Sweden and Russia, both of which went winless at last year's tournament, will be looking for major improvements at the 2011 World Junior 'A' Challenge, to be held Nov. 7-13 in Langley, B.C.
Sweden went 0-2-0 at last year's tournament, but the hope is better goaltending from top 2012 NHL Draft prospect Oscar Dansk will help. Dansk, who stands 6-foot-2.5 and 189 pounds, has a 3.22 goals-against average and .891 save percentage in nine games with the junior team for Brynas of the Swedish Elite League, and also has earned a call-up to the senior SEL club.
In front of Dansk is a pair of highly regarded defensemen for the 2012 draft. Jesper Pettersson (5-11, 180) has 2 goals and 6 points in 15 games for Linkoping's junior team, and Hampus Lindholm (6-2.5, 185) has 6 points in 11 games for Rogle's junior team.
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Of the 21 players on Sweden's roster, 14 are eligible for the 2012 draft, while seven will be eligible for the 2013 draft.
Russia, which also went winless at last year's tournament, will be led by right wing Alexandr Timirev. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound forward has 3 points in 16 games with CSKA's team in Russia's junior league.
In goal, Russia will be led by Andrei Vasilevski, who has 3.26 GAA and .894 save percentage in six games with Ufa 2 in Russia's junior league. Vasilevski, the seventh pick of the 2011 KHL draft, helped Russia win a bronze medal at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship.
Of the 26 players on Russia's roster, 23 are eligible for the 2012 draft.
This will be the Czech Republic's first appearance at the tournament, which has been played annually since 2006. Among those to watch is goaltender Marek Langhamer, who plays with Pardubice's junior team. While playing with Pardubice's U-18 team last season, he led the league with a 2.51 GAA in 17 games. He also played 37 games for Pardubice in the U-20 league and for three games HC Chrudim in the Czech Republic's second division.
Offensively, a name to remember is right wing Petr Koblasa, who had 8 points in 46 games with Karlovy Vary's team in the Czech junior league after being a point-per-game scorer in nine games in the U-18 league.
Twenty-one of the 22 players on the Czech roster are eligible for the 2012 draft.
Sweden will be part of Group A, with the U.S. and Canada West. Russia and the Czech Republic will be part of Group B with Canada East.
Preliminary round play runs from Nov. 7-9, with the semifinals set for Nov. 11 and the gold-medal game on Nov. 13.
GOALIES -- Oscar Dansk, Brynas Jr.; Mathias Israelsson, Frolunda Jr.
DEFENSEMEN -- Calle Andersson, Farjestads Jr.; Linus Arnesson, Djurgarden Jr.*; Ludvik Bystrom, Modo Jr.; Robert Hagg, Modo Jr.*; Hampus Lindholm, Rogle Jr.; Jesper Pettersson, Linkoping Jr.; Tommy Stenqvist, Timra Jr.*
FORWARDS -- Frederic Anderberg, Djurgarden Jr.; Anton Brehmer, Linkoping Jr.; Jacob de la Rose, Leksand Jr.*; Jesper Froden, Huddinge Jr.*; Viktor Gustavsson, Huddinge Jr.; Mattias Kalin, Djurgarden Jr.; Erik Karlsson, Frolunda Jr.; Elias Lindholm, Brynas Jr.*; Ludvig Nilsson, Timra Jr.; Filip Sandberg, HV 71 Jr.; Tobias Tornkvist, Rogle Jr.; Alexander Wennberg, Djurgarden Jr.*
GOALIES -- Ivan Nalimov, Novokuznetsk 2 (RUS-JR); Igor Ustinsky, Tyumen 2 (RUS-JR); Andrei Vasilevski, Ufa 2 (RUS-JR)
DEFENSEMEN -- Alexei Bereglazov, Magnitogorsk 2 (RUS-JR); Andrei Ermakov, Spartak 2 (RUS-JR); Arseni Yerokhin, Perm (RUS-2); Damir Galin, Kazan 2 (RUS-JR); Stanislav Gareev, Ufa 2 (RUS-JR); Ilya Lyubushin, Novokuznetsk 2 (RUS-JR); Egor Malenkikh, St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR); Valeri Vasiliev, Spartak 2 (RUS-JR)
FORWARDS -- Leonid Avtomov, St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR); Alexandr Barabanov, St. Petersburg 2 (RUS-JR); Alexei Filippov, Chelyabinsk 2 (RUS-JR); Arseni Khatsei, Spartak 2 (RUS-JR); Alexei Kudreman, CSKA 2 (RUS-JR); Valeri Nichushin, Chelyabinsk 2 (RUS-JR)*; Vyacheslav Osnovin, Chelyabinsk 2 (RUS-JR); Ivan Petrakov, Chekhov 2 (RUS-JR); Anatoli Ryabov, Tyumen 2 (RUS-JR); Alexandr Timirev, CSKA 2 (RUS-JR); Bogdan Yakimov, Nizhnekamsk 2 (RUS-JR)*; Ilya Yamkin, Nizhny Novgorod 2 (RUS-JR); Daniil Yunushev, Ufa 2 (RUS-JR); Damir Zhafyarov, Novokuznetsk 2 (RUS-JR); Valentin Zykov, CSKA 2 (RUS-JR)*
CZECH REPUBLIC ROSTER
GOALIES -- Marek Langhamer, Pardubice Jr. (CZE-JR); Patrik Polivka, Plzen Jr. (CZE-JR)
DEFENSEMEN -- Lukas Buchta, Zlin Jr. (CZE-JR)*; Adam Hawlik, Vitkovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Stepan Jenik, Slavia Jr. (CZE-JR); Jan Kostalek, Sparta Jr. (CZE-JR); Ronald Knot, Slavia Jr. (CZE-JR); Karel Plasil, Budejovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Vojtech Zadrazil, Jihlava Jr. (CZE-JR)
FORWARDS -- Tomas Franek, Trinec Jr. (CZE-JR); Jan Hudecek, Vitkovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Petr Koblasa, Karlovy Vary Jr. (CZE-JR); Martin Matejcek, Sparta Jr. (CZE-JR); Martin Prochazka, Sparta Jr. (CZE-JR); Tomas Rousek, Budejovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Pavel Sedlacek, Zlin Jr. (CZE-JR); Dominik Simon, Sparta Jr. (CZE-JR); Ondrej Slovacek, Vitkovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Euvstathio Soumelidis, Sport Jr. (FIN-JR); Michal Svihalek, Budejovice Jr. (CZE-JR); Vojtech Tomecek, Karlovy Vary Jr. (CZE-JR); Matej Zadrazil, Karlovy Vary Jr. (CZE-JR)
*- eligible for 2013 NHL Draft