Columbus well represented at the WJC’s

By Aaron Vickers

Prospect Watch (Nov 18 03)

Columbus Blue Jacket fans have grown to adore the World Junior Championships, which
showcases the world’s top talent under the age of 20. The past has
brought international experience to a multiple of then Blue Jacket
prospects, including current Blue Jackets Nikolai Zherdev, Rick
Nash and Rostislav Klesla, as well as prospects Joakim Lindstrom and
Pascal Leclaire.

While the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior
Championship is by no means a guaranteed stepping stone to stardom, the
experience is something each participant will undoubtedly hold with
them long after the final buzzer sounds.

Zherdev Named Captain For Russia

Controversy is something that Kiev-born forward Nikolai Zherdev is quickly becoming
accustomed to. It was merely weeks ago that the Columbus Blue Jacket
forward was named team captain for the International Ice Hockey
Federation’s U-20 tournament, while still playing for CSKA of the
Russian Super League. Those weeks may feel like months for everyone
close to the situation, as Zherdev left his club in search of greener
pastures in North America.

Despite being named captain for Team Russia, Zherdev, acting in his own
best interests, has decided not to attend the World Junior
Championships. The fourth overall selection in the 2003 National Hockey
League Entry Draft is hesitant to leave the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With Zherdev’s situation far from resolved, there is no guarantee he
would be returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets following the
tournament. It is because of this that Zherdev is uneasy to head
overseas to participate in the tournament, with no guarantee he would
be allowed to return. Complicating the matter further, Russia has
presented both the IIHF and the NHL documentation of Zherdev being a
conscripted member of the Russian Army. The legitimacy of these
documents continue to be investigated by both parties.

Arsi Piispanen To Team Finland

Finnish youngster Arsi Piispanen has been invited to play
for Team Finland in the upcoming World Junior Championships. The
Finnish youngster, who recently made his debut in SM-Liiga with
Jokerit managing to open some eyes in the process, began seeing some
front-line activity. Piispanen, an 85-born player, appeared to be a
long shot to make the club heading into the season. The highly talented
forward, despite his weight, has been able to contribute solidly for
Jokerit thus far, with strong, steady play.

Piispanen, who was Columbus’ sixth selection in the 2002 National
Hockey League Entry Draft, participated in the 2003 World Junior
Under-18 Championships, recording an impressive four goals and five
points in six games for Finland.

Weighing in at 6’4″, and a slender 174 lbs, the native of Jyvaskyla
certainly saw his chances of making the team improve after representing
Finland at the Four Nations Tournament held recently in Mikkeli. Piispanen
is slated to center the fourth line in the tournament.

Columbus Releases Fritsche to Play

Columbus Blue Jacket rookie Danny Fritsche was released to Team USA
this past week. On loan from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Fritsche will
skate with Team USA in the World Junior Championships, which commence
on Boxing Day. Fritsche will not see action again until after January
5th, the day the tournament commences.

After participating in America’s Junior Evaluation Camp this past
summer, which saw him post three assists in four games against the
likes of Sweden and Finland, the 2004 World Junior Championships will
mark Fritsche’s first major international experience.

Fritsche, 18, surprised many this season when he made the Columbus Blue
Jackets out of training camp. The 46th overall selection continues to
surprise even more as he has been able to keep on the Columbus Blue
Jackets roster. Often a healthy scratch, the opportunity to represent
his country will be a strong motivator and an excellent source of
rebuilding any lost confidence Fritsche may have experienced in
watching often a game from the press box.

Kosmachev Suits Up for Russia

Blue Jackets prospect Dimitri Kosmachev is expected to suit
up for Team Russia in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s
Under-20 World Junior Championships. Kosmachev, Columbus’ third round
selection in the 2003 National Hockey League Entry Draft and newest conscriptee of the Russian Army, brings an
immediate presence on the blueline for Russia, whose roster has a smaller back end.

Kosmachev, a former teammate of Zherdev’s on both the 2003 World Junior
Under 18-Championships, as well as the 2002-03 and 2003-04 edition of
HC CSKA, is well prepared to do battle on an international stage. No
stranger to international competition, Kosmachev has played in the past
two U-18 World Junior Championships, and will make his U-20 World
Junior Championships when Russia takes on Slovakia, on the first day of
the tournament, December 26th.