With World Junior Championship pre-tournament action just one day away, the
Vancouver Canucks are likely to have a handful of prospects representing their various
countries. It’s always interesting to look back at the success (or lack there of) of current players at previous World Junior
Championships. Though the WJCs host the
world’s best Under-20 year old players, countries don’t necessarily send the
best players, but rather the best–available players. Late bloomers may never even be considered
for their world junior roster while many players may peak as a U20 player and
never see a higher level.
With that being said, let’s have a look back at current Canucks who have
played in a World Junior Championship.
Daniel Sedin represented Sweden
in both the 1999 WJCs in Winnipeg and the 2000 championships in Skelleftea, Sweden. The Swedes won their group in ’99, but lost to Canada in the semi-finals and to the Slovaks in the bronze medal game. They also finished out of medal contention in 2000, as the USA knocked them out in the quarter finals, so Daniel never won
a medal. Daniel finished t-2nd in scoring in ’99 with Daniel Tkaczuk (CAN) and Scott Gomez (USA), and trailed only Brian Gionta (USA) by one point. 2000 was another successful tournament for Daniel, as he finished 3rd in tournament scoring, one point ahead of another Canucks prospect: Brandon Reid.
Where Daniel went, his brother was sure to follow him. Henrik shared his brothers’ disappointments at the WJCs, but also was clearly the offensive engine that drove team Sweden. Henrik finished one point behind his brother in 1999, but led all players in scoring in the 2000 tournament, finishing one point ahead of Milan Kraft (CZE).
Of all Canucks, Jannik Hansen remarkably has some of the most WJC experience, having played on the Danish U20 team three times. Hansen had the benefit of being a relatively good
player from a small pool of national talent, so the Danes have leaned on him heavily in international play.
In 2004, the Danish team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 2005 top group, finishing just behind the Germans, and missed qualifying for 2006 once again in 2005. Hansen had his final chance to help the Danes qualify for the top pool in 2006, but they once again finished just behind the Germans.
Bo Horvat played for Team Canada last year in his first (and only) WJC appearance. Horvat will not get the chance to play for team Canada this year, as he will stay with the Canucks. He scored three points in a disappointing 4th place finish for Canada.
Chris Higgins is the only American on the Canucks roster to
have played in the WJCs as neither Nick Bonino nor Ryan Miller suited up for their country’s U-20 squad. Higgins was one of the top scorers on the 5th place American squad in 2002 with 4 goals and 2 assists, and helped Zach Parise and the rest of the Americans to the bronze medal game in 2003, where they were defeated by the Finns.
Zack Kassian was a member of the ill-fated 2011 Canadian World Junior squad that took a 3-0 lead against the Russians in the gold medal game, only to melt down and allow 5 unanswered goals, losing 5-3. Kassian
was teammates with players like Ryan Johansen, Sean Couturier, Jaden Schwartz, and tournament MVP Brayden Schenn, and is
the most penalized Canuck at the WJCs.
Shawn Matthias played on the 2008 Canadian WJC, and brought home a gold medal after a dramatic 3-2 overtime win against Sweden – Canada’s fourth in a row. Matthias made a major impact on the game, first taking a penalty in regulation that led to a Swedish powerplay goal, but then he redeemed himself in overtime. Grabbing the puck in the corner, Matthias shrugged off a defender and powered his way to the front of the net. His strength created a rebound that Matt Halischuk hacked in, giving Canada an iconic World Junior moment:
Radim Vrbata is another member of the WJC Gold Medal
Championship group. He played with the
Czech Republic in 2001 when they beat Final in a 2-1 game to win their second
gold medal in a row. Teammate Pavel Brendl was the star of the tournament though, leading all skaters with 10 points in 6 games. Goalie Tomas Duba also posted a 0.947 save percentage for the Czechs, and was named the top goalie.
Alex Edler was part of team Sweden in the 2006 World Junior
Championships held in Vancouver and placed 5th overall, losing to Finland in the quarterfinals before beating the Czechs in the 5th place game.
Edler was fairly quiet on the offensive side of the game having only
scored 1 assist in the entire tournament. The late Luc Bourdon was named a tournament all-star on defense, along with Jack Johnson. Phil Kessel led all players in scoring.
Dan Hamhuis has the most hardware of all the Canucks with
WJC experience, winning a bronze medal in 2001 and a silver in 2002. The Canadians lost to Finland in the semi finals in ’01 before beating the Swedes 2-1 in overtime, and Hamhuis helped Canada all the way to the gold medal game in 2002, where the Russians would stun them with a come-from-behind 5-4 win to take gold. Despite being a huge scorer (and a bit of a goon) with the Prince George Cougars, Hamhuis was quiet offensively in these
tournaments as he has been for most of his NHL career.
Luca Sbisa’s time at the WJCs were so uneventful that his Wikipedia page doesn’t even
list his international competitions. He
had 0 points in 6 games at the 2008 WJC for Switzerland when they placed 9th
with a 0-0-1-3 record and a -6 goal differential. Despite having some future NHL talent on the team, the Swiss were relegated along with the Danes, before becoming an outside medal threat a few short years later.
Like Jannik Hansen, Yannick Weber played at three different WJC tournaments. Weber helped a developing Swiss program stave off relegation in 2006 and again in 2007, but couldn’t help them avoid the lower divisions a third time in 2008. He was the captain of the 2008 squad, and did all he could by scoring twice and adding 4 assists in 6 games played.