Reflections on the World Junior Championships 2000

By Lasse Johansson

The Czech Republic won their first ever
World Junior Championships gold medal after beating Russia in the penalty shootout
following a scoreless and pretty boring game.

Team Ukraine (10th place, relegated):

The Ukrainian team was packed with small players, and relied heavily on technique, skating and goalkeeping. Goalkeeper Vadim Seleverstov really stood out in the first relegation game against Slovakia, but displayed an unconsistent play in the other games. He is also very small and has probably had his fifteen minutes of hockey fame. The defenders didn’t play with maturity, often making simple mistakes in their own zone leading to a scoring opportunity for the opposing team. Denis Isaenko and Evgeny Pisarenko were the two most physical defensemen, and the two most suited for play in the NHL. Artem Gnidenko scored the goal of the tournament against Slovakia, when he in the final stages of the game scored a goal very similar to the one scored by Khlebnikov against Canada. Defender Alexander Skorohod, born in 1983 was the most interesting player in the Ukranian team.

Stars: Vadim Seleverstov G – Denis Isaenko D

Team Slovakia (9th place):

The Slovakians were the biggest dissapointment of the tournament, only managing to qualify for next years tournament by beating The Ukraine on a penalty shootout. Technically the team didn’t really have any weak spots, they just seemed to get frustrated very easily if they didn’t score an early goal. Two good goaltenders in Krizan and Stana, a defense lead by the two giant NY Islanders first round draft picks Branislav Mezei and Kristian Kudroc and ofcourse; Marian Gaborik. Next year will probably be a better one for Slovakia, with players like Kudroc, Gaborik, Kopecky and Hossa still eligible and with the very promising Petr Hamrlik in goal. Slovakia will be a good candidate for another medal next year.

Stars: Rastislav Stana G – Branislav Mezei D – Marian Gaborik LW

Next Years Stars: Marian Gaborik LW – Tomas Kopecky C – Marcel Hossa C – Petr Hamrlik G

Team Kazakhstan (8th place):

Team Finland (7th place):

Impressive in their first game against Canada, when they bounced back from a 0-3 deficite in the third period to end the game 2-3, almost getting the equalizer in the late part of the game. Played even with all the teams in group A, only to be outplayed by Russia in the quarterfinal, and losing against Switzerland in the next game. Won easily over Kazakhstan to finish seventh. A big dissapointment.

Stars: Riku Hahl C – Jani Rita LW – Teemu Laine LW – Mikko Jokela D – Tuuka Mäntylä D

Next Years Stars: Jani Rita LW – Teemu Laine LW – Tuuka Mäntylä D – Ari Ahonen G

Team Switzerland (6th place):

The Swiss team had some problems with their defensive play, and none of the goalkeepers impressed. The promising duo Sven Helfenstein and David Jobin both played well and were among the top swiss players. Switzerland should be happy about their sixth place, because they were not a better team than Finland. Offensively, the Swiss were pretty good. Luca Cereda, Torontos first round draft pick was not one of the better swiss players.

Stars: Björn Christen RW – Flavien Conne C – Sven Helfenstein C

Next Years Stars: Luca Cereda C – Sven Helfenstein C – David Jobin D

Team Sweden (5th place):

“The best junior national team ever” according to Swedish media. The hype surrounding the team, and of course the Sedin twins was enormous. Winning over Team Canada by 7-1 a week before the tournament didn’t make the situation easier for the swedish juniors who simply cracked under pressure. Easy wins over Switzerland, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and an awful 1-5 loss to Russia was the case in the round robin games. Against USA, Sweden met the best goaltender of the tournament, Rick DiPietro, and couldn’t score. Sweden outplayed USA in every possible way, but didn’t manage to score more than a fluke goal on a wrist shot from the blue-line by defender Peter Messa (The strongest skater in the entire tournament). Expectations were high on the Sedin twins. Henrik scored the most points in the entire tournament, and Daniel the most goals, but the twins were still considered to be a failure. Also the goalkeeper Johan Asplund (normally one of the best junior netminders in the world) had a nightmare tournament, and was even replaced by Jonas Fransson in the quarterfinal. All Wwedish players didn’t have a disastrous tournament. Both Henrik Zetterberg and Christian Berglund played very well. Next year doesn’t seem any good for Team Sweden, as none of their star players will be eligible for next year’s tournament.

