NHL

AHL Notebook: Five players at World Junior Championship

The 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship has its usual American Hockey League flavor again.

Five AHL players will participate in the under-20 tournament that started Tuesday in Buffalo and runs through Jan. 5.

Sweden features forward Alexander Nylander (Rochester) and defenseman Timothy Liljegren (Toronto). Filip Chytil (Hartford) of the Czech Republic, Russian prospect Klim Kostin (San Antonio), and Janne Kuokkanen (Charlotte) of Finland are the other participating AHL forwards.

Of the quintet, Kuokkanen is the lone player not selected in the first round of an NHL Draft; the Carolina Hurricanes selected him in the second round (No. 43) in 2016.

Representing the AHL in 2016 were forwards Adrian Kempe (Ontario) of Sweden, and Sonny Milano (Lake Erie), who played for the United States. Kempe (three goals, five assists) and Milano (one goal, seven assists) each had eight points. Forward Vladislav Kamenev (Milwaukee) was Russia captain and scored five goals in seven games.

That year, host Finland won the gold medal and had a strong AHL presence. Forward Mikko Rantanen, on loan from San Antonio, was captain. Forward Kasperi Kapanen (Toronto) also played for Finland.

Manitoba forward Jack Roslovic played for the gold-medal US team in 2017. Defenseman Oliver Kylington (Stockton) played for Sweden, and Providence goaltender Daniel Vladar was with the Czech Republic.

Here is a look at those five AHL players who will skate in Buffalo:

Filip Chytil, Hartford (New York Rangers) — The early returns for the 2017 first-round (No. 21) pick have to be encouraging for the Rangers.

At 18 years old, he already has NHL-caliber size (6-foot-2, 202 pounds), and his maturity and work ethic have earned praise from Hartford coach Keith McCambridge.

Chytil has been out for Hartford since a hit during a game at Toronto on Dec. 2, but he is expected to return after the tournament. With Hartford, a team that struggled earlier this season, Chytil has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 15 games.

Klim Kostin, San Antonio (St. Louis Blues) — St. Louis does not have its own AHL affiliate and is scattering its prospects across several teams throughout the league.

The Blues chose to assign Kostin to San Antonio. That situation has allowed Kostin, 18, to spend time with the AHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

He has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 26 games. Like Chytil, he has NHL-ready size (6-3, 212); a shoulder injury last season limited Kostin to eight games with Moscow Dynamo of the Kontinental Hockey League.

But the Blues saw his potential and selected him in the first round (No. 31) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He has proven that he can handle the physical hockey that the AHL offers and has played 26 of 27 games.

Janne Kuokkanen, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) — Kuokkanen, 19, impressed the Hurricanes enough to earn a job out of training camp. He went on to play four games with Carolina before he was assigned to Charlotte on Oct. 30.

This is Kuokkanen’s second World Junior Championship opportunity.

Charlotte has the second-most productive offense in the AHL at 3.9 goals per game. Amid a deep group of forwards, Kuokkanen has found a place for himself and spent time with top prospect Aleksi Saarela and captain Patrick Brown .

Kuokkanen has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in 19 games, including a four-point game (one goal, three assists) against Belleville on Nov. 21.

Timothy Liljegren, Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) — Playing as an AHL prospect in Toronto means that ice time will be earned.

The Maple Leafs affiliate annually puts a strong team on the ice, and AHL depth has been a key ingredient. Coach Sheldon Keefe usually has an assortment of options, and a struggling player can quickly find himself out of the lineup .

The adjustment for most AHL defensemen is a difficult process, and moving to North American ice from the Swedish Hockey League can be challenging for a prospect.

However, Liljegren (6-0, 193), 18, had the benefit of the high-level experience that the SHL provides, and he is handling the AHL adjustment well. A first-round pick (No. 17) in 2017, it’s working in Liljegren’s favor that he is a right-handed shot, which is always an asset.

He missed time because of an injury earlier in the season, but Liljegren has nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 17 games.

Alexander Nylander, Rochester (Buffalo Sabres) — Nylander, 19, has become a fixture at the World Junior Championship.

He is making his third appearance in the tournament. In 2017, his 12 points (five goals, seven assists) tied him for the scoring lead with Kirill Kaprizov of Russia. He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in the 2016 tournament.

Nylander (6-1, 185) has had injury problems and did not make his AHL season debut until Nov. 17. A 2016 selection (No. 8) by the Sabres, he had six points (two goals, four assists) in 15 games before departing for the tournament.