Four New York Rangers prospects took part in the recently concluded 2006 U20 World Junior Championships, held in British Columbia, Canada. Both Marc Staal and Tom Pyatt played on the Canadian gold-medal winning team. Zdenek Bahensky represented his home country, the Czech Republic. Lauri Korpikoski won the bronze medal with Finland. Below is a review of how each player performed in the 2006 U20 WJC.
Marc Staal, D — Drafted: 2005 (1st rd, 12th overall)
Height: 6’4; Weight: 202; DOB: 1/13/87
Staal was enjoying a breakout year with Sudbury of the OHL prior to being chosen for the Canadian WJC team. He had already registered 30 points (7 goals, 23 assists) in 28 OHL games. In his first U20 WJC, Staal was able to take his fine play to the international stage. Paired with fellow OHL defensive prospect Ryan Parent (NAS), Staal and Parent combined for some of the best defensive play seen in the tournament. Staal particularly displayed excellent defensive abilities, continually shutting down the opposing teams’ top scorers. Although his offensive production was limited (Staal only garnered one assist, in the semi-final game of the tournament), his excellent defensive display earned him the Directorate Award as the best defenseman at the 2006 U20 WJC.
Tom Pyatt, C — Drafted: 2005 (4th rd, 107 overall)
Height: 5’11; Weight: 182; DOB: 2/14/87
Pyatt is another OHLer experiencing a great year offensively. Centering the top line for the Saginaw Spirit, Pyatt had registered 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games prior to leaving for the tournament. In his first U20 WJC, Pyatt regularly played on Canada’s fourth line. Despite limited ice time, Pyatt was able to score one goal in Canada’s December 28 game against Switzerland. He also did not hesitate to mix it up during the tournament; Pyatt was part of a big scrum that took place during Canada’s December 29th 4-0 victory over Norway. As the result of this battle, Pyatt served 14 minutes in the penalty box.
Zdenek Bahensky, RW — Drafted: 2004 (3rd rd, 73rd overall)
Height: 6’2; Weight: 195; DOB: 1/03/86
Bahensky is having a great year with his junior team, the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. Prior to leaving for the 2006 U20 WJC, he had accumulated 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 38 Blades’ games. Even though this was Bahensky’s first U20 WJC, Czech expectations of him were high. Bahensky was able to garner one assist in the Czech Republic’s first game, a 5-1 win over Latvia. But after playing on the second line in the first two Czech Republic games and not producing offensively beyond the one assist, Bahensky was relegated to more of a checking role.
Lauri Korpikoski, LW — Drafted: 2004 (1st rd, 19th overall)
Height: 6’1; Weight: 183; DOB: 7/28/86
After scoring two goals for Finland in six games in the 2005 U20 WJC, there were high hopes that Korpikoski would once again be productive this year. Finland was not disappointed. In seven games, he registered one goal and five assists. Korpikoski’s lone goal, scored in the Finland’s 6-5 loss against the United States, was on a shorthanded breakaway. In a fine display of his skills, Korpikoski stole the puck from Chris Bourque (WAS) and went in alone on US goalie Jeff Frazee (NJ). Although his shot on goal was not strong, Korpikoski’s timing and speed were enough to fool Frazee for the score.
For most of the tournament, Korpikoski played on Finland’s second line, but in the bronze medal game, a rematch against the United States, Korpikoski was promoted to the top line. Its top line scored three of the four team goals, with Korpikoski registering two assists in the effort.
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