For average hockey fans, the most exposure to Icelandic junior hockey they have is from the 1994 Disney movie D2: The Mighty Ducks, in which the title team faces a team from the small island nation at the Junior Goodwill Games. The climax of the film has the Ducks, the tournament’s American representative, in a shootout against Iceland, where the tournament’s leading scorer, Gunnar Stahl, is foiled by Julie Gaffney. The scene has become so ingrained into fans’ minds even almost 20 years later, thanks to the curiosity of what would have happened if that character had gone blocker side and scored.
In reality, Icelandic junior hockey is nothing like it is shown in the movie. For starters, there is not a junior hockey league in Iceland. Most junior-age players actually are in the country’s professional league, which has only five teams. Three of the teams — Björninn, Hunar and Skautafélag — are in the country’s capital of Reykjavik. The other two teams, Jötnarnir and Vikingar, are in the second-largest city, Akureyri. Their season is also relatively short, playing only sixteen games a year. This actually allows for many of the junior-age players to participate in IIHF-sanctioned tournaments, including the World Under-18s and the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.
One would think that, due to such a short schedule, Icelandic junior hockey players may not be as good as their Nordic counterparts. They may not compete in the same divisions as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, but, in their divisions, they find their national junior teams to be the most successful. Of course, it could be considered that some of their more frequent competition in these tournaments are relatively warm countries (Mexico, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, etc.) but it does not take away from the talent that many of these young men.
Additionally, if one is to look at some of the names of authentic Icelandic junior hockey players, one would find that these names are considerably unique. Where else in the world would you find hockey players with names such as Sigursteinn Sighvatsson, Þorir Kristjánsson, Atli Snær Valdimarsson and Guðmundur Þorsteinsson? These names may look intriguing and peculiar to us in North America but, in Iceland, they are very common.
With all this being said, one would also wonder how one could create Icelandic junior hockey all-star teams. To determine these teams, statistics in the Icelandic professional league are not all that can be looked at. One has to also look at the international experience that many of these players have. Some of them have been in several under-18 and World Junior tournaments; as well, some have also played at the Men’s World Hockey Championships. Iceland is presently 35th in IIHF rankings but these players show that, despite it, the country does produce incredible and noteworthy talent.
(It should be clarified that all of the players on these teams were born in Iceland. Some of their best players may represent Iceland internationally, and have Icelandic citizenship, but they were born in Sweden.)
First All-Star Team
Goaltender — Snorri Sigurbergsson
Snorri Sigurbergsson has been one of the statistically best goaltenders in Icelandic junior hockey at the international level. Over his career, he has appeared in three World Under-18 tournaments and one World Junior Championship, the latter coming this past season. Sigurbergsson split the netminding duties at the 2008 World Under-18s but he was solid in two games in which he was called upon, garnering a minuscule 0.71 goals-against average and an .857% save percentage, helping Iceland win the silver medal. The next year, he secured the #1 position and he had an incredible tournament, recording an outstanding 0.81 goals-against average and an exemplary .949% save percentage in four games, helping the team win gold and earning himself top goalie honours, quite impressive for a goalie who was only 16 years old at the time of the tournament. His third under-18 tournament was not his best, though, recording a 6.90 goals-against average and an .819% save percentage. While Sigurbergsson was not chosen to play at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, he did have a relatively solid season with Björninn, recording a 4.85 goals-against average in 17 games. This past year, Sigurbergsson made the trip to Sweden to play for the J20 Elit team of Mölndal, a team in Sweden’s Division 3 league. He only played in 12 games and he never had a game in which he allowed over two goals. It was, however, during the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships where he truly shone. At the tournament, which was held in New Zealand, he led the tournament with both an 0.81 goals-against average and a .952% save percentage in three games to help Iceland win gold. He then returned to Björninn, just in time to help them win the Icelandic league championship.
