Switzerland goalie Benjamin Gonz gets a mitt on Sweden's Anton Lander shot in this file photo.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
A look at 10 international players to who could steal the spotlight at the IIHF world junior hockey championship, which begins on Sunday in Buffalo, New York.
Jack Campbell, goaltender, United States
A year ago, the 18-year-old earned his third IIHF gold medal by backstopping the U.S. to its second ever victory in the under-20 tournament (he also won a pair of golds at the under-18 level). Dallas made him the 11th overall pick and the first goalie taken in last year’s National Hockey League entry draft, but the Michigan native’s switch from U.S. college to the Ontario Hockey League is not going as planned. He has a horrid 3.68 goals-against average and .887 save percentage with Windsor, putting him near the bottom of all OHL goalies.
Chris Kreider, forward, United States
A standout for the Americans last year with six goals, he’s the prototypical power forward at six-foot-two, 205 pounds. He helped Boston College to an NCAA in 2009-10 and was taken 19th overall by the New York Rangers in the 2009 draft. This season, he has five goals and 11 points in 16 games with the Eagles.
Jeremy Morin, left wing, United States
He was a 47-goal man with Kitchener in the OHL last season and was taken in the second round by Atlanta in the 2010 draft. He became a member of the Blackhawks in the Dustin Byfuglien trade. Still only 19, he scored two goals and an assist in nine games with Chicago and has 11 points in 19 games in the American Hockey League. Chicago made a late decision to allow him to allow him to play in the tournament.
Nino Niederreiter, right wing, Switzerland
A tournament all-star last year when he supplied six goals and 10 points in seven games during Switzerland’s surprising fourth-place finish, the New York Islanders made him the highest drafted Swiss player ever when they picked him fifth overall last June. Niederreiter, 19, scored a goal and an assist in nine games with New York before being returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League where he has 13 goals and 26 points in 23 games.
Sami Vatanen, defence, Finland
A smallish playmaker who loves to join the rush is, at age 19, already excelling playing alongside grown men in his native Finland. Anaheim’s fourth-round pick in 2009 played for the Finnish team at 2010 world championship in Germany. This season he is the highest scoring defenceman in Finland’s top league with eight goals and 21 points in 32 games with first-place JYP.
David Musil, D, Czech Republic
A foot injury has the big Vancouver Giants blue-liner’s participation in doubt. But if he plays, the B.C.-born son of former NHLer Frantisek Musil will be a needed force for the Czechs. An invitee to this year’s Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects game, the 17-year-old has four goals, 17 points and is a plus-9 in 30 WHL games this season.
Vladimir Tarasenko, C, Russia
Despite just having turned 19 on Dec. 13, the six-foot son of former Soviet great Andrei Tarasenko is in his third season in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he has eight goals and 16 points in 35 games this year. The question for fans on this side of the ocean is whether he will opt to bring his star skills out of Russia.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/RW Russia
Another member of last year’s disappointing sixth-place Russian entry, the 18-year-old picked 26th overall by Washington in the 2010 draft is seen as a creative force around the net. Some scouts also suggest he is surprisingly tough despite being listed at just six-feet and 175 pounds.
Adam Larsson, D, Sweden
Forget the whispers about disappointing tournaments overseas, scouts assure that the Swedish blue-liner will be the top-ranked European by the time the 2011 NHL entry draft rolls around. The 18-year-old is six-foot-two and 209 pounds, and is already a complete package, bringing a big man’s game to first-place Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League.
Anton Lander, C, Sweden
Not flashy but a steady two-way player, the 19-year-old pivot is playing in his fourth season in the Swedish Elite League. Edmonton’s second-round pick, 40th overall in the 2009 draft, is seen as a leader who will likely be charged with shutting down the opposition’s top threats.
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