Blue Jackets 2008 WJC preview

By Ryan Madden

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a total of three prospects playing in the upcoming World Junior Championships, including two members of three time defending gold medalist Team Canada. Meanwhile, the host Czechs are counting on Columbus’s top prospect to lead them to the medal
round in front of their home fans.

Canada


Stefan Legein, RW
(2nd Round, 37th overall, 2007)

Legein will be counted on to play his in-your-face style that he brings to the rink every night with Niagara in the OHL.  Heir apparent to the role Steve Downie occupied the last two years as Team Canada’s pest, Legein will also be looked upon to duplicate Downie’s knack for coming
up with big goals.  

Legein, who skated a regular shift for Team Canada in the summer Super Series with Russia, will be looked upon to compete hard for pucks with a strong forecheck, getting opponents off their game with his physicality.  Meanwhile, Legein will have to be wary of the implementation of the two-referee system this year, not to take too many unnecessary penalties that may leave his team playing a man short.

Steve Mason, G (3rd Round, 69th overall, 2006)

Mason enters into the tournament with a chance to step into the spotlight as Team Canada’s starting goalie.  While he’d have to fill the big shoes left behind by Carey Price‘s performance at the U-20 tournament last year, Mason may just be up to the challenge.  Not as flashy as nor picked as high in the NHL draft as Canada’s other goalie, Jonathan Bernier of the LA Kings, Mason is a calm and steadying influence who is well respected by his teammates.

Both netminders should be given a game in the opening round, but a decision has yet to be made as to who will carry the main load for Canada.  No doubt this presents a glorious opportunity for Mason to show what he can do against the world’s best in his age group.

Czech Republic


Jakub Voracek, RW
(1st Round, 7th overall, 2007)

Voracek may just represent the toughest test in the tournament for this year’s goaltending crop, to which Mason belongs.  One of the top players drafted in the 2007 draft, Voracek has been phenomenal so far this season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.   He has literally been playing at a different level entirely than his QMJHL peers, which has the Columbus management very grateful that Voracek was still available when it came time for their turn to select at the 2007 draft.

Voracek, perhaps more than any other player heading into this tournament, has the chance to be demonstrably better than anyone else out on the rink.  His combination of speed, skill and enthusiasm for the game might just be enough to lift the host Czechs into medal contention. Watching Voracek compete versus Team Canada on Boxing Day should be an eye-opener for many fans as to how good a young player Columbus has added to their organization.

Notable non selections

Columbus must have had hopes to see their big Russian prospect Maxim Mayorov selected to play in the tournament, but he was not among those players selected to play for Russia.  Another somewhat less notable exclusion was Robert Nyholm from Finland, although one has to imagine that Nyholm’s hand injury and continuing rehabilitation were at least a factor to exclude him from the Finnish roster.