World Selects Invitational headlined by prospects from 12 different countries
The 2023 World Selects Invitational spring series of events begins on Wednesday, with the ’08 WSI Elite tournament getting underway in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. More than 500 of the top prospects from the 2008 birth year will compete in the six-day event. Participants will represent 12 different countries, as they compete across 30 select teams assembled specifically for this tournament.
This tournament series dates all the way back to 2009, when names like Alexander Barkov, Filip Forsberg and Radek Faksa debuted on the youth hockey scene. Them, along with 650 other WSI tournament alumni have gone on to be selected in the NHL Draft over the past 10 years. This year, North American prospects like Michael Berchild, Caleb Malhotra and Ethan Garden look to make their mark on international youth hockey. Additionally, top Euros like Oliver Torkki, Arvid Ermeskog and Vladimir Provorov will make the trek across the Atlantic to go toe-to-toe with North America’s best.
Last year, Ryan Roobroeck broke the tournament record for points with 28 in nine games. Twelve months later, he’s projected to be a Top-5 pick in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection. His teammate in the WSI last spring, Gavin McKenna, went on to be the first overall selection in the 2022 WHL Draft. Together, they led Pro Hockey to the 15U championship against an International Stars team that was loaded with top American-born prospects. So much so that seven players from the Stars’ roster were just named to the 2023-24 U.S. National Team Development Program roster.
Bottom line, the WSI regularly serves as a launching point for top prospects in youth hockey.
Still dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 last spring, the 2022 tournament only featured five European teams. Travel restrictions and difficulties kept others from making the trip overseas. This spring, that number is expected to double, as teams from Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech, Slovakia and Kazakhstan will be in attendance. The Ford Ice Centers in Nashville will be packed with wall-to-wall action all week and WHH will have exclusive coverage of all the action.
‘08 Prospects to watch from Canada, United States
The province of Ontario will be well represented in the Music City. In fact, 20 players from five of the Top-10 teams in the country are expected to be on hand for the ’08 WSI. The No. 1 ranked ‘08 team in the world, Vaughan Kings, will have five players competing for two different teams. Two of their top scorers, Caleb Malhotra and Zach Nyman will skate for CCM Selects. Their regular-season teammate and goaltender Joseph D’Angelo will suit up for opposing team Carolina Whalers; he is one of five Canadians playing for the U.S.-based select team.
Some other top performers from Ontario includ Maximus Crete, Bryson Morgan and Nikolas Rossetto. They were among the top scorers at the U15 All-Ontario Championships earlier this month. Goaltenders Cameron Ingram and Colin Elsworth were also impressive in that tournament with 1.00 and 1.50 goals-against averages respectively.
There is a plethora of American talent expected as well. Each of the top nine teams in the country will be represented by multiple players. Some of the more notable being No. 1 Shattuck-St. Mary’s leading scorer Michael Berchild. He finished the ‘22-23 season with 106 points; the fourth-most among ‘08s in the country. J.P. Hurlbert III led all U.S. skaters with 195 points in 75 games. Him and Berchild will be teammates at the ’08 WSI for ID Selects.
Lukas Zajic and Camden Nimmer will also skate for ID Selects. They were among some of the top performers at USA Hockey Nationals earlier this month. They also went head-to-head in the national title game, as Nimmer and his Bishop Kearney Selects took home gold.
European prospects look to bring ’08 WSI back overseas for first time since 2015
The last time a European team won the North American WSI, Oliver Wahlstrom, Rasmus Sandin and Ryan Merkley were playing for Sweden Selects. Wahlstrom is in his third season for the New York Islanders. Sandin just finished his second season in the NHL with the Washington Capitals. Merkley made his NHL debut for the San Jose Sharks last season.
None of those three will be able to help Sweden claim World Selects gold in Nashville this week. However, players like Arvid Ermeskog, Salim Ismailov and Fabian Merkle-Rohdin certainly could.
Ermeskog is a standout forward for the No. 1 ranked team in Sweden, Nacka HK. He led the Sweden Hockey Trophy in scoring last fall with 11 points in seven games. Ismailov finished closely behind with 10 points for Flemingsbergs IK. On top of that, Merkle-Rohdin was a top performer at the U15 DIF Elitcup in September as well. He scored 14 points in that tournament for HV71. He also spent 23 games playing up an age level with the club’s U16 team.
Speaking of under-agers, Oliver Torkki and Jiko Laitinen were among some of the top scorers in Finland’s U16 SM-Series this season. Playing amongst competition where 85 percent of the players were older than these two ‘08s, Torkki and Laitinen finished third and fourth in points. Torkki scored 33 goals and 77 points in 39 games for HIFK. Laitinen finished with 76 points in 40 games. They will certainly be a force for Finland Selects at the ’08 WSI.
While he maintains dual citizenship being born in Tampa, Florida, Alex Theodore played the ‘22-23 season for the U15 Pilsen Wolves. He led the team in scoring with 53 points in 34 games. He also scored 16 points in 10 games with the club’s U17 team as well. Teammate Ben Reisnecker is another standout performer from Central Europe. From the blue line, Reisnecker scored 63 points in 47 games between the Wolves’ U15 and U17 teams as well. The pair will likely lead the Czech Knights’ offensive attack this week in Nashville.
World Selects season in full swing
In addition to the 2008 Elite event in Nashville, two other tournaments get underway this week as well. The U14 Girls event begins on Wednesday as well, hosted in Chamonix, France. Additionally, the 2011 AAA tournament kicks off from Bolzano, Italy, on Thursday.
Twelve girls teams from nine different countries will compete for the U14 championship. Czech Selects won the tournament last year. That snapped a three-year run of North American teams winning gold.
DraftDay, Minnesota Prospects, Premier Ice Prospects (PIP) Hockey and Pro Hockey will travel across the Atlantic to represent the U.S. and Canada. Select teams from Czech, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland will make the field of teams at the U14 tournament one of the most diverse among WSI events this spring.
The 2011 AAA tournament — open to all AAA-level players — consists of 13 teams from as many as nine different countries. It is the first of three WSI events to take place in the city of Bolzano.
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