Stars: Henrik Zetterberg C – Christian Berglund LW – Henrik Sedin C – Daniel Sedin LW

Next Years Stars: Björn Melin C – Niklas Kronwall D – Magnus Hedlund D

Team USA (4th place):

Surprisingly skilled team with few enforcers, although naturally, the physical play was the trademark of the team. Rick DiPietro was the best goalkeeper of the tournament, the defensemen all played well, and the team also included a couple of gifted forwards. The team also had a great on-ice leader in Adam Hall. The Americans just got better and better until the clash with the Czech Republic in the semi-final, when they unfortunately gave up a goal after only a minute and a half. Scoring against the defensive Czechs proved to be too hard for the young americans, and they had to face Team Canada in the bronze game. After an even and very physial game the americans lost the penalty shootout, and had to return to North America without any medals. One has to wonder what this team would have been capable of if David Legwand and Tim Connolly had been playing.

Stars: Rick DiPietro G – Barret Heisten RW – Adam Hall RW

Next Years Stars: Rick DiPietro G – Andy Hilbert C – Jeff Taffe LW

Team Canada (3rd place):

Didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Relied a lot on heart, only a few players really played up to their standards. Maxime Ouellet was the best goalkeeper on the team, Brian Finley didn’t look reliable in his one game (the bronze medal game against USA). Other dissapointments in Team Canada were Jamie Lundmark and Barret Jackman, none of them displayed any “first round draftee performance”. Manny Malhotra, Mathieu Biron and Mike Ribeiro all came from the NHL to play, but Manny was the only one who played as an NHLer. Biron relies heavily on size and Ribeiro was anonymous when the canadians needed him the most – in the closing stages of the games against USA and Russia. The two 16-year-old players Jason Spezza and Jay Bouwmeester were the two most interesting players to watch. Spezza almost exclusively saw ice-time during power play, or when Canada were behind by a goal against USA and needed the equalizer. Spezza is still a bit to unreliable in his own end, but is lethal on the power play. Bouwmeester was the real surprise of the team. He didn’t get much ice time early on in the tournament, but in his limited time he impressed the canadian management so much that he in the playoffs was a regular and definitely one of the better defenders, not only in Team Canada, but in the entire tournament.

Stars: Manny Malhotra C – Brandon Reid C – Maxime Ouellet G – Chris Nielsen C

Next Years Stars: Maxime Ouellet G – Taylor Pyatt RW – Jay Bouwmeester D – Jason Spezza C – Jamie Lundmark LW

Team Russia (2nd place):

Definitely the best team in the tournament. Lost the final because of their respect for the Czech defense and lethal turnovers. The team included some amazing individuals. Names like Shvidki, Afanasenkov, Tereschenko, Khlebnikov, Muratov and Zevakhin are all potential stars in the NHL in the future. The team also had two brilliant goaltenders in Alexei Volkov, and the lesser known Ilya Bryzgalov. Although the russian team is pure technique they showed in the semi-final against Team Canada that they don’t have a problem with physical play, and the small Russians stood up well against Canada, and won the game after excellent netminding by Volkov and three wonderful goals. Bryzgalov was the goalkeeper of choice for the final, and he showed that Volkov isn’t the only goalie for the future in Russia. The offensive Alexander Ryazantsev won the prize as best defender of the tournament.

Stars: Denis Shvidki LW – Evgeny Muratov LW – Ilya Bryzgalov G – Alexei Volkov G – Alexander Ryazantsev D – Alexei Tereschenko C

Next Years Stars: Oleg Saprykin C – Kirill Safranov D – Evgeny Muratov LW – Anton Volchenkov D – Mikhail Kuleshov LW

Team Czech Republic (1st place):

The oustanding team defensively, and also the most boring team won the World Junior Championships after a display of defensive play both in the semi-final against USA (who actually were the better of the two sides) and in the final against Russia. The Czechs probably wouldn’t have won the gold medal if Canada had been their opponents in the final. The Russians just don’t have the same “never say die” mentality that the Canadians have. Zdenek Smid, the Czech goaltender played brilliantly in the playoffs, and should get drafted this summer after being passed over twice. Milan Kraft was named best forward of the tournament, but it could have been Josef Vasicek. Vaclav Nedorost was the most interesting Czech player for prospect fans. He played responsibly in his own zone and seems to create something every time he has the puck. Watch out for him in the future. Maybe not the next Jaromir Jagr, but he is certainly a candidate for the next Robert Reichel.

