch At U18 Worlds

Cole Eiserman, LW, USA (Boston University)

Cole Eiserman’s next goal will be his 50th of the season and it will bring him one step closer to Cole Caufield’s career goals record at the NTDP. Eiserman is sitting at 118 career goals and Caufield’s record is 126, meaning Eiserman will have to score over a goal per game to get there. The gold medal is the ultimate goal, but don’t think Eiserman won’t be shooting for the stars in this one.

That said, the sniper’s draft stock has dipped in the industry this year. Everyone already knows he can score. If he’s able to bring more to the table away from the puck and finds more ways to impact the game, it will speak to the scouts that have been dropping him over the season.

Tij Iginla, C, Canada (Kelowna Rockets)

A late addition to Canada’s roster, Iginla’s one of the biggest names for the group as his draft stock has only risen over the season. With fast hands and a wicked release, Iginla should be expected to score in this tournament. There was no drop-off in his game during the postseason with Kelowna after being one of the top goal scorers in the WHL this season.

Konsta Helenius, C, Finland (Jukurit)

It wasn't always a sure thing, but we now know for certain that Konsta Helenius will be playing for Finland in this tournament and suddenly the hosts look a bit more formidable. Helenius had a tremendous season in Liiga and got a long look with the senior national team for the Men's World Championship. He was reassigned to the U18 team just in time to open the tournament on Day 1. He can take over games at this level and should be viewed as a major impact player after putting up 36 points in 51 games in Finland's top pro level this season. 

Trevor Connelly, LW, USA (Tri-City Storm)

The only skater from outside of the NTDP added to Team USA’s roster, Connelly passed up the USHL playoffs to chase gold with the U.S. After a dominant showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and World Junior A Challenge, Connelly has a chance to impact the game where he won’t be required to be his team’s primary source of offense. It will be an interesting showcase for him in that regard as Connelly is used to being the go-to guy for his team.

Aron Kiviharju, D, Finland (HIFK)

There is not a player skating in this tournament that will draw more attention from scouts than Kiviharju. He’s missed almost the entire season with an injury, but is healthy and prepared for his third U18 Worlds. A gifted puck-mover, it will be interesting to see how Kiviharju looks after a long layoff. He came into this season as a seemingly surefire first-round pick, but it’s not a given anymore after all of his time missed. A big U18s could help him put some minds at ease.

Liam Greentree, RW, Canada (Windsor Spitfires)

A forward with some size and physical advantages over his age peers, this is an event Greentree should be able to impact significantly. He’s not the best skater, but you look at all of the other elements in his game and it’s exciting. He can certainly boost his stock by shining over the players in similar draft range at this event. 

Emil Hemming, RW, Finland (TPS)

Assuming Konsta Helenius never becomes available to Finland for this tournament, the offense is largely going to be dictated by Hemming. Helenius Will Play For Finland In This Tournament. He’s a 6-foot-2 power forward who already has a World Junior and 40 games of pro hockey under his belt. This should be a refreshing change of pace for him against age peers with a chance to dominate physically and on the score sheet.

Ryder Ritchie, RW, Canada (Prince Albert Raiders)

There isn’t a lot of consensus on Ritchie after a lukewarm season in terms of production in the WHL. He’s on the fringe of the first-round discussion but could vault himself more solidly into it with a good showing for Canada at this tournament.

Jett Luchanko, C, Canada (Guelph Storm)

Like Ritchie, Luchanko is more on the fringes of the first-round discussion, but he’s still very much in the mix. He had a strong finish to his regular season, closing with 74 points in 68 games. With an underwhelming and early exit from the OHL playoffs, however, Luchanko gets a second chance at a good last impression.

Adam Jecho, RW, Czechia (Edmonton Oil Kings)

At a massive 6-foot-5, 201 pounds at just 17 years old, Jecho has the tantalizing physical package. There are enough flaws in his offensive game that might give some scouts pause, but Jecho can take a pretty big leap here representing his country. The Czechs don’t have great depth, but that allows Jecho to play more of a featured role.

EJ Emery, D, USA (North Dakota)

EJ Emery has been one of my favorite prospects of this draft class. A lot of it has to do with the potential you can see in his game as he's far from a finished product. He has size, mobility and athleticism, but is still putting together the rest of his game. I think there's more offense in there for him to mine out of his game before you can really put the stamp of approval on him as a prospect, but this tournament should be an important step for him to show he's starting to reach that vast potential.

Lucas Pettersson, C, Sweden (MoDo U20)

Pettersson has really lit it up internationally this year for the U18 team, but he hasn’t yet played on a stage of this size. Sweden has some expectations to contend for a medal, possibly even gold, but it will desperately need a big performance from Pettersson. He’s hovered closer to the second-round range in most projections, but a leading role in this tournament can remind scouts of his higher-end hockey sense and good skill.

