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Avs Recall World Juniors Experiences

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship is on tap and Avalanche prospect Kevin Shattenkirk is set to make his first appearance at the event with Team USA. Shattenkirk will serve as an assistant captain for the American squad.

The event, also known as the World Juniors, is one of the most prestigious and widely watched hockey tournaments in the world, featuring many of the top under-20 players from across the globe. This year’s tournament will be held Dec. 26 – Jan. 5 in Ottawa, Ontario.

Shattenkirk will join a long line of talented players who have competed at the event, many of whom have gone on to enjoy successful NHL careers.

A total of 10 players on Colorado’s current roster have previously laced up the skates and represented their respective countries in the tournament.

Today, rolls out the first half of its two-part look at current Avalanche players who have played in the World Junior Championship, with part two coming tomorrow.

Peter Budaj (2001, 2002) and Marek Svatos (2002)– Slovakia
The Avalanche’s starting netminder and one of its most talented goal scorers teamed up to play for Slovakia in 2002, but Budaj first took on the world’s best young players in 2001. That year, Slovakia finished with a 1-6-0 record, with the tournament being held in Moscow & Podolsk, Russia.

When the duo joined forces the following year in Pardubice & Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, the team earned a better record, posting a 2-3-2 mark. Svatos was dynamic at the event, posting seven goals in seven games to finish tied for the tournament lead in goals (with current Calgary Flames forward Mike Cammalleri). The forward also ranked in a tie for fifth in points (7g/1a).

“The first year we were in a tough group and didn’t do so well. But the second year we had a good team and we actually won our group,” said Budaj. “We were going up against some tough teams, like the Czechs, Swedes and Americans. Unfortunately in the quarterfinals we lost in a shootout to Switzerland. But it was a great opportunity to play against some kids who were really high-level players. I’m sure all the kids playing this year are really excited for the tournament.”

T.J. Hensick notched three points (2g/1a) at the 2005 World Juniors in Grand Forks, N.D.
T.J. Hensick (2005) – United States
In the midst of a season that would eventually find him as a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist while playing his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, T.J. Hensick briefly left the school to put on a Team USA sweater. The United States was flying high after a gold-medal finish at the 2004 World Juniors, but would fall just short of a medal in 2005 with a 3-4-0 record and a fourth-place finish.

Hensick put up two goals and one assist in seven games at the tournament, which was held in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Milan Hejduk (1995, 1996)– Czech Republic
Hejduk’s Czech Republic squad finished in sixth place with a 3-4-0 record during the 1995 tournament despite outscoring its opponents 43-26 (a 10-1 thumping of Ukraine played a big part in the goal differential). The forward totaled four points (1g/3a) for his home country.

The Usti-nad Labem native also suited up in 1996, helping the Czech Republic to a fourth-place finish in Boston, Mass. Hejduk’s squad finished just short of a medal, compiling a 2-2-2 record and falling to Russia by a 4-1 count in the bronze-medal game.

Jordan Leopold (1999, 2000) – United States
Jordan Leopold was a two-time member of Team USA at the World Junior Championships
Like his current teammates Budaj and Hejduk, Leopold was a two-time member of his country’s under-20 national team. The defenseman first suited up for the Stars and Stripes in 1999 during his freshman year at the University of Minnesota. The United States finished with a respectable 3-3-0 record, but only managed an eighth-place finish in the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based tournament.

As proof that it can often be more about when you win than how many games you win, the U.S. had a 2-3-2 mark at the 2000 World Juniors, but managed a fourth-place finish. Leopold and his teammates went 1-1-2 in the preliminary round, but upset Sweden in the quarterfinals before losing to the Czech Republic in the semifinals and Canada in the bronze-medal game following a shootout.

Leopold says he should have been one of the shooters in that shootout, but suffered a concussion earlier in the game when Canada’s Jamie Lundmark (a future teammate of Leopold’s in Calgary) caught him with an elbow to the head.

“That was probably my fourth or fifth trip overseas, and every time you go you learn something different,” said Leopold. “I got to play for a bronze medal…obviously we lost, but that’s the closest I’ve come to a medal even though I’ve played in many international tournaments. But who knows, the future is bright and hopefully I’ll have a few more opportunities to get that medal.”

It’s notable that Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles was also named to Team USA for the 2000 World Juniors, but injured his shoulder in an exhibition games against Sweden and was replaced on the roster by Dan Cavanaugh.

Coming Tomorrow
Be sure to come back to tomorrow for part two of its look at current Avalanche players and their experiences at one of the world’s most celebrated hockey tournaments.

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