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World Juniors: A Rite of Passage

Among players on the Flyers projected training camp roster, there are 20 players with World Juniors participation on their pre-NHL resumes

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer /

Created in 1974 as an unofficial showcase for the top teenage ice hockey players throughout the world and then first sanctioned in 1977 as an official tournament with medals awarded to the top three finishers, the International Ice Hockey Federation's Under-20 World Championship (also known as the World Junior Championship) has grown into one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the annual hockey calendar.

While participation and stardom at the WJC is far from a guarantee of future NHL stardom, the tournament is a rite of passage for generations of NHL standouts. 

Among players on the Flyers projected training camp roster, there are 20 players with World Juniors participation on their pre-NHL resumes. Several players took part in more than one WJC tournament. 


The Phantoms defenseman was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round (32nd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. He earned a spot on Team Canada at the 2013-14 World Juniors, where his teammates included team captain Scott Laughton, then-Flyers prospect Taylor Leier, fellow defenseman Derrick Pouliot (who signed with the Flyers in the 2020 offseason), 2014 first-overall draft pick Aaron Ekblad, Matt Dumba, team leading scorers Anthony Mantha and Jonathan Drouin, plus a 16-year-old Connor McDavid. Bigras dressed in all seven games for Team Canada. 

After a stellar draft-plus-two Ontario Hockey League season, he turned professional. As a pro, to date, he's dressed in 46 NHL games (Colorado). Last season, injuries limited him to 39 games in the AHL with the Phantoms (2g, 14a).


As a highly touted prospect for the 2011 NHL Draft, Couturier entered the 2010-11 season as the consensus top overall prospect after leading the QMJHL in scoring the previous year with 96 points in 68 games while playing outstanding two-way hockey. He was set back that year by a bout with mononucleosis, which ended up being a stroke of good fortune for the Flyers (who drafted him with the 8th overall pick). Nonetheless, Couturier was able to play for Team Canada at the 2010-11 World Juniors. 

Playing largely a shutdown-oriented role, he also posted a pair of goals and one assist in seven games. Canada settled for a silver medal after losing 5-3 to Russia in the final game. 

Note: Although Couturier is a dual U.S./Canadian citizen who was born in Arizona while his father, Sylvain, played in the old International Hockey League, he was raised in New Brunswick and has always represented Canada in IIHF competitions.


One-third of a standout NTDP line with fellow top 2017 NHL Draft prospects Jack Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom in their draft-eligible year, Farabee was considered a virtual shoo-in to represent Team USA at the 2017-18 World Juniors. Once there, he posted three goals and five points in seven games. The Americans took bronze in the tournament, but were disappointed by the outcome after winning gold the previous year and entering the tourney as a favorite to get back to the gold medal game. 

Farabee turned pro after the 2017-18 season, following one year at Boston University. Farabee was named to the 2019-20 Team USA roster for the World Juniors and took part in the Summer Showcase but ultimately did not play in the tournament. The reason, of course, was that he was a rookie in the NHL with the Flyers. 


The latter of Philadelphia's two selections in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, Frost's WJC story is strikingly similar to that of Claude Giroux. 

Both were late first-round picks (Giroux was taken 22nd overall in 2006 and then, 11 years later, Frost went 27th overall). Neither were selected to represent Canada internationally until late in their junior careers despite stellar draft-plus-one seasons (Giroux compiled 112 points for the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques in 2006-07 while Frost likewise racked up 112 points for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2017-18). 

Both players were finally selected to their first major international competition as 19 year-olds. At the 2018-19 WJC, Frost shifted from center to wing and piled up eight points (4g, 4a) in five games. 

Frost's most memorable performance came in his WJC debut, as he compiled a hat trick and two assists to win Best Player honors in a 14-0 rout over Denmark. Frost had two goals and a primary assist to his credit by the first intermission, as Canada led 3-0 after the opening stanza. He finished off the hatty with a goal midway through the second period.


"Ghost" represented Team USA at the 2012-13 World Junior Championships in Russia, as the Americans won their third gold medal in tournament history. At the time a sophomore defenseman at Union College, Gostisbehere was 19 years old when he played at the WJC. Team USA capped off the tourney with a 3-1 win over Sweden.

