Canucks at the World Juniors

jake-virtanen

 

 

 

 

 

By Joe McCormick (@joemccormick19)

With the holidays upon us and the brief Christmas break for the NHL, the hockey world turns its focus to the world juniors, being held in Toronto and Montreal….. again.  I can’t really complain about the location though since it was only a few years ago that I got to see the tournament in my own home town.  If you are anything like me, this tournament is a staple on every television starting on boxing day.  A traditional boxing day would start off with some hockey with friends and family, followed by some drinks while we cheered on team Canada and the prospects of the NHL teams that we each cheered for.  My world has changed a lot in the past year, with having my first child.  A lot of my old traditions are now out the window, but luckily, this is one I will be able to pass along to my son!  This tournament may have sentimental value for some, but it is also a great way to evaluate talent on a world stage.  With the exception of those that are playing in the NHL, this tournament is best on best for anyone under 20.  I figured we’d take a look at a few of the past 5 tournaments and the Canucks that played in them.

2012 – Calgary/Edmonton, Canada

This year Sweden was able to skate away with the gold medal.  At the time we had a young scoring forward in our system by the name of Niklas Jensen.  I remember watching every game that he played in Calgary.  Those were some boring games, pretty sure there was less than 500 people at one of them.  He stood out against the rest of his team, but afterall, one player doesn’t make a team.  As for current Canucks, Baertschi and Granlund both played for Switzerland and Finland respectively.  At the time, I believe both were Flames prospects.  Baertschi played in 6 games, registering 1 g, 1 a and a -5 rating.  Granlund got to play on a line with his brother and got 2 g, 5 a in 7 games with a +5 rating.

2013 – UFA, Russia

Short and sweet…. USA won gold, not one current Canuck or former prospect played in this tournament.

2014 – Malmo, Sweden

Finland won this year on the back of Ristolainen.  Thatcher Demko had made team USA which is impressive for a draft eligible goalie, even though he did not dress for a game.  There was another future Canucks draft pick that played in Sweden.  Russian defender Nikita Tryamkin.  The large d-man collected a goal and 2 assists in 7 games and was +5.  Bo Horvat was the only players in this years tournament that was already Canucks property.  He had a shut down role with team Canada and like Tryamkin, had a goal and 2 assists in 7 games.  Despite the numbers, he had a strong tournament and showed that he had the ability to shut down some of the best players in the world.

2015 – Toronto/Montreal, Canada

This year, after being drafted in the second round, Demko was able to show what he could do between the pipes.  In 4 games, he came away with a save % of 93.86 and a 1.74 gaa.  Excellent numbers for an 18 year old net minder that was on a supposedly weak USA team.   Jake Virtanen was able to win gold in his first crack at the tournament.  He mostly played a 3rd/4th line role but still managed a goal, 3 assists and+4 in seven games.  The Canucks did have another prospect at this tournament.  Gustav Forsling was playing for Sweden after being drafted in 2014.  He has since been traded to Chicago where is looks to be a 6/7th depth defenseman with some potential.

2016 – Helsinki, Finland

An undrafted Olli Juolevi also won in his first year in the tournament.  He was definitely a factor in having 9 assists in 7 games, while posting a +6.  Brock Boeser, still relatively unknown to Canucks fans despite being drafted in the first round of 2015 was able to get a goal and two assists in 7 games.  This was the year that Vancouver had two young kids in the lineup to try and develop them by throwing them to the fire.  The had the option of sending both to the tournament for Canada, but Henrik Sedin had just been injured so Jared McCann stuck with the big club and we all know how that ended.  The other kid was Virtanen.  It seemed like a great idea to send him down to help rebuild his confidence against his peers.  I still don’t think it was the wrong decision, but with hindsight being what it is, it sure looks like it was.  He had a dismal 1 assist in 5 games and 10 minutes in penalties.  Now 10 minutes in 5 games for a power forward isn’t all that bad, it was the face that these were momentum killers.  The penalties were largely due to a kid that put a lot of pressure on himself trying too hard and being overcome with emotion.  He became Canada’s scape goat for their epic third period collapse in the semi-final game.

2017 – Montreal/Toronto, Canada

I was hopeful that we’d see four Canucks prospects, but that is not the case.  Brisebois was part of the last cuts for team Canada.  Boeser unfortunately had to go under the knife and get wrist surgery.  Boeser would have likely been a major contributor to the Americans.  So we are down to two.  Lukas Jasek who will be playing for the Czechs and Juolevi.  He will be the captain for team Finland.  As always I’m excited to watch this tournament and see who becomes household names…. even if it is only for two weeks!

 

Merry Christmas and enjoy the Tournament!

 

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