The Nashville Predators recently had five prospects participate in the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden, including two participating for the very first time.
Teemu Laakso, D – Team Finland
Drafted: 78th overall, 2005
Although the Finns had four top goal scorers in the tournament, they finished a disappointing sixth place. Defenseman Teemu Laakso had a solid performance for the junior team last season, and was expected to lead the defense this year. Laakso’s mobility and vision helped get him three goals and two assists in six games, making him fourth best on the team in goals scored, from the back line. Laakso showed his physical aggression by racking up 52 penalty minutes, the highest in the tournament, and received a game misconduct during Finland’s 6-3 loss to the USA after “abusing the official.” He finished 13th in the tournament with a +3 plus/minus rating. Coach Jarmo Tolvanen named Laakso one of the team’s best three players, an award given out at the end of the tournament.
Laakso is making a big impact for his club team IFK-Helsinki this year, which has suffered from numerous injuries. He has two goals and five assists in 31 games. His is very likely to make the jump to North America next year.
Patric Hornqvist, LW – Team Sweden
Drafted: 230th overall, 2005
Sweden, who fell one place short of medaling, saw some positive impact from forward Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist led the Swedish junior team with 22 shots on goal and capitalized with one goal and two assists during the seven-game span. The young forward was also tied for second on the team and sixth in the tournament with a +4 plus/minus rating. Although Hornqvist didn’t make a major scoring impact on the team, his instinctual ability and strong work ethic will give him a positive advantage as he tries to prepare himself for a possible NHL career.
Coming into the tournament, Hornqvist ranked third with 17 points (12 goals, 5 assists) in 30 games for Djurgardens in the Swedish Elitserien.
Cody Franson, D – Team Canada
Drafted: 79th overall, 2005
Cody Franson may not have seen much ice time, but the 6’4, 205-pound defenseman can learn from the valuable experience in the WJC. Team Canada took home gold after defeating Russia 4-2 to capture the championship. During the tournament, Franson picked up two assists and four penalty minutes. Franson’s experience in the WJC’s will certainly help him in his imminent jump to the professional level.
Franson has 11 goals and 25 assists in 33 games for the Vancouver Giants, making him the fourth-leading defenseman scorer in the WHL.
Ryan Parent, D – Team Canada
Drafted: 18th overall, 2005
Parent’s veteran leadership was essential to his selection for the tournament this season. Although Parent didn’t score any points, his leadership and defensive ability helped Canada capture another gold medal. He is a smart but hard-hitting defenseman who brings a lot of energy to his team.
Parent will be turning pro next season as well. He has six points in 23 games for the OHL Guelph Storm.
Blake Geoffrion, LW – Team USA
Drafted: 56th overall, 2006
A lot of Nashville eyes were on Geoffrion because he was the first GNASH (Greater Nashville Area Scholastic Hockey) product to ever participate in the World Junior Championships. The Franklin, Tenn. native wasn’t expected to be a big offensive threat mainly due to his youth, but did help team USA capture a bronze medal. Geoffrion was selected to participate in the tournament because of his strong energy and determination. The rookie played mostly on the fourth line picking up one assist with six penalty minutes and a -2.
Geoffrion is fitting well in his role at the University of Wisconsin, but isn’t seeing a lot of ice time as a freshman. He has one goal and three assists in 17 games. While there are still parts of the maturation process that will need to be completed for the forward, his determination and fiery energy will certainly bring a lot to the table in years to come.
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