The holidays are right around the corner, and hardcore hockey fans know what that means: the annual International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship tournaments are where the top junior talent is showcased.
This is the most prestigious international competition for players under 20 representing the globe's top hockey powers. The Boston Bruins will have at least one player competing in the main tournament in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta later this month. The team also has a presence in Germany, where the separate World Jr. Division I tournament is currently going on between countries who did not qualify for the main bracket of 10 countries.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton
, the team’s top choice (ninth overall) in last June's NHL Entry Draft, was named to Team Canada’s final roster this week. He joins forward Freddie Hamilton (a fifth-round pick of San Jose in 2010) as the first brother duo to play on the same Canadian WJC squad in 30 years (Randy and Mike Moller skated together on the 1982 WJC entry).
Many B's fans are already acquainted with the younger Hamilton, 18, who broke St. Louis star Alex Pietrangelo’s Niagara Ice Dogs franchise record for points by a defenseman a year ago with 58. This season he’s on pace to shatter that mark as the OHL's top scoring defenseman, having already hit the 45-point mark in just 30 contests (good for sixth overall in the OHL currently). At 6-foot-4 and a shade under 195 pounds, the son of two Canadian Olympians is not only getting things done offensively in the OHL, but is also impressing observers with his effective defensive play.
Hamilton should see considerable time on the power play for Canada’s skilled but relatively inexperienced defense. Born in June, 1993, Hamilton is the second youngest player on Canada’s blue line corps, ahead of only Ryan Murray, who just missed the 2011 draft cutoff with a Sep. 27, 1993 birthdate.
Center Ryan Spooner
had a good chance of also making the Canada roster, but was diagnosed with mononucleosis late last week. The 45th overall pick in 2010 hopes to return to action with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs in about three weeks. Spooner remains upbeat despite the disappointment of not being able to participate in the WJC in his final year of eligibility and actually felt well enough to attend the Bruins/Senators game in Ottawa on Wednesday, December 14.
Boston's second choice in 2011, center Alexander Khokhlachev
, will attend the North American portion of Team Russia’s World Jr. evaluation camp. The team, which plays in Group A, arrives in Calgary on Dec. 18. The skilled and creative scoring forward is currently tenth overall in the OHL’s scoring race with 15 goals, 43 points in 33 games with the Windsor Spitfires.
Right wing Brian Ferlin
will travel to Alberta this week to make his case for selection on Team USA’s final WJC roster. Should the Cornell freshman and fourth-round selection by the Bruins succeed, he would become the first Florida-born and trained hockey player to compete in the under-20 tournament. The Jacksonville native got off to a hot start with the Big Red, with five goals and 12 points in his first 11 NCAA games. With his size and potential, Ferlin has a good chance of making the final cut for USA, with the team to be announced on Dec. 22. Should he succeed, Ferlin will take on Hamilton and Team Canada in Edmonton on New Year’s Eve.
Norweigian goaltender Lars Volden
, Boston's sixth-round pick in the draft, is playing in the WJC's Divison I tournament. Norway was relegated to the lower bracket after finishing last in the top division in Buffalo a year ago.
Volden and his teammates square off against Austria, Belarus, Great Britain and Slovenia in the round robin, which runs through the 17th, followed by the medal round. Volden went 2-1 in his team’s first three games including a 41-save performance against Austria in a 5-2 win.
Boston's representation in the World Jr. tournaments speaks to the organization’s solid depth and recent success in the 2010 and 2011 entry drafts. Kirk Luedeke covers the Boston Bruins and NHL prospects for the New England Hockey Journal.