Stars: Josef Vasicek C – Milan Kraft C – Zdenek Smid G – Zbynek Irgl RW – Petr Svoboda D

Next Years Stars: Martin Havlat RW – Michal Sivek LW – Vaclav Nedorost C

Most Notable:

G Rick DiPietro USA

D Alexander Ryazantsev RUSSIA

LW Evgeny Muratov RUSSIA

1999 Draftees:

Anaheim Mighty Ducks:

2nd round JORDAN LEOPOLD D USA – Named one of the three stars in the american team. Definitely worth a second round pick. 2-way defender.

Buffalo Sabres:

1st Round BARRETT HEISTEN RW USA – One of my favourite americans. Guts, skill aggresive winger that dares to drive for the net. Will play for Buffalo soon.

2nd Round MILAN BARTOVIC RW SLOVAKIA – Good skater, but didn’t show anything that convinces me that he was worthy of a second round pick.

2nd Round DOUG JANIK D USA – His playing style is more suited for the smaller North American rinks, and it showed. Doug was probably the worst american defender with lots of errors. I’m not saying that he was a bust by the Sabres, but he didn’t play well.

5th Round MATT KINCH D CANADA – Would probably have been drafted higher if he had better size. Might be a steal for the Sabres.

Calgary Flames:

2nd Round DANIEL CAVANAUGH C USA – Good work ethics and a snipers eye. Not sure if he’s worth a second round pick though.

Chicago Black Hawks:

1st Round STEVE MCCARTHY D CANADA – Offensive, good puckhandler. Impressed me.

Colorado Avalanche:

3rd Round BRANKO RADIVOJEVIC RW SLOVAKIA – Very good skater for his size

6th Round RIKU HAHL C FINLAND – Playmaker and 2-way player. Very good for a sixth rounder.

Detroit Red Wings:

7th Round HENRIK ZETTERBERG LW SWEDEN – The steal of the draft so far. Tore apart the swedish second division in Timrå, leading all scorers. Next year will be crucial for him as he most likely will be playing in the swedish elite league. Has the size and skill for being a second line scorer.

Edmonton Oilers:

1st round JANI RITA LW FINLAND – Plays to complicated, should spend a few more years in Finland if he wants to become the next Teemu Selänne instead of the next Olli Jokinen

Florida Panthers:

1st Round DENIS SHVIDKI LW RUSSIA – We all know about his skills. His stocks were neither raised or lowered by his performence. A hot name for the future.

Nashville Predators:

1st Round BRIAN FINLEY G CANADA – Good size, pretty good positionally. Allowed to many simple rebounds and was overshined by Maxime Ouellet.

2nd Round ADAM HALL RW USA – The future captain of Nashville if he pans out like he should. Very good playmaker. Makes good decisions. Could be a steal in the second round.

New Jersey Devils:

1st Round ARI AHONEN G FINLAND – Antero Nittymäki played alright when given the chance.

New York Islanders:

1st Round BRANISLAV MEZEI D SLOVAKIA – Giant on the blue-line for Slovakia. Not only big, but a good player as well. Possesses a hard and pretty accurate shot.

1st Round KRISTIAN KUDROC D SLOVAKIA – The Islanders seem to like the giant “Monster defenders” from Slovakia. With Kudroc they now have three of them in their system (Chara, Kusroc and Mezei).

3rd Round MATTIAS WEINHANDL RW SWEDEN – OK, so he didn’t play in the WJCs, but if his eye-injury heals properly, he will become a prominent player in the NHL. The Sedin twins have probably benefited more from playing with him, than he has from them. He is one of the few players that can play with the Sedins. The Canucks should definitely consider a trade for Weinhandl if he can play again.

4th Round JURAJ KOLNIK RW SLOVAKIA – Anonymous, hopefully playing better in North America.

6th Round BJÖRN MELIN RW SWEDEN – Has played pretty well with HV71 in the swedish elite league. Didn’t play well with Team Sweden though.

9th Round BRETT HENNING C USA – Didn’t show anything.

New York Rangers:

1st Round JAMIE LUNDMARK LW CANADA – Didn’t impress at all. It should be pointed out however that he is much better suited to the small rinks in the NHL.

2nd Round DAVID INMAN C USA – Saw very little ice-time.

3rd Round JOHAN ASPLUND G SWEDEN – Didn’t play up to his usual level in the WJCs. He does have the potential to be a really good netminder in the future based on his play in the swedish elite league. Not as talented as his team-mate and fellow NYR draftee Johan Holmqvist though.

3rd Round PAT AUFIERO D USA – My favourite USA defender. Great shot, plays with maturity.

7th Round Arto Laatikainen D FINLAND – One of the better finnish defenders.

Ottawa Senators:

1st Round MARTIN HAVLAT RW CZECH REPUBLIC – Speedy winger with work ethics. A good late first round choice.

Philadelphia Flyers:

1st Round MAXIME OUELLET G CANADA – The Flyers system is loaded with great goaltending prospects (Boucher and Pelletier to name a few). And Ouellet looks like one of the better.

8th Round DAVID NYSTRÖM RW SWEDEN – Started out next to the Sedin-twins. Was a dissapointment, and in the quarterfinal against USA he saw very limited ice-time. Doubtfull if he’ll ever play in the NHL

Phoenix Coyotes:

1st Round KIRILL SAFRONOV D RUSSIA – Kirill is a great defensive defenseman who does his job very well. Mature, good balance and a likely candidate for team captain on next years russian WJC team.

St.Louis Blues:

1st Round BARRET JACKMAN D CANADA – Didn’t play like a first rounder. Made simple errors. Good skater though, and he has been playing well back home.

San José Sharks:

1st Round JEFF JILLSON D USA – Sure he’s an enforcer and brings physical presence on to the ice, but he lacks maturity, and should be at least two years away from being a regular on the Sharks roster. If the management has some patience with him, he might turn out to be a 3rd or 4th defender in the NHL.

4th Round WILLIE LEVESQUE RW USA – Played on the checking line of Team USA. Much like he will if he ever gets to the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

3rd Round JIMMIE ÖLVESTAD LW SWEDEN – One of the few swedes who actually seemed to play well together with the Sedin twins.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

1st Round LUCA CEREDA C SWITZERLAND – Not one of the best swiss players. Played OK, but not as a first rounder. Benefits from his great size.

4th Round MIRKO MUROVIC LW SLOVAKIA – Pretty anonymous throughout the tournament.

6th Round JAN SOCHOR RW CZECH REPUBLIC – On the roster for the gold medal winners, but didn’t play in the playoffs.

Vancouver Canucks:

1st Round DANIEL SEDIN LW SWEDEN – Scored the most goals in the tournament (mainly thanks to four goals in the first game against Kazakhstan), but didn’t play as well as expected. Scores lots of goals, without being a pure sniper. The Sedin-twins are both playmakers.

1st Round HENRIK SEDIN C SWEDEN – The better of the Sedin twins in this tournament, winning the scoring title. Many people underestimate Henrik, believing that Daniel is much better than him, but that simply isn’t the case. Both Sedins have more dominant in the swedish elite league (when playing together with Weinhandl) than they were at the WJCs.

3rd Round RENÉ VYDARENY D SLOVAKIA – Good size, and not a bad skater.

8th Round MARKUS KANKAANPERÄ D FINLAND – Solid play, but nothing special.

Washington Capitals:

2nd Round MICHAL SIVEK LW CZECH REPUBLIC – Just an inch away from becoming the big hero on the Czech team when a slapshot from his stick hit the post in sudden death overtime in the final. Showed in the WJCs that he can take defensive responsibilities.