Defenceman — Ingólfur Elíasson
Ingólfur Elíasson is one of the best two-way defencemen in Icelandic junior hockey. At his size, standing 6’5″ and weighing in at 207 pounds, he is surely a force to be reckoned with when he is on the ice. Elíasson has appeared in three World Under-18s, three World Juniors (he could play in a fourth in 2013) and two Men’s World Championships. In his first under-18 tournament in 2009, the then 15-year-old blueliner had five points (one goal, four assists) in five games, as well as being a stellar +28, helping the team win gold. 2009-10 was a season of accomplishment for Elíasson, who won a silver medal at the World Juniors, an Icelandic league championship with Skautafélag Akureyrar, and had four points (one goal, three assists) in five games at the under-18s. As if that was not impressive enough, the 2010-11 season was even more incredible. He played for both Akureyri-based teams, getting a goal and an assist in a ten-game stint with Jötnarnir and six points (four goals, two assists) in 17 games with Vikingar. Elíasson also represented Iceland at three tournaments. He played at the World Juniors, going pointless; he captained the under-18 team to a gold medal, scoring six points (three goals, three assists) en route to being named the tournament’s top defenceman; and he won a bronze medal at the Men’s World Championships, scoring a goal in that competition. This year, he played in Sweden, appearing in 20 games for Mjölby Hockey’s J20 Elit team. Additionally, he helped win gold at the World Juniors, leading the tournament with six assists, earning top defenceman honours. He also played at the most recent Men’s World Championships.
Defenceman — Tómas Tjörvi Ómarsson
Tómas Tjörvi Ómarsson is likely one of the most decorated defencemen in Icelandic junior hockey. He has won a medal in almost every tournament he has participated in. He won his first medal in 2008 at the World Under-18s, where he helped Iceland win silver; he had five points in four games during that tournament. The next year, after going a point per game at the Under-18s, Ómarsson won a gold medal. He was also an impressive +12 during the tournament, an impressive accomplishment unto itself. For the 2009-10 season, he made the move to Sweden to play for Mörrums GoIS, appearing in 15 games with their J18 team and 22 contests with the J20 squad. That season, he helped Iceland’s under-20 team win silver, scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in five games at the World Juniors, and then won a bronze medal at the Men’s World Championships. Ómarsson was put on right wing for the 2010-11 season with Skautafélag Reykjavikur and the switch actually did wonders for him statistically, scoring 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 18 games. He was switched back to the blueline for international tournaments, playing again at the World Juniors. In 2011, Ómarsson helped Iceland win gold at the World Juniors and, once more, he played at the Men’s World Championships.
Forward — Björn Róbert Sigurðarson
Björn Róbert Sigurðarson is both one of the most decorated and one of the most offensively gifted forwards in Icelandic junior hockey despite his smaller stature. At only 5’8″, Sigurðarson has been consistently playing bigger than his size would attest, bringing his A-game on a regular basis to international tournaments. In his first under-18 tournament, at the age of 15, he scored an unbelievable 12 points (ten goals, two assists) in only four games, as well as equaling his age in plus/minus, winning a gold medal. At 16, he moved to Sweden to play for the J18 Elit and Allsvenskan teams in Malmö, but injuries caused Sigurðarson to only play a combined five games. He was healthy enough, however, to appear at the 2010 World Juniors, helping Iceland win silver, and also play at the World Under-18s. Sigurðarson’s third under-18 tournament was where he truly shone. In addition to winning a gold medal, he led the tournament in scoring with 15 points in only four games, including a tournament-best nine goals, as well as leading the tourney with a +17 ranking; he was also an alternate captain on the team. As well as appearing in the World Juniors, this international experience was quite impressive, considering he left Sweden to return home after he found himself on the outside of Malmö’s plans. This past year, Sigurðarson, who is now playing for Skautafélag Reykjavikur, played in his last career under-18 tournament, recording 11 points in five games, including a tournament-best ten assists, again being an alternate captain. Despite his youth, he was also an alternate captain on the gold-medal winning 2012 World Junior team, leading the tournament with a 71.76% faceoff percentage. He recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) in four games in that tournament. Additionally, Sigurðarson participated in the 2012 World Championships.
Forward — Brynjar Bergmann
Brynjar Bergmann is one player in Icelandic junior hockey who has found himself to be a considerable scorer in both his country’s professional league and in international competition. In his first professional season with Björninn, Bergmann, whose older brother Trausti is an accomplished hockey player in his own right, scored five goals in 17 games as a 15-year-old in 2009-10. The next year, he once again showed his exceptional scoring touch, as well as his hard-nosed play, recording 14 points (ten goals, four assists) and 67 penalty minutes in 17 games. In 2011, too, Bergmann appeared in both the World Under-18s and the World Juniors for Iceland. He finished the under-18s with 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in only four games, highlighted by a seven-point game (six goals, one assist) in a resounding 22-0 victory over Ireland; he won a gold medal and he also led the tournament with a +17 ranking. Bergmann also scored two goals in five games at the World Juniors in 2011. This past year, Bergmann split the season between Björninn and Hunar, as well as participate in both the under-18s, in which he had 11 points in five games (he also led the tournament with 54 penalty minutes), and the World Juniors. At the 2012 World Junior tournament, which was held in New Zealand, he had seven points (two goals, five assists) in four games, helping win gold for Iceland.
