The 2011 World Junior Championship, which starts Dec. 26 in Buffalo, marks the 35th edition of the elite international under-20 hockey tournament.
A number of legendary players have used the tournament as a springboard to remarkable NHL careers, including Mario Lemieux
, Joe Sakic
, Steve Yzerman
, Sidney Crosby
, Alex Ovechkin
, Scott Niedermayer
, Brian Leetch
, Mike Richter
and Dominik Hasek
None of them, however, made the cut for NHL.com's all-time World Junior Championship team.
Our roster consists of the same roster used for the event -- 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders.
Lists like there are rife for discussion and argument, and we easily could assemble a wonderful team from the players left off the list.
However, any coach gladly would go to battle with this group of players:
-- Before he scorched the nets in the NHL, he left junior-aged goalies in tatters. He twice led the tournament in goals, including 12 -- the second-most in one tournament -- in 1991. His 27 goals is the career tournament record, and his 39 points (in 21 games during three tournaments) is third. He was named the tournament's best forward in 1989, when his 7 goals led the tournament and he helped the Soviet Union win the gold medal. He also won silver medals in 1990 and '91.
-- Eberle's WJC memories are far more than the 14 goals and 26 points he scored in 12 games. His game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds left in regulation of the 2009 semifinals against Russia, which saved a fifth-straight gold medal for Canada, ranks in Paul Henderson
territory. Last year, he scored twice in the final 2:49 of the gold-medal game to force overtime. The 8 goals he scored at the 2010 event led the tournament and earned him MVP and Best Forward honors, as well as a silver medal.
-- Possibly the greatest single tournament had by any player in the event's history was turned in by Forsberg in 1993. A 19-year-old center, he set tournament records with 24 assists and 31 points in just seven games, and he set single-game records of 7 assists and 10 points in a 20-1 rout of Japan. Forsberg played in just two World Juniors (14 games), but his 32 assists and 42 points are all-time tournament marks. He led Sweden to silver medals in 1992 and '93.
-- Gretzky was just 16 when he played his only WJC in 1978, but he made it memorable, finishing with tournament-highs of 9 assists and 17 points in just six games. He won the tournament's Best Forward award as Canada took home the bronze medal.
-- Prior to staring his Hall of Fame pro career, Jagr made a pit stop at the 1990 WJC. As an 18-year-old, he dominated the tournament with an event-best 13 assists -- the fourth-highest single-tournament total in history -- and 18 points in just seven games while helping Czechoslovakia win a bronze medal. He also earned a spot on the tournament All-Star team.
-- There might never have been a more physically dominant Canadian-born junior player than Lindros. In three tournaments, Lindros is third all-time with 19 assists and 10th with 31 points. His 11 assists in 1991 are the seventh-most in a single tournament. He also had 6 goals and 17 points, earning the tournament's Best Forward award and helping Canada win a gold medal. The next year he had 10 points in seven games.
-- The Russian won the WJC Triple Crown in 1988, leading the tournament with 9 goals, 9 assists and 18 points while helping the Soviet Union to a silver medal. His 19 goals in 20 games are fourth all-time, and his 35 points are tied for fourth. He also is one of nine players to score 5 goals in a WJC game, the second-most ever in a single game.
-- Naslund had the privilege of riding shotgun with Forsberg at the 1992 and '93 WJC, and carved his name all over the tournament record book. His 21 goals are the third-most in tournament history, and his 34 points are tied for sixth. His 13 goals in 1993 are the most in one tournament, and his 5 goals and 7 points in that 20-1 rout of Japan during the 1993 tournament are the second-most goals and third-most points scored in one game.
-- Parise led the first U.S. World Junior team to win gold in scoring with 11 points, a total that tied for the tournament lead. His 6 assists also led the tournament and helped him earn that year's Best Forward award. In 13 games spread across two tournaments, Parise had 9 goals and 10 assists.
-- Reichel was a big part of helping Czechoslovakia win bronze medals in 1990 and '91. He was named the Best Forward of the 1990 WJC after leading the tournament with 11 goals and 21 points. His 22 assists and 40 points (in 21 games) are second all-time.