The offensive-oriented defenseman. who largely saw third-pair and power play duties for Team USA, posted two points (1g, 1a) in the tournament including a scorching one-timer goal against Germany. 

Unfortunately, Gostisbehere got tossed out for a spearing major in the first period of a game against Slovakia at the end of the preliminary round. The IIHF suspended him for the medal round quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. 

He returned and played sparingly in a dramatic semifinal win against Canada because there was no need for coach Phil Housley to change the rotation that was firing on all cylinders. Gostisbehere received more ice time in the gold medal game, including a shift late in regulation with the U.S. leading the Swedes by one goal. A empty-netter sealed the gold medal.


As noted in Frost's section, the future Flyers captain was inexplicably snubbed for Team Canada in his draft-plus-one season of 2006-07 despite clearly being one of the most dominant offensive talents in any of the CHL-affiliated leagues. The only plausible explanation is that Giroux had never been an inside-track player for the national team in earlier age groups and Hockey Canada stuck largely with players who had international track records.

There was no holding back Giroux in his final year of WJC eligibility, however. The 19-year-old easily won a spot on Team Canada for the 2007-08 tournament in the Czech Republic. Playing right wing on a loaded roster that featured the likes of Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Brad Marchand, Kyle Turris, Drew Doughty and future Flyers teammate Wayne Simmonds (then an LA Kings prospect), Future Flyer netminder Steve Mason manned the net for the Canadian team.

Giroux and company won gold after beating Finland (4-2), Team USA (4-1) and Sweden (3-2 in OT) in the medal round. In the gold medal game, the Canadians trailed the Junior Crowns, 1-0, late in the first period until Giroux knotted the score with a power play goal.

Canada had stellar depth through their lineup, which showed in how evenly the scoring was spread. Turris led the team with eight points in seven games, while Giroux (2g, 4a), Marchand, and Stamkos all had six points. A 17-year-old Tavares posted five points. 


There are not many players who can say they played in the World Junior Championships three times. Hägg is one who can. He played for Team Sweden at the 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15 tournaments, and win the silver medal in each of the first two. The 2013-14 tourney was particularly special because it took place in his home country (in the southern city of Malmö) and he served his team as an alternate captain.

The Flyers scouted Hägg at the 2012-13 tourney as a potential first-round candidate for the 2013 Draft. He ultimately dropped to the second round, where Philadelphia chose him with the 41st overall pick. 

After the 2013-14 season in Sweden with Modo and the junior national team, a 19-year-old Hägg came to North America to play for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (who had just relocated from Glens Falls, NY, to Allentown, PA). Midway through the season, the Flyers gave the rookie defenseman permission to join the Swedish national team for his final WJC tournament. 

Early in his developmental years, Hägg was considered a potential all-situations defenseman, including regular power play duties. Over time, he became more of an old-school physical defensive defenseman. His WJC usage mirrored the same pattern. In his final tournament, he was assigned mainly shutdown and penalty killing duties. Overall, Hägg played a total of 19 WJC games over his three tourneys. He chipped in two career goals and three assists to go along with a cumulative 14 penalty minutes and cumulative plus-eight traditional +/- rating. 


The two-time CHL Goalie of the Year and three-time Western Hockey League Goalie of the Year played for Team Canada at both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 tournaments, winning the silver medal in 2017 and gold the next year. Hart was in goal when Team Canada lost a climactic shootout to the USA in the gold medal game in 2017 despite stopping three of four shots. 

The next year, after playing in a memorable outdoor game and making 32 saves in a heavy snow against Team USA at New Era Field in Buffalo (won 4-3 in a shootout by Team USA), Hart went on to capture the gold medal after holding Sweden to a single goal in a 3-1 win in the climactic game, Overall, Hart posted a 5-1-0 record, 1.81 GAA, .930 save percentage and one shutout in the latter tourney.


An 18-year-old Konecny played for Team Canada at the 2015-16 WJC in Helsinki, a little more than half a year after the Flyers moved up in the latter part of the first round of the 2015 Draft to select him with the 24th overall pick. Flyers 2014 first-rounder Travis Sanheim was Konecny's teammate on Team Canada.  