Forward — Jóhann Már Leifsson
Jóhann Már Leifsson is another Icelandic junior hockey player who has found considerable scoring success for both club teams and international teams. The youngest of three hockey-playing brothers (Sæmundur is a 1988-born goaltender and defenceman; Hilmar is a 1991-born forward), Leifsson appeared at his first under-18 championship in 2009 as a 15-year-old, recording five points in four games, winning a gold medal. The next year, he started playing professionally for Skautafélag Akureyrar, recording eight points in 14 games during the regular season, followed by three goals in five games in the playoffs en route to an Icelandic league championship. Leifsson also played at the under-18s, recording two goals in five games, but it was at the 2010 World Juniors where he shone, scoring a point per game and winning a silver medal as a 16-year-old. In 2010-11, Leifsson began the season with Jötnarnir but, after five games, he was transferred to Vikingar, where he had an impressive 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 17 games. Yet again, he played at both the under-18s and the World Juniors. The under-18s was his best tournament of 2011, recording 12 points and a +14 ranking in only four games, including a tournament-best seven assists; he won a gold medal and he was named one of the top three players on his team. This past season, Leifsson played for the Niagara Fury, a team located in Fort Erie, Ontario, in an independent junior A league. He appeared in seven games, recording ten points (one goal, nine assists). This past year, he also won a gold medal at the World Juniors, recording six points in four games at the tournament in New Zealand. Additionally, he was given the opportunity to play at the Men’s World Championships.
Second All-Star Team
Goaltender — Daníel Freyr Jóhannsson
Daníel Freyr Jóhannsson just might be the most reliable backup goaltender in Icelandic junior hockey, especially at the World Juniors. He has spent the majority of his professional career with Skautafélag Reykjavikur but he has found himself playing behind several other goalies. Jóhannsson’s first exposure to international hockey came in 2010 when the then 17-year-old netminder appeared at the World Juniors, playing in two games. He had significantly impressive statistics, recording a 2.25 goals-against average and a .923% save percentage in those two contests. He also returned home with a silver medal. That being said, however, he did not have a really good showing at the under-18s that year; it must be kept in mind that Iceland did not have a very good tournament overall and even Iceland’s #1 goalie in that tournament, Snorri Sigurbergsson (see above), also had a statistically abysmal tourney. He did not play in any games at the World Juniors in 2011 as the #1 job was secured by Ævar Björnsson, who appeared in all five of Iceland’s contests. The next year, however, Jóhannsson did manage to share the netminding duties with Sigurbergsson, and he was a wall whenever he played. In three games, he never allowed a goal, helping to win gold for Iceland.
Defenceman — Ingþór Árnason
Ingþór Árnason may not be the highest-scoring defenceman in Icelandic junior hockey but he is resoundingly solid despite his smaller stature. At only 5’7″ and 154 pounds, Árnason made his professional hockey début in 2010 at the age of 14 with Jötnarnir, recording his first professional goal during that season. He also was given the opportunity to play at the under-18s, recording an assist and a +4 ranking in four games, as well as winning a gold medal. This was amazing considering that he was only 15 years old at the time. Árnason returned to Jötnarnir in 2011 but, after five pointless games, he was transferred to Vikingar, keeping him in Akureyri. In seven games with Vikingar, he may have only recorded two assists but he was a solid +14, despite being the youngest defenceman on the team. Árnason played at the 2012 World Juniors, helping Iceland win gold, recording a goal and an assist in four games. Additionally, he scored a goal at the 2012 World Under-18s.
