Don’t look for them in the streets of Montreal. The leaders of the Canadiens and their recruiters are already in Europe. The World Under-18 Championship got underway on Thursday in Basel and Porrentruy, Switzerland.

There are notable absentees, including Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, but since the Canadiens could draft between fifth and seventh if he doesn’t win the lottery, holds the Panthers’ first-round pick at 17th overall. * and a 37th-round second-round pick, not counting the others, there will be several candidates to watch.

Regina, Bedard’s junior team, is eliminated despite the youngster’s 20 points in seven games, but the essential first overall pick won’t waste his time in Switzerland. He was already too strong for the Under-20s this winter (23 points in just seven games), we will probably send him with the Canadian team to the World Championship with the players excluded from the NHL playoffs.

The two probable choices after Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson are not there because of their date of birth. They were born between September 15 and December 31, late in hockey jargon, therefore ineligible for this Championship, since they turned 18 several months ago.

Fantilli, 65 points in 36 games at the University of Michigan, would have been eligible for the 2022 draft had he been born a month earlier. Carlsson, 25 points in 44 games at Örebro in the Swedish Premier League (SHL), was born on December 26.

Matvei Michkov, 20 points in 27 games in the KHL, remains another prime candidate for this draft, but he is also a late, and in any case Russia has been excluded from international competitions since their entry into war against Ukraine. .

The great Austrian right-handed defender David Reinbacher, 22 points in 46 games in Kloten, in German-speaking Switzerland, also enters the late category.

Among the other prospects, some of whom could find themselves in the sights of the Canadian in the event of failure in the lottery, is the right-hand center Will Smith, 107 points in only 53 games within the American development program, a production largely superior to that of Logan Cooley the previous year.

Smith’s stats, signed to Boston College for next year, remain impressive, he’s probably an improved version of Shane Wright, but his critics would like to see him play harder and improve his explosiveness on the skates.

His teammate Oliver Moore, a left-handed center, 66 points in 54 games, promised to the powerful University of Minnesota next season, Ryan Leonard, a right-handed center, 77 points in 50 games, also linked to Boston College, and the youngest son of former hockey player Yanic Perreault, Gabriel, a winger, the most prolific of the group with 114 points, including 48 goals, in 56 games, will also be one to watch. They are all ranked in the top 15 on a majority of specialist recruiter lists.

One of Canada’s most gifted prospects, Zach Benson, a 5-foot-10, 159-pound center, 98 points in 60 regular-season games in Winnipeg, Western Junior League (WHL), is still in playoffs with his club.

Andrew Cristall, 95 points in 54 games at Kelowna, WHL, Colby Barlow, 79 points including 46 goals, in 59 games at Owen Sound, OHL, and winger Matthew Wood, 34 points in 35 games in his first season at the University of Connecticut are in the tournament.

But Canada suffered an 8-0 correction at the hands of Sweden in their opener on Thursday, in which Swedish right-handed attacking defender Axel Sandin-Pellikka, a revelation at the World Junior Championship, took advantage to raise his rating with five points, one goal and four assists. Sandin-Pellikka had five points in 22 games at Skelleftea in the SHL this winter.

It will also be interesting to see Slovak winger Dalibor Dvorsky, 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, three points at the World Junior Championship, 14 points in 38 games in the Swedish second division with AIK, and another winger of the same format, Czech this one, Eduard Sale, six points in seven games at the World Junior Championship, 14 points in 43 games with HC Kometa in the Czech Republic.

There were also many absentees at this same tournament last year, Juraj Slafkovsky, Shane Wright, Simon Nemec and David Jiricek, among others, but Logan Cooley, Cutter Gauthier, Jiri Kulich, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Noah Östlund, Liam Öhgren, Frank Nazar, Rutger McGroarty, Joakim Kemell, Jimmy Snuggerud, Joakim Kemell and Isaac Howard were there and they all made up first-round picks. Without forgetting a certain Lane Hutson for the Americans…

Will Jared Bednar give in to the temptation to keep his first line intact? The question came to him, following the Avalanche’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken in Game 1 of their first-round series on Tuesday.

“I didn’t like our lines,” the Avalanche head coach said Wednesday. We didn’t play to the standards we set. »

Colorado has two fewer big chunks this spring, compared to last year. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, 22 points in 20 games in the 2022 playoffs, is out until next year. Center Nazem Kadri, 15 points in 16 games, took advantage of his free agency to join the Calgary Flames.

They have not been replaced. J. T. Compher does his best in the center of the second line, but he lacks the attacking impact of Kadri. Evan Rodrigues finds himself on the first line by default. Young Alex Newhook has yet to make it as the hoped-for second center.

We could therefore demote Mikko Rantanen during the second meeting, Thursday evening, in order to give a little punch to the second line, even if it means depriving Nathan MacKinnon of his talent.