Sweden's hopes of winning its first World Junior Championship gold medal since 1981 got a tremendous boost Friday, thanks to the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators have announced they will allow goaltender Robin Lehner to play at the tournament, which starts Dec. 26 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Lehner, the Senators' 2009 second-round pick, made his NHL debut earlier this season. He stopped all three shots in 4:42 of action at the start of the third period of a game against the Canadiens on Oct. 16 while goalie Brian Elliott was dealing with a skate issue, and he stopped all seven shots he saw in 30 minutes of action two nights later against the Penguins when Senators coach Cory Clouston pulled an ineffective Elliott. Lehner was Elliott's backup for seven other games before being sent back to AHL Binghamton. In seven AHL games, Lehner is 1-5-0 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in seven games.
The Czech Republic National Junior Team has had a rough time in recent years at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
After winning back-to-back gold medals in 2000 and 2001, all the Czech Republic has been able to muster since has been a bronze in 2005. The Czech Ice Hockey Association is hoping to change that at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo and Niagara, N.Y., beginning Dec. 26.
Bolstered by four returning players, four forwards chosen in the 2010 Entry Draft and six highly regarded prospects for the 2011 Entry Draft, the Czech Republic looks to have the arsenal required to atone for last year's seventh-place finish in Saskatoon.
Training camp will start Dec. 15, in Troy and Rochester, N.Y., with the final roster of 22 players being set Dec. 25.
Forward Sondre Olden, a third-round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in June, highlights a list of 24 players on the preliminary camp roster for the Norwegian National Junior Team that will compete at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y.
Norway's first game in the preliminary round is Dec. 26 against Sweden.
The Leafs selected Olden of Modo's junior team with the 79th choice after sending the Los Angeles Kings a third-round pick in 2012 for the right to select him. A product of Norway, Olden made the move to Sweden's junior league in 2009-10, jumping from Sweden's Under-18 division to the Under-20 as a 17-year-old.
Keith Allain, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team that will play in the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., later this month, knows all eyes will be on his group as they look to repeat as gold medalists.
Allain, however, doesn't believe that looming pressure will be put on his team from those on the outside looking in.
"We talked about this with our group this summer," Allain said. "The pressure that will be on us is the pressure we put on ourselves. We're all very competitive people. We all want to be the absolutely best we can be and we're going in looking to win the gold medal. So whether we're getting pressure externally or not, that's not a factor on how we'll operate as a group or how we'll approach our task on a daily basis."
Almost a year later, John Carlson still can't help but grin when asked to recall the shot heard 'round the hockey world that put an exclamation point on one of the greatest finishes to a gold-medal game in the illustrious history of the World Junior Championship -- if you're a fan of the United States.
With one sweeping snap shot 4:21 into overtime, the current Washington Capitals defenseman ended a five-year Canadian stranglehold on the gold medal, giving Team USA a 6-5 victory in Saskatoon, Canada. The matchup marked the first meeting between the North American rivals in the gold-medal contest since the U.S. rallied in Helsinki, Finland, en route to its first gold medal of the tournament in 2004.
The winning goal was actually Carlson's second of the game -- a moment he'll cherish forever.
"It was a huge accomplishment but it wasn't as big a deal around here as it was in Canada," Carlson told NHL.com. "I think mostly just my teammates gave me a hard time about it, but it's obviously a good thing, so I'll take it."
If you believe no one pays attention to an inspiring performance on a non-medal winning team at the World Junior Championship, think again.
Switzerland's Nino Niederreiter is the poster boy for coming out of the woodwork at such an event.
It was Niederreiter's performance for Switzerland at the 2010 tournament that ultimately placed him in the cross-hairs of every scout and coach leading up to the 2010 Draft. He had 10 points in seven games, including the game-tying goal and the overtime winner in the quarterfinals against Russia, and was named to the tournament All-Star team. Sure, the Swiss finished fourth in the tournament, but "El Nino" had already accomplished what he set out to do.
He ultimately became the highest-drafted Swiss player in NHL history -- going fifth overall to the New York Islanders last June.
After winning two silvers and a bronze medal at the last three World Junior Championships, Sweden has hopes of medaling for a fourth straight year -- only this time with gold.
Looking to make that happen will be four returning players from last year's third-place finish, including highly touted defenseman Adam Larsson, who plays for Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. Larsson is the No. 1-rated 2011 Entry Draft prospect among Swedish skaters in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings. He had 1 goal, 4 points and a plus-3 rating in six games at last year's tournament.
Other returnees beside Larsson include defenseman and Skelleftea teammate Tim Erixon, a Calgary Flames prospect taken with the 23rd pick of the 2009 Draft, and forwards Anton Lander (Edmonton, second round, 2009) of Timra and Carl Klingberg (Atlanta, second round, 2009) of Frolunda HC.
The team Slovakia will send to the 2011 World Junior Championship has started to take form with Thursday's announcement of a roster for training camp.
The process began Tuesday, when the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation announced a preliminary 23-man European roster. That list will be trimmed to 15 following a training camp that starts Dec. 6 in Bratislava. The remaining players and the coaching staff, including coach Stefan Mikes, will fly to the U.S. and join eight Slovakian players currently starring in the Canadian Hockey League to play a pre-tournament schedule in Jamestown, N.Y., starting Dec. 16. Slovakia will play exhibition games against Russia, Norway and the United States, and then will finalize its roster.
Three returning players from last year's silver-medal winning team will battle for roster spots to represent Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The 2011 World Junior Championship will take place Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Buffalo and Niagara, N.Y.
Defensemen Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires, Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs and Calvin de Haan of the Oshawa Generals were three of the 39 players to receive invitations to the final selection camp, which will be held Dec. 11-15 at the MasterCard Centre in suburban Toronto. The list includes 35 players selected in the 2009 and 2010 Entry Draft, and 18 first-round picks.
Three of the players invited are eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft in June -- forward Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League and defenseman Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League.
It's not just going to happen on its own. We have to have guys commit to the areas we need to improve on. We're going to be better than last year but there is still a long way to go. But I really like the pieces and where we're headed.
— Sabres forward Tyler Ennis on the progress of Buffalo's rebuilding process