Defenceman — Steindór Ingason
Steindór Ingason has played both as a defenceman and as a forward during his career, but it is as the latter where he has found himself starting to become one of the most reliable in Icelandic junior hockey. Ingason started his professional hockey career in 2009 at the age of 15, playing with Björninn, a season in which he went pointless in 16 games. He also played five games in 2010 at the World Under-18s. The next year, the undersized blueliner (5’7″, 155 pounds) returned to Björninn and he had a rather solid offensively productive season for a 16-year-old. In fact, it was the beginning of a complete offensive resurgence for Ingason. During the 2010-11 season, he scored three points, including his first professional goal, in 17 games. That same year, he played at the World Juniors and at another under-18 championship. In the under-18 tournament, Ingason went a point per game in four contests, also recording a +11 ranking. He came home with a gold medal for his efforts. This past year, Ingason split the season between Björninn and Hunar, scoring two points and three points in respective seven-game stints. As well, Ingason helped win gold for Iceland at the 2012 World Juniors, leading all tournament defencemen in scoring with six points (three goals, three assists) in four games. He also served as captain of Iceland’s under-18 team, recording three assists in five contests.
Forward — Gunnlaugur Guðmundsson
Gunnlaugur Guðmundsson will never be one of the top scorers in Icelandic junior hockey but he is finding himself gain significant international credential. At 15, he signed his first professional contract with Björninn but he did not appear in any games for them. That same year, Guðmundsson appeared in his first of three World Under-18 tournaments, appearing in five games but going pointless. In 2010-11, he made his professional hockey début, appearing in seven games for Björninn; although he went pointless in those games, he did have an incredible offensive tournament at the 2011 World Under-18s, scoring seven points (three goals, four assists) and recording a +11 ranking in four games, helping Iceland win gold. This past season, Guðmundsson played five games with Björninn, recording three assists; he then transferred to Hunar where, in an eight-game stint, he scored his first professional goal. As well, the then 17-year-old Guðmundsson played at the 2012 World Juniors, going a point per game in four contests in helping Iceland win the gold medal. He also appeared in his last career under-18 tournament. Guðmundsson is young enough to appear in two more World Junior tournaments, including the 2013 championships in which Iceland will defend its title.
Forward — Sigurður Reynisson
Sigurður Reynisson is on the cusp of becoming one of the more reliable scorers in Icelandic junior hockey on the international stage, much in the mould of Brynjar Bergmann. Also like Bergmann, Reynisson has found himself balancing his scoring prowess in international tournaments with point production at the professional level, too. Reynisson made his professional hockey début in 2010 at the age of 15, appearing for Jötnarnir; in 12 games, he had five points (three goals, two assists) before he played 11 games with Vikingar. Upon the completion of the 2010-11 season, Reynisson scored an impressive 11 points (seven goals, four assists) and had a +11 ranking in only four games at the World Under-18s, helping Iceland win a gold medal. He started the 2011-12 campaign with Jötnarnir, appearing in three games and recording 16 penalty minutes; he recorded eight points (five goals, three assists), 28 penalty minutes and a +9 ranking in seven games after a mid-season transfer to Vikingar. Reynisson played extremely well for an underage player on Iceland’s gold-medal winning team at the 2012 World Juniors, scoring nine points (four goals, five assists) and recording a +7 ranking in four games. He also played at the 2012 World Under-18s, a tournament in which he was named an alternate captain. He had a point per game in five contests. Reynisson now has the opportunity to play in one more under-18 tournament and in up to three more World Juniors.
Forward — Ólafur Ólafsson
Ólafur Ólafsson is another Icelandic junior hockey player who is adept at both defence and forward positions but it is his recent scoring touch as the latter that allows him to be named as one on this all-star team. Although Ólafsson signed his first professional contract with Björninn in 2009 at the age of 15, he did not play for them during the 2009-10 season, which would have been his first pro season. He did, however, play at the World Under-18s in 2010, going pointless in five games. The next year, after playing one game with Jötnarnir, Ólafsson transferred to Norway to play under-17 hockey in Lørenskog. He played extremely well, scoring 16 points (ten goals, six assists) and racking up 57 penalty minutes in 27 games, showing that he plays bigger than his 5’9″, 176-pound frame would attest. That year, however, Ólafsson did not play at the under-18s despite having eligibility. This past season, he returned to Norway to play for Lørenskog’s under-19 team, recording three points and 47 penalty minutes in 15 games; he also played one game in Norway’s First Division, the league just below the GET-ligaen, for Lørenskog’s second-tier professional squad. He then returned home to Iceland to play once again for Jötnarnir, recording a goal and an assist in six games. Additionally, Ólafsson represented his country twice in 2011-12. Playing as a forward, he recorded five points in four games at the World Juniors, helping Iceland win gold, thanks mostly to leading the tournament with a +8 ranking. Ólafsson also had two points and 27 penalty minutes at the 2012 World Under-18s.