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Who will be the breakout star of the 2018 World Junior Championships?

The World Junior field is stacked with talent this year.

Sweden v Russia - Bronze Medal Game - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

While the world takes a much-needed holiday break, the youth of hockey’s future will be hard at work. On Tuesday, the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship will get underway in Buffalo; it’s a tournament featuring 10 countries and the hockey world’s best under-20 talent.

You may remember last year’s World Juniors where the United States took home its first gold medal in the event since 2013 after taking rival Canada to a shootout. Or in 2016 when Kasperi Kapanen’s gold medal goal for Finland sounded even better in his native language. The World Juniors may seem like a viewer tune-up for the upcoming Winter Olympics, but the tournament is steeped in tradition and international pride.

Over the years, the tournament has had a fair number of players break out during their respective years.

Last year it was Troy Terry, who scored three shootout goals against Russia to help the United States advance to the final, where his legend grew with Team USA’s gold medal goal. John Tavares made a name for himself before becoming the captain of the New York Islanders with this incredible tip goal for Team Canada in 2009.

And before Terry made the shootout cool, Jonathan Toews pulled the same stunt against the United States in 2007 when he scored three shootout goals to lift Canada to the final.

International tournament heroes are, of course, hard to predict, but here are our guesses as for who could break out this year at the World Juniors.

Rasmus Dahlin, Sweden

The 17-year-old is projected to be the NHL’s No. 1 overall pick next June, and for good reason. He’s been hailed as Sweden’s best defensive prospect ever, and that’s high praise in a country that has produced Erik Karlsson and Nicklas Lidstrom.

Dahlin isn’t going to put up outrageous numbers as a defenseman, as he has 11 points in 26 games in the Swedish Hockey League, but he is considered to be a complete package of a defenseman. That doesn’t mean, however, that Dahlin won’t put the moves on you if needed:

Considering the pedigree surrounding Dahlin, he should at least be a player to watch in the upcoming tournament. Don’t be surprised if he does break out in some way for Sweden, whether it be a great defensive stand or a silky move in a clutch moment.

Quinn Hughes, United States

College hockey fans will no doubt know Hughes’ name, but there’s a real chance the 18-year-old defenseman makes a name for himself on the international stage. Hughes is a freshman defenseman for the University of Michigan and is also projected to be a high-end draft pick in 2018.

At Michigan, Hughes has put up 10 points in 16 games for the Wolverines this season. While those numbers aren’t eye-popping, Hughes did put up 26 points in 26 games last season in the USHL, a number that blew other defensemen, and forwards, out of the water.

The World Juniors is probably an excellent time for Hughes to show off what makes him so great — his creativity and aggressiveness that create one-of-a-kind chances for his teammates.

Eeli Tolvanen, Finland

Earlier in December, we called Tolvanen the 2017 NHL Draft’s biggest steal for landing at No. 30 in the hands of the Nashville Predators. The 18-year-old left winger is playing for Jokerit in the KHL, the world’s second-best hockey league behind the NHL, and is already on pace for an incredible season.

Tolvanen sits at 14th in the KHL with 32 points in 39 games, as he’s tied Evgeny Kuznetsov’s record for points in an age-18 season. Not only that: Tolvanen is experienced at the World Junior level, scoring six points in six games for Finland last year.

This year’s World Junior Championship feels like a prime time for Tolvanen to showcase why some NHL teams who passed on him should be rethinking their draft picks from this summer.

Kailer Yamamoto, United States

Yamamoto has tasted some NHL action this year with the Edmonton Oilers, but the 19-year-old right winger will probably be featured heavily in Team USA’s plans this holiday season. Taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 draft by Edmonton, Yamamoto has been billed as an incredibly skilled forward.

Maybe most shocking about Yamamoto is his size, as he stands at 5’8, which is on the shorter end of the scale for hockey players. Last season, Yamamoto had 99 points in 65 games with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Though his 12 points in 13 games so far this year is a far cry from his previous pace, he seems primed for a breakout playing for his home country.

Andrei Svechnikov, Russia

Svechnikov is another offensive talent projected to battle for a top-five spot in June. The 17-year-old right winger from Russia dealt with a hand injury earlier this season in the OHL but has since recorded seven points in six games for the Barrie Colts.

Though the lost time has put Svechnikov behind the ball in showcasing his talent, his 21 points in 16 games gives him the 11th-highest points-per-game pace at 1.31 in the OHL. Svechnikov is also no stranger to putting up points in high-pressure international tournaments, as his hat trick at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge at the age of 16 put him on the map in a big way.

Carter Hart, Canada

Maybe the biggest difference maker on this list is, of all things, a goaltender. Hart was the 48th overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, and if trends continue, he’ll be the Philadelphia Flyers goaltender of choice for years to come.

In 17 games played this season with the Everett Silvertips, Hart has a .961 save percentage that leads all WHL goaltenders by a wide margin. For reference, the next best netminder in the league has a .942 save percentage. Hart was Team Canada’s hope during last World Juniors, but inconsistent play led to him splitting time in net before ending the tournament one save away from victory in the final.

This year, Hart is coming into the tournament on a tear. In a year where Canada isn’t as offensively potent as tournament’s past, Hart may steal the show when all is said and done.