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.
It had been 31 long years, but Sweden finally cracked the code and won the gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship. The win didn't come easily, with Russian goaltender Andrei Makarov making sure that his tired teammates remained a threat into overtime. But it was Sweden's Mika Zibanejad that would decide this contest as he swooped in on Makarov in the overtime to score the biggest goal in Swedish hockey in many years.
Although he struggled at times during the 2012 World Junior Championship, Sweden goaltender Johan Gustafsson came through for his team when they needed it most. Gustafsson shutout Russia in his team's 1-0, overtime win to give that country its first gold medal at the WJC in 31 years.
Sweden head coach Roger Ronnberg was at the helm at last year’s WJC, where his squad fell short of earning a medal despite high expectations. At the 2012 World Junior Championship, Ronnberg and his charges have assured themselves of winning a medal, which could turn out to be golden if Sweden can defeat Russia in the tournament finale on Thursday.
Ronnberg talked about his team’s win over Finland and about playing for the gold medal.
Defenseman Patrik Nemeth was a part of last year’s highly-touted Swedish WJC squad that ultimately fell short of their lofty expectations. Nemeth and his teammates are making up for last year’s disappointment by competing for the gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship as they have moved on to the showcase game following their semi-final win over Finland.
Nemeth talked about the win over Finland following the game.