Photo: Goalie Andrei Vasilevski has a good chance of being the first goaltender to be drafted in to the 2012 NHL Draft. (Photo courtesy of
The 2012 IIHF U18 Tournament is upon us and, as in recent years, has the international scouting community licking its chops. This year's edition once again features a number of young men representing their country on the international scene who will hear their names called at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. For many of them, this tournament will be the pinnacle of all their work this season and will leave a lasting impression – whether good or bad – in the minds and notebooks of what should be well over 120 NHL scouts in attendance. For all of them, this event will be an opportunity to go out and give it everything they've got for their native country, a motivation that often has no rival in the minds and hearts of 16-18 year olds. But which country will benefit most from that attitude? What teams can least afford to take a night off? Which players should be pushing the hardest for a victory in the tournament's final game? Here's what you can expect from the frontrunners for a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF U18 Tournament.
Photo: Defenseman Andrey Pedan has exploded offensively this season, managing 10 goals, 30 assists, and 152 penalty minutes in 63 regular season games. (Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
Nineteen-year-old Andrey Pedan is among those Russians who preferred venturing in the Canadian junior leagues system, rather than going for the usual route for European players; playing junior hockey back home then signing a contract directly with their draft team several years later. "My agent Alexei Dementiev advised me to go and play in the OHL, and this is what I did as I completely trust him. I think it was a good decision, I already adapted to the small ice surface last year and this year I further improved my game", Pedan said in Russian.
Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko nearly had his first Under-20 WJC appearance cut short by an ankle injury. But Grigorenko, a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Draft, has overcome that injury and is poised to help Russia defend their 2011 WJC title in the 2012 gold medal game against Sweden.
Grigorenko talked about the win over Canada and about playing Sweden in the final.
Russian defenseman Grigori Zheldakov was somewhat of an unlikely hero for Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship. But Zheldakov has scored the biggest goal for that team so far in the tournament, as his blast from the slot gave the Russian a 2-1 overtime win over the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals and a rematch with Canada.
Zheldakov talked about his goal following the win.
Russian head coach Valeri Bragin has been handed an almost entirely new team for the 2012 World Junior Championship after winning gold in 2011. He has so far managed to guide this young squad toward another medal but will face his toughest test in the semi-final match against the team Russia beat for gold last year, Canada.
Bragin talked about his team’s overtime win over the Czech Republic and the game against Canada.