It was a disappointing tournament for the Canadians, who followed up a 5-2 loss to Sweden on New Year's Eve with a 6-5 quarterfinal loss in the medal round to the host Finns in front of a rabidly partisan crowd at Hartwall Arena two days later. 

In the 6-5 loss to Finland, Konecny opened the scoring in the first period as Canada built a 2-0 lead before falling apart until a spirited third period. Finland dominated the second period. The Finnish top line of Jesse Pulujärvi (three assists), Patrik Laine (two goals, one assist) and Sebastian Aho (one goal, two assists) proved to be the difference in the game. Konecny finished the tournament with two points (1g, 1a) in five games played.

During the 2015-16 WJC, Konecny also learned that he'd been traded in the Ontario Hockey League. With the Ottawa 67's in rebuilding mode and figuring that Konecny was likely to jump to the NHL the following season, the team dealt him to the Sarnia Sting. Overall, Konecny posted a combined 101 points in his final OHL season. He cracked the Flyers' NHL roster the next season.


Chosen by the Flyers with the 20th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, Laughton actually played briefly in the NHL with the Flyers after the 2012-13 lockout before he made his World Juniors debut for Team Canada. 

In his draft-plus-two season of 2013-14, the 19-year-old Oshawa Generals standout captained Team Canada at the WJC in Malmö, Sweden. Laughton saw mostly checking-line and penalty killing responsibilities but chipped in one assist in seven games.

Canada failed to earn a medal in the tournament; the second straight year that they did not win at least bronze. The 2013-14 team was defeated, 5-1, by Finland in the semis and then lost, 2-1, to Russia in the bronze medal game. Thereafter, the Canadians have medaled in four of the last six WJCs including gold medals in 2015, 2018 and 2020.


The incoming Flyers rookie forward, originally drafted by Philadelphia in the 6th round (169th overall) of the 2016 Draft, was a member of Team USA's gold medal winning squad at the 2016-17 WJC in Canada.

A freshman at the time for Ohio State, a 19-year-old Laczynski was an under-the-radar prospect for the World Juniors at the USA Hockey summer camp as well as during the December roster selection tryouts. He simply outperformed some more highly touted names and showed his versatility to adapt to a different role than he was used to playing. Generally a scoring line player for the Buckeyes, Laczynski played a fourth-line role for Team USA. His ability to comfortably play any forward position also cemented his candidacy. 

Laczynski missed the semifinal game against Russia due to illness, but returned to play fourth-line minutes in the gold medal game.


A regular starter on Swedish national junior teams in every age division as he climbed the developmental ladder, Lindblom was drafted by the Flyers in 2014 (5th round, 138th overall) after a strong IIHF Under-18 World Championship for Team Sweden (six points in seven games).

Subsequently, Lindblom played in the WJC twice for the "Junior Crowns": 2014-15 in Canada and 2015-16 in Finland. On an individual basis, both tournaments were very productive for Lindblom. On a team basis, however, the tourneys were frustrating. The Swedes excelled in the preliminary round but then fell in the medal round semifinals and left without any medals after dropping the bronze medal games.   

Over his two World Junior Championships, Lindblom posted a combined seven goals and 15 points in 14 games, while establishing himself as a bonafide top-of-the-lineup left winger and power play regular in his age group. He was already a productive professional player by this point for Brynäs in the SHL, so his success in the WJC did not come as a surprise. It cemented him as a viable NHL prospect and one of the top two-way teenaged wingers in the hockey world.

In the 2014-15 tourney, Lindblom most notably played a strong all-around game in a 3-2 win over Russia and scored a natural hat trick (two power play goals, one even strength tally) in a 5-1 victory against Switzerland. The next year was highlighted by standout two-way performances in a 1-0 win over Team USA and a 5-2 victory against Canada. Lindblom was dominant in scoring a goal and compiling a half dozen shots on goal in a 6-0 rout of Slovakia in the medal round quarterfinal. 


Drafted by the Flyers with the 13th overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft after a strong performance for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championship, Morin played in the WJC at age 19 in his draft-plus-two season of 2014-15.

Unfortunately, Morin's campaign that year was set back by a broken jaw. He played sparingly in the WJC as Canada dressed seven defensemen and Morin occupied the No. 7 spot.


Myers' stock rose rapidly after the Flyers signed the undrafted free agent defenseman to an entry level contract after an impressive showing at their 2015 training camp. He had a breakthrough season in 2015-16 for the QMJHL's Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The next year, a 19-year-old Myers earned a spot on Team Canada for the 2016-17 World Junior Championships in Montreal and Toronto. 

Myers played so well in qualifying for the roster that he was installed on Canada's top defense pairing with Thomas Chabot. He played well on both sides of the puck with his combination of size, athleticism and mobility and also chipped in four assists in as many games. 

Unfortunately, Myers' tournament (and season) were abruptly curtailed after he suffered a concussion as a result of a high check by Team USA's Luke Kunin in the final game of the preliminary round. Myers was unable to play during the medal round and also missed the remainder of the QMJHL regular season before returning for the playoffs.


A high-scoring, right-handed defenseman in the Western Hockey League for the Portland Winterhawks, Pouliot was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the eighth overall pick of the first round in the 2012 NHL Draft. In his draft-plus-two season of 2013-14, he racked up 70 points in 58 regular season season games and 32 points in 21 playoff games before the Winterhawks lost in the WHL Finals. 

Midway through that campaign, Pouliot represented Team Canada at the 2013-14 World Juniors. He received power play time and posted five points (1g, 4a); tied for second among all defensemen throughout the tournament.

As a pro, Pouliot has dressed in 202 NHL regular season games, including two last season for the St. Louis Blues. He has played 172 career regular season games in the American Hockey League. On Oct. 9, 2020, the Flyers signed Pouliot as a depth NHL defenseman and upper blueline rotation AHL option for the Phantoms. He will turn 27 on Jan. 16, 2021.


A prodigy at every rung of the minor and junior hockey ladder, Provorov played for Team Russia at the 2014-15 World Juniors before he was selected by the Flyers with the seventh overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. A year earlier, a few months after his 17th birthday, Provorov was Russia's No. 1 defenseman at the Under-18 Worlds.

The Flyers considered having Provorov turn pro immediately after the 2015 Draft but opted to have him return to the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings for his draft-plus-one season. Apart from him having a dominant WHL season, this also enabled him to play a top-pairing role on Team Russia at the 2015-16 Worlds.

Provorov logged massive ice time for the Russians during his second and final WJC, and saved his best performance for an epic gold medal game against Finland (which the Finns ultimately won in overtime, 4-3). Provorov posted eight points in seven games in the tournament but, more impressive than just his offensive stats, Provorov was often dominant off-puck as well as with the puck on his stick. 


The Flyers' 2014 first-round pick (17th overall) saw his offensive game blossom at the Western Hockey League level for the Calgary Hitmen in both his draft-plus-one and draft-plus-two seasons. He established himself as one of the most dangerous point-producing defensemen in any of the three CHL-affiliated leagues. 

However, Sanheim had a hard time cracking Team Canada for the World Juniors despite having played well for the Under-18 national team in his draft year. He did not receive a roster spot for the 2014-15 WJC. The next year, Sanheim did make the WJC roster but played sparingly.

Team Canada head coach Dave Lowry placed Sanheim as the No. 6 defenseman on the depth chart and allotted him secondary power play time. As such, the player didn't get much of a chance to shine. Sanheim had one assist in five games. 

Canada, which entered the tourney as a favorite to get to the gold medal game, lost a 6-5 decision to Finland in the quarterfinal and went home prematurely. In the loss to Finland, Sanheim set up an early third period power play goal sequence that enabled Mitch Marner to briefly tie the game at 4-4.


JVR is among the relatively scarce ranks of players who appeared in three separate World Junior Championship tournaments. He enjoyed a prolific junior career in the US National Team Development program.

van Riemsdyk represented Team USA in a host of international tournaments in various age categories. By 2006-07, ahead of his selection by the Flyers with the second overall pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, a 17-year-old van Riemsdyk had moved up to the Under-20 World Championship.

JVR did not