-- In two tournaments, Roenick's teams never finished better than fifth, but he certainly wasn't part of the problem. Until Jordan Schroeder
passed him at the 2010 WJC, Roenick had been the leading U.S. scorer in tournament history with 25 points. He did it in 14 games; Schroeder needed 19 to pass him. His 13 goals are the most in U.S. history. He made the 1989 tournament All-Star team with event-highs of 8 goals and 16 points.
-- Only Bure has scored more goals in WJC play than Ruzicka's 25. His 12 goals in 1983 are the second-most for a single tournament, and his 8 assists and 20 points also were tournament-highs. Ruzicka had 34 points in 19 games, and made the 1982 and '83 tournament All-Star teams, when he led Czechoslovakia to back-to-back silver medals.
-- NHL fans may remember Tikkanen as a super-pest, but as a junior he was an outstanding scorer. He ranks in the top 10 in WJC history in goals (17, ninth), assists (18, tied for fifth) and points (35, tied for fourth). He helped Finland win a silver medal in 1984 and was on the tournament All-Star team in 1985, when he had 7 goals and 19 points.
-- In his only WJC appearance, Carlson scored the biggest goal in U.S. junior hockey history last year. In overtime of the gold-medal game, Carlson finished a 2-on-1 rush by rifling a shot past Canada goalie Martin Jones
to lead the U.S. to its second-ever WJC gold medal. The goal was Carlson's fourth of the tournament, tops among all defensemen, and helped him earn a spot on the tournament All-Star team. He also had 7 points and a plus-8 rating.
-- Fetisov was named to the IIHF Centennial All-Star Team in 2008 thanks to a spectacular international career that started with the first two editions of the WJC. Fetisov, playing for the USSR, is the only two-time winner of the tournament's Best Defenseman award. He finished with 6 goals and 15 points in 14 games, as well as a pair of gold medals.
-- The defenseman was at the forefront of a golden era in Swedish junior hockey. Jonsson had 8 points in seven games to win the Best Defenseman award at the 1994 WJC, when he helped Sweden win a third-straight silver medal. In two tournaments, Jonsson had 5 goals and 13 points in 14 games, and a pair of silver medals.
-- McCabe had one of the greatest single-tournament performances by a Canadian blueliner at the 1995 event. He had 9 assists and 12 points in seven games as Canada won a gold medal and McCabe took home the award for Best Defenseman.
-- After a disappointing individual performance in 2009, Pietrangelo was dominant at the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon. His 9 assists and 12 points led all defensemen and earned him the tournament's Best Defenseman award. He took home gold in '09 and a silver in '10.
-- Subban established himself as a future star at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa, when he led all defensemen with 9 points and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. He also scored the first goal of the 2009 gold-medal game against Sweden just 38 seconds into the contest, setting the stage for a 5-1 win and a fifth-straight gold medal for the host country. Subban also had a hand in winning gold in 2008, although he didn't score a point.
-- Tatarinov had 7 points in seven games in the 1986 WJC to win the Best Defenseman award for himself and a gold medal for the USSR -- his second in three tournaments, sandwiched around a bronze medal in 1985. Tatarinov was a two-time member of the WJC All-Star team, and had 13 points in 19 games.
-- In his only WJC appearance, Pogge shut out Russia to help Canada win the gold medal at the 2006 tournament. It's only the third time a shutout has been registered in the gold-medal game since the current tournament format was adopted in 1996, and was Pogge's third shutout of the event, the most ever for a single tournament. He also had a 151:50 shutout streak, the second-longest in WJC history. His six wins at the '96 WJC are tied for the second-most at a single event.
-- The Russian might be the best to ever strap on the pads in tournament history. At the 1999 WJC he set a record with a 215:09 shutout streak en route to winning a gold medal. His 1.42 goals-against average is the best all-time, and his nine wins are tied for third. He also helped Russia win a silver medal in 2000.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com