Prospects compete in the 2004 World Cup

By Kevin Forbes

August 30th marked the beginning of the World Cup of Hockey 2004. The
world’s top hockey players from eight nations are squaring off under
NHL
rules, with the competition’s final game taking place on September
14th,
2004. Nine prospects on five national teams are competing, which has to be encouraging for
both the NHL teams that own their rights and the nations who are
putting out
such extraordinary young talent.

Team Germany
Unlike other teams in competition, Germany’s roster contains a lot of
European club players. However, a sizeable NHL contingent is the core
of the
team, and they are also icing three NHL prospects. Christian
Ehrhoff

and Marcel Goc are both San Jose Sharks property and both
important
parts of the German squad. Goc is playing on his country’s top line,
between
fellow Shark Marco Sturm and Buffalo Sabre Jochen Hecht. A creative and
talented center, Goc looks to challenge for a spot in San Jose’s lineup
soon. He was selected in the 1st round in 2001 by the Sharks, 20th
overall.
Ehrhoff is a top-four blueliner for Germany, where his puck-moving
skills
and skating ability are well used. A fourth-rounder in 2001 (106th
overall),
he split time last season between San Jose and their AHL farm team in
Cleveland. His partner on the blueline has been Ottawa prospect
Chrisoph
Schubert
. Schubert is a stay-at-home defender, who finishes his
checks
and takes care of business in his own zone first. He has played the
last two
seasons with the Senators AHL farm team in Binghamton and was selected
in
the 4th round (127th overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Team Finland
Finland has a team that was built from the net out. That’s why star
Atlanta
prospect Kari Lehtonen has gotten the call to play between the
Finnish pipes. Lehtonen is playing backup duties to Flames goalie Mikka
Kiprusoff, but played strongly in the exhibition games and is ready to
go if
he is needed. Lehtonen, the second choice in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft,
should be challenging for a spot with Atlanta next season. Meanwhile,
Mikko
Koivu has joined his older brother, Saku as a forward for the Finns.
The
Minnesota Wild prospect was named to the team after Los Angeles Kings
prospect, Esa Pirnes had to drop out due to injury. The sixth
selection
in the 2001 draft, Koivu has used this opportunity well and played his
way
into the lineup for Team Finland.

Team Russia
Russia appeared to be a team in turmoil in the months leading up to the
tournament, so it is a testament to the depth of their country’s hockey
system that they can still ice a very strong team. Two NHL prospects
have
key roles on the Russian team. Between the pipes is Anaheim netminder
Ilya Bryzgalov. Drafted 44th overall (2nd round) in 2000,
Bryzgalov
looks to be Russia’s starting netminder, even though he wasn’t
originally
named to the Russian lineup. A player who is no stranger to playing for
his
country, Bryzgalov spent last season with the Mighty Ducks AHL farm
team in
Cincinnati. The top pick of the 2004 draft, Alexander Ovechkin
could
provide plenty of excitement up front for the Russians. However, it’s
just
as likely that the Washington Capitals prospect could be on the team
mainly
for the experience. It’s still not known if Ovechkin will play during
the
competition, but merely being a part of the team could be an
influential
part of his development.

Team Sweden
Sweden’s main weakness in this tournament could be between the pipes.
Tommy
Salo and Mikael Tellqvist are fighting each other for the starting
netminder
position. Behind them in the lineup is Rangers prospect, Henrik
Lundqvist
. It’s unlikely that Lundqvist will see any time, but the
World
Cup experience will definitely benefit his career. A seventh round choice
(205th
overall) in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by New York, Lundqvist played last
season with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite Leagues.

Team Slovakia
Like Sweden’s Lundqvist, Colorado goaltending prospect, Peter
Budaj

also finds himself as the number three netminder. He’s behind
Washington’s
Radislav Stana and Jan Lasak, who played last season in Russia. Budaj
was
drafted in the 2nd round by the Avalanche, 63rd overall in 2001 and he
played last season with Colorado’s AHL farm team in Hershey.

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