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Sabres prospects at World Junior Championships

The Buffalo Sabres should have a keen eye on the 2014 World Junior Championships which opened up in Sweden on Thursday.  There are three Sabres prospects competing in the event and players who are expected to be at the top of the next two drafts are participating as well.

As far as the Sabres prospects, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov are both playing for Russia while Rasmus Ristolainen is on Finland's roster.  Grigorenko, who has appeared in 18 games with the Sabres this season, will be playing in his third World Juniors.  He was part of a bronze medal winning team last year and a silver medal winner in 2012. Grigorenko had a goal and two assists in Russia's win over Norway on Thursday.

Zadorov dressed in seven games with the Sabres before being sent back to London in the Ontario Hockey League.  The big defenseman was playing very well for the Knights with two goals and six points in eight games.  Zadorov was also a plus eight. He scored two goals in the victory over Norway.

Ristolainen is returning to the ice after missing some time in Rochester due to a concussion.  After starting the season in Buffalo and playing in 19 games, Ristolainen appeared in just five games with the Amerks before getting injured.  This will be his third World Juniors for  Finland.

Two other Sabres prospects would have played in the tournament had it not been for injuries.  2013 draft pick JT Compher was a lock to make Team USA but he broke a foot during practice last week and was released out of their camp.  Compher, who will be sidelined for three to four weeks, will return to the University of Michigan where he was tied for the team lead in scoring when he left for the U.S. pre tournament camp.

Fellow 2013 pick Gustav Possler was going to suit up for Sweden but lingering pain from a knee injury prevented him from playing.  In fact, Possler's season back in the Swedish Elite League is over since he will undergo season ending surgery on his knee.

The Sabres will be busy scouting at this tournament watching players who should be available for Buffalo at the top of the 2014 draft, should the team end up there. 

Sam Reinhart, a forward from Kootenay of the Western Hockey League will be playing for Canada along with defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who plays for Barrie in the OHL.  Other top draft prospects include Leon Draisaitl, a center for Germany and Swedish winger Anton Karlsson.

But the biggest name in the tournament will likely be Connor McDavid from Canada.  He's the player many are touting as the next Sydney Crosby and the reason why teams would love to have the top pick in the 2015 draft when McDavid will be available.  The U.S. will also feature a player who is being mentioned as a top level choice in 2015. Forward Jack Eichel is currently in the U.S. National Team Development Program.

All of Team USA's games will be seen on NHL Network.  You can also watch McDavid, Reinhart, Ekblad and Canada play the Cezh Republic on Saturday, Slovakia on Monday and  the U.S. on Tuesday.