Leo Sahlin Wellenius, D, Sweden (Vaxjo U20)

A point-per-game player internationally and nearly a point per game at the Swedish U20 level, Sahlin Wellenius can certainly move pucks and make plays. He should see big minutes for Sweden in the tournament and can try to convince scouts there’s the possibility of top-four upside there. I think he probably ends up settling into the second round, but he’s an intriguing enough blueliner to watch in this event.

Cole Hutson, D, USA (Boston University)

A dynamic puck mover, Hutson is a returning player for Team USA after putting up 12 points in seven games last year. That tied him for the second most points by a defenseman in the tournament’s history. Hutson will be playing a bigger role this time around, with a chance to key USA’s offense from the back end. This is going to be a big tournament to show what his top gear looks like.

Maxim Massé, RW, Canada (Chicoutimi Sagueneens)

A big forward who can score, Massé has some intrigue, but he’s also frustrated scouts some this year. He was expected to take a bigger step after a good Hlinka-Gretzky tournament where he scored five goals, but the offensive jump wasn’t quite as big as expected. He still had 75 points in the Q this season and should be looked to as a source of production for Canada.

Alfons Freij, D, Sweden (Vaxjo U20)

A talented skater with a good shot from the point, Freij seems to only be scratching the surface of his full abilities. This tournament may allow him to open things up a bit more and really show what he can do. There’s a lot to like about him, but he hasn’t fully seized his chances before.

Leon Muggli, D, Switzerland (EV Zug)

It’s going to be difficult to stand out for Switzerland in this tournament as they may struggle, but Muggli has been among the top players in his age group for his country for years. He spent almost the whole season playing pro in Switzerland and was a big piece of their World Junior team. This is a chance for Muggli to take charge, show his maturity, leadership and see if he can drag the Swiss to overachieving.

2025 NHL Draft Prospects To Watch At U18 Worlds


James Hagens, C, USA (Boston College)

For a lot of the season, Hagens looked like he would be the presumptive No. 1 going into 2025. He’s gaining more company in that designation, but there’s so much to like about Hagens. Still in his draft-minus-1, this will be his second U18 Worlds. He had five points last year, but will be expected to lead Team USA this time around. He has 80 points already this season and appears poised for his center-stage moment.

Porter Martone, C, Canada (Mississauga Steelheads) 

Having already played in a U18 Worlds and in the Hlinka-Gretzky this summer, Martone is a late 2006 who has everyone’s attention. He has a big frame and is still growing into it. He had 33 goals and 71 points in the OHL this season. He’s on the younger side, but his experience will go a long way in helping this team.

Malcolm Spence, C, Canada (Erie Otters)

Born just seven days too late for this year’s draft, Spence will have to wait his turn but has already had some big moments. He scored the golden goal at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup and was a solid performer in the OHL this season with Erie. More will be expected of him next season, but he can use this U18 as a springboard.

Adam Benák, C, Czechia (HC Plzen)

In his own age group (U17), he’s a menace. At the U18 level, he’s already proven to be especially impactful. As a smaller player, he has to continue proving others that he can compete with top-tier talent. So far this season, he has done it. But the toughest challenge lies ahead. He’s a difficult player to project this far out because of his lack of physical growth, but there’s no doubting how much he has owned the international stage so far this season.

Logan Hensler, D, USA (Wisconsin)

One of the more exciting defense prospects early on in the process for the 2025 draft, Hensler has good size and mobility. His offensive game hasn't developed as much as we thought it could this season which has pumped the brakes a bit on his future as a top-10 pick. That said, he's one of the more athletically gifted blueliners and still just starting to tap into his vast potential.

Radim Mrtka, D, Czechia (Trinec)

Coming in at 6-foot-4, 183 at just 16 years old, Mrtka is just starting to learn how to play at his size. He had some very intriguing moments at the U18 Five Nations in February and will now have a chance to go head-to-head against even stiffer competition. He's not going to produce a ton of points, but there's some real upside to a player with his frame and mobility.

2026 NHL Draft Prospects To Watch At U18 Worlds

Gavin McKenna, C, Canada (Medicine Hat Tigers)

If you’re not fired up for the 2024 draft prospects playing in this tournament, perhaps you would like the glimpse of the future we’ll be getting with Team Canada. Gavin McKenna is a late 2007 birth date who is in his draft-minus-2 season, but what an impact he made with it.

McKenna just completed one of the best U17 seasons in the history of the WHL. The only player in recent memory who outproduced McKenna was his cousin Connor Bedard, who averaged 1.61 points per game at 16. McKenna had 1.59 points per game this year, with 97 points in 61 games. Bedard had 100 in 62 games two years ago.

The hype around McKenna is only just starting to build, but a big performance at this tournament will fire that up even more. While Canada has its share of high-end talent on its roster, this is the player I’m most looking forward to seeing.

NHL Draft 2024 Coverage On FloHockey 

Don’t miss the latest NHL Draft coverage on FloHockey.

Watch ECHL, USHL And More On FloHockey 

FloHockey is the streaming home to some of the best hockey leagues in North America, including the USHL, ECHL and more. Check out the broadcast schedule to watch more hockey.

Join The Hockey Conversation On FloHockey Social