For two weeks every year, the best under-20 hockey players in the world come together for an Olympic style tournament called the World Junior Hockey Championship. It’s where hero’s are born, legends are made and memories are forged. NHL teams get the chance to see how their prospects fare in high pressure game situations. Draft eligible players have a big stage to show off their skill and boost their rankings. But the best part about the World Junior tournament is the opportunity for young players to represent their countries and gain valuable experience as they continue to pursue their careers. For some, it may be the biggest games they’ll ever play. For others, it’s only the beginning.
The Edmonton Oilers recent draft history has been strong; of course having two consecutive first overall picks surely helps that status. In this years WJHC, the Oilers have five players participating, all of them part of European teams. Their 2011 1st round pick (19th overall) Oscar Klefbom is playing for team Sweden. The 19 year old is under contract with Farjestads BK of the Swedish Elite league. Defenseman David Musil, the Oilers 2011 second round pick (31st overall) is part of the Czech Republic team. Musil’s father Frank once played for the Edmonton Oilers, and was also a scout for the organization. The younger Musil currently plays for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey league. Latvia forward Kristians Pelss, a seventh round pick for the Oilers in 2010 (181st overall) is also part of the WHL, playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Latvians took a pounding yesterday at the hands of the Russians, losing 14-0. There’s a chance the country may be relegated, something they are certainly hoping won’t be the case.
Team Slovakia has two Oiler prospects on the roster, both defensemen. Martin Marincin, the Oilers second round pick in 2010 (46th overall) was a subject of controversy at last years tournament. The Prince George Cougar was ejected from a game against the United States after a head hit on forward Jason Zucker. He was suspended for 3 games. Martin Gernat, 2011 fifth round pick (122nd overall) also plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
Canada and Russia are the only two undefeated teams so far through 3 games, with the round robin portion of the tourney coming to an end on December 31st. The biggest surprise so far has been Team Finland, who stunned the Americans with a 4-1 victory earlier this week. The Gold medal game takes place on Thursday January 5th. Edmonton’s Rexall Place has been the host for many of the Junior games so far.