Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bure, Ohlund and Sedin: The World Junior's All-Canucks Team

Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Bure and Daniel Sedin have all
starred in the World Juniors as Canucks prospects.

Until they actually make it to the NHL, the World Juniors is far and away the most closely-scrutinized and highly-celebrated stage for the league's best prospects. And when the average hockey fan is reduced to reading the same cliche scouting reports on their team's draft picks over and over and over, there's nothing like actually watching a player like Jake Virtanen or Thatcher Demko perform at the highest level among their peers.

And every so often, you'll be lucky enough to not only see your team's best prospects play internationally, but watch them absolutely dominate the tournament. A couple of years ago, we highlighted the very best Canadian Junior performances by Canucks prospects of all-time. Cody Hodgson's 16 points in 2008 was there. As was Luc Bourdon's All-Star Team performance at GM Place in 2006.

See also: The All-Time List of Canucks Prospects to Play for Team Canada at the WJC (up to 2013) 

But while Canadian prospects will always get more exposure at this tournament, Vancouver have a long history of drafting top flight international prospects. This year, Canucks fans are spoiled with a United Nations showing of Virtanen (Canada), Demko (USA) and Gustav Forsling (Sweden) playing for their respective countries. (Not to mention Cole Cassels narrowly missing a roster spot with the States.) So with this year's international flavour in mind, we've highlighted the best World Junior performances by Canucks prospects -- Canadian or not -- in the history of the tournament:

*Disclaimer: This list only includes players who were Canucks prospects at the time of their World Junior appearances. For example, Markus Naslund's record-setting 13 goals in 1993 doesn't count because he was a Penguins prospect at the time. Neither does Roberto Luongo's silver medal in 1999 as a Panthers draft pick.



Pavel Bure (Soviet Union, 1989-91) - Before he was even drafted, Bure won Best Forward honours (8 goals and 14 points) in 1989 while playing on a fabled line with Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov. The following year -- his first as a Canucks prospect -- Bure led the Soviets with seven goals. His 10 points, however, were overshadowed in tournament play by the Czech duo of Robert Reichel (21 points) and Jaromir Jagr (18 points).

In his last year of eligibility (1991), Bure reeled off a record-setting 12 goals in 7 games, surpassed only by Markus Naslund (13 in 1993) since. Meanwhile, his three-year total of 27 goals in 21 games is an all-time record that no one has come close to. His 39 points are third to only Reichel (40) and Peter Forsberg (42). Throw in a gold and two silvers and you have an argument for best World Junior career ever.

Patrik Sundstrom (Sweden, 1980-81) - Forget the Florida Panthers. The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation has an even better case for Canada's historical farm team. But before Vancouver was drafting guys like Henrik, Daniel, Edler and Ohlund, there was Patrick Sundstrom. In 1980, he played a supporting role (1 assist in 5 games) on a bronze-winning Swedish team that featured a pair of perennial NHL All-Stars in Hakan Loob and Thomas Steen.

But without Loob and Steen the following year, it was the Canucks' 175th overall pick that led Sweden to an undefeated record and a gold medal in 1981. With 7 goals in 5 games, Sundstrom won Best Forward and All-Star Team honours, becoming the first Canucks prospect to earn either distinction at the World Juniors.*

*Vladimir Krutov won Best Forward and All-Star honours in 1979 and 1980, but the Canucks didn't draft him until 1986.

Jordan Schroeder (USA, 2008-10) - It's hard to imagine now, but it wasn't very long ago that the Canucks' 2009 first-rounder (who now appears destined a career in either the AHL or Europe) was a can't miss prospect. At 17 years old, he led the tournament with 7 assists in 2008. The following year, Schroeder tied for fourth in tournament scoring with 13 points -- his 8 assists ranked second only to Cody Hodgson. And that's all before he was even drafted by the Canucks in 2008.

Playing again in 2009, Schroeder wasn't quite as dominant as would be expected for his third World Juniors. But he was instrumental nonetheless in helping the United States capture their second gold medal in tournament history. His 8 points ranked fifth in team scoring and included a goal in the United States' 5-4 overtime win over Team Canada in the gold medal game. Totalling 20 assists in 19 career games, Schroeder ranks as the fourth-best playmaker in World Junior history. Meanwhile, his 27 points is tops among Americans at the World Juniors, having bested one of the country's all-time greats in Jeremy Roenick.


Mattias Ohlund (Sweden, 1994-96) - Before becoming the Canucks' defining defenceman of the 2000's, Ohlund was a World Junior stalwart. With three appearances, he won two bronzes and a silver. In his first go, he registered two assists in seven games as a 17-year-old. The following year, he appeared in just three of Sweden's seven games for reasons that are, alas, un-Googleable. My best guess -- suspension for two-hand slashing one of those pesky Finns.

With two years of World Junior already under his belt, Ohlund dominated in 1996, notching five assists and outperforming fellow blueliners Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovakia) and Bryan Berard (USA) for the Best Defenceman Award. The Canucks' 13th overall pick in 1994 was also named to the Tournament All-Star Team.

Bourdon won back-to-back gold medals and starred in front of
Canucks fans in 2006. (Flickr: Mister Leung)
Luc Bourdon (Canada, 2006-07) - After the post-lockout draft lottery dropped a 10th overall selection in the Canucks' lap, Bourdon became Vancouver's most highly-anticipated defenceman since, well, Mattias Ohlund. And what better way for Canucks fans to get an advance showing of Bourdon than at the 2006 World Juniors, hosted in Vancouver. Showered with refrains of "Luuuuuc", the New Brunswick native notched 1 goal and 6 points, earned Tournament All-Star honours and helped Team Canada to a gold medal in front of the GM Place faithful.

The following year, Bourdon once again starred on Team Canada's blueline, registering a pair of goals and assists en route to his second consecutive gold medal.


Cory Schneider (USA, 2005-06) - Playing backup to the far-more-celebrated Al Montoya (what a difference a decade makes), Schneider's World Junior debut in 2005 was forgettable. Given the start for what should have been a laugher against Belarus, Schneider was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots in just over a period of play. (Which, as we all know, virtually never happens to Canucks goaltenders...)

The most well-spoken ginger in Canucks goaltending history proved his start against Belarus to be a fluke, as he took the starting job the following year. Playing opposite Bourdon in Vancouver's 2006 tournament, he very nearly backstopped the United States to a podium finish with a 2.67 GAA and .912 save percentage.


Before becoming two-time Olympians, the
Sedins appeared in three World Juniors.
(Flickr: Matt Boulton)

Daniel Sedin (Sweden, 1998-2000) - You saw it here. Like a Ryan Kesler pass off the rush, this is an exceedingly rare instance in which one Sedin makes an appearance without the other. Henrik and Daniel appeared in three tournaments and despite racking up 26 and 25 points, respectively, Sweden was held completely off the podium during the twins' World Junior career. That said, the Sedins warrant just one hallowed spot on the Second All-Star Team and it goes to Daniel for his 15 goals in 20 games, good for ninth in all-time WJC scoring.

*The above write-up was edited due to errors in the original post including the Sedins' career WJC points totals and the fact that they appeared in not two, but three tournaments.

Cody Hodgson (Canada, 2009) - A tournament-leading 16 points, including three points in the gold medal game and an unofficial assist on the single-greatest goal in Canadian World Junior history. If not for the back injury to end all back injuries, Hodgson would have undoubtedly captained Team Canada in 2010. And a similar performance to 2009 would have put him in contention with Eric Lindros' 31-point Canadian record. Not to mention hypothetically pushing Canada past the U.S. in the gold medal game.

Petri Skriko (Finland, 1981-82) - After putting up a more-than-respectable 6 points in 5 games at the 1981 World Juniors, the Canucks' two-time leading scorer went full-Hodgson the next year with 8 goals and 15 points, good for Best Forward and All-Star Team honours to go along with his bronze medal with Finland.


Jiri Slegr (Czechoslovakia, 1990-91) - Two bronze medals and 16 points in 14 games. The offensive Czech blueliner was the first Canucks prospect to win Best Defenceman honours to complement his All-Star Team nod in 1991.

Brent Tully (Canada, 1993-94) - Who? Despite a junior career that included a World Junior All-Star Team nod in 1993 (alongside Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya) and a tenure as Team Canada's captain in 1994, Tully would fail to appear in a single NHL game. He was the Canucks' 4th round pick in 1992.


Lukas Mensator (Czech Republic, 2003) - I swear, I didn't design this article to end on a couple of downers. But the Canucks aren't a particularly strong team when it comes to their history for drafting goaltenders. Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo were both acquired by trade after all. This Canucks draft pick played backup for the Czechs to one Martin Falter in 2003. Three games and a 1.82 GAA. It was either Mensator or Vancouver Voodoo alumnus Frank Caprice. Honestly.

At the top end of the Canucks' history at the World Juniors, our prospects have been an elite bunch in U20 play. In total, four Canucks draft picks have been named Best Forwards -- Patrik Sundstrom, Petri Skriko, Jim Sandlak and Pavel Bure. Two Best Defencemen -- Jiri Slegr and Mattias Ohlund. Eight Tournament All-Stars -- Sundstrom, Skriko, Bure, Slegr, Brent Tully, Ohlund, Luc Bourdon and Cody Hodgson. And one Lukas Mensator.

Here's to the next best World Junior performance.


A look at Cole Cassels' dual citizenship
Bo Horvat at the 2014 World Juniors
Canucks prospects at the WJC: All-time list
Hodgson, Bourdon and the Canucks All-Canadian WJC Team

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