TODAY THE WORLDS...Tomorrow...?

Yesterday Team Canada announced the roster of players who would attend the World Junior Championships starting 12/26, and there is an actual Blackhawks prospect among them.

As much as it pains this particular writer that Mark McNeill was unable to show his talents on the world stage, young Philip Danault will be manning the pivot for the Great White North.

Danault has been an absolute beast in the Quebec League this year, racking up 44 points in 29 games so far for Victoriaville. Of course, he could score a million points this season in the Q - the big story there is the steamroller of a team in Halifax. But let's stay on topic here.

Danault got the QMJHL "First Star" honor last week, after racking up 8 points (1G 7A) in 2 games. If there had been a full training camp this summer, Danault would have gotten a real serious look with the big boys. Last spring he impressed when he had a brief run in Rockford after the Tigres' season ended up north.

McNeill was one of the last cuts made by Team Canada. He's been playing well in Prince Albert of the Junior League this year, and is on track to top his 71 point season from last year. Canada is going more for speed/finesse than size/toughness, and McNeill's bull-in-a-china-shop style of play didn't really fit into the system Canada's going to use. But he's still one of the top 20 forwards in Canadian juniors, and next year we'll be able to get a better look at him as he learns to enjoy the Rockford Olive Garden.

There are two other Blackhawks' prospects who will be on display at the Worlds. Russian forward Maxim Shalunov impressed everyone with his quick hands during the Subway Series. He's got a rocket wrister, and his accuracy is certainly there. He'll get serious minutes playing for a team that will be better than anyone expected it to be, because of the lockout. Thanks to no NHL hockey, Nail Yakupov will be menacing everyone on the ice. But back to Shalunov...

Maxim has 17 points in 23 games playing for lower Russian leagues, and has played a game for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL. He might have gotten more burn with the big boys if the NHL were open for business. He's got scorer's hands, but his 185 pounds on his 6'3 frame would get him knocked around a lot. And his skating is...well we're not exactly talking Pavel Datsyuk here. It'll be nice to see him get his time in here at the Worlds, after he absolutely smoked everyone in the Challenge Cup of Asia (9G 5A in 4 games) last year. But his game still needs a lot of work before he's ready to see the United Center with people in it.

Teuvo Teräväinen skating for Finland is hardly surprising. The Hawks got a huge gift last summer when teams were leery of his lack of size, and he fell to them. He's damn near Kane-like with his on-ice vision and playmaking, and he's a good enough skater to get out of trouble until his frame fills out.

He made the jump to the SM-Liiga, the top Finnish league, last season. This year he's got 19 points (8G, 11A) in 24 games. Blackhawks fans got a taste of what he's capable of during Prospects Camp this summer, where his puck handling and playmaking were on full display.

So, if you want to cheer for a specific country, go ahead. Some of the sweaters are actually really cool. But for specific players to watch, these three are what we have.


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