Bruins WJC preview

By Kristy Gleason

The Boston Bruins have three prospects participating in the World Junior Championships, which runs from December 26, 2003 through January 5, 2004 in Helsinki and Hameenlinna, Finland. Two will suit up for the host country, and the other will be representing the United States.

Goaltender Hannu Toivonen, drafted 29th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, will be the primary man between the pipes for Team Finland. For the past two years, he filled the back-up goaltending role behind Atlanta Thrashers NHL first round pick, Kari Lehtonen, in the WJC. Toivonen relishes the role of being the go-to guy for his native land in the upcoming tourney. He’s had a strong season thus far for Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, with a 8-5-2 record, and solid 2.22 goals against average and .924 save percentage. Though he’s been performing well in Providence in his rookie season, the opportunity to return home for a short while to provide his national team with steady goaltending and to see his family and friends is exciting.

The other Finn participating is Masi Marjamaki, a native of Pori, Finland. He was drafted 66th overall in 2003. He started the 2003-04 season with the Red Deer Rebels, but was traded after 27 games when he came under fire from Red Deer’s coach for not exerting a consistent effort. He’s now with the Moose Jaw Warriors. In the left wing’s first professional training camp, he impressed many with his spunky play and overall hustle. It appears that the trade has worked well for both teams, as Marjamaki’s offense has taken a turn for the better in the short time he’s played for the Warriors.

The other Bruins prospect at the WJCs is sturdy defenseman Mark Stuart, suiting up for Team USA. Stuart is in his sophomore year at Colorado College. In 16 games played for Colorado, he’s accumulated two goals and three assists. He’s a player in the mold of Scott Stevens, delivering punishing checks and keeping his goaltender’s crease clear of opposing players. Stuart was selected in the first round by the Bruins in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and expectations are quite high for this young man to make an impact, whether it’s at college, for Team USA, or in the future on the Bruins’ blueline.

The World Junior Championship is a wonderful showcase for many future stars of the NHL. Hopes are high that all three Bruins prospects will shine very brightly while playing for their respective countries during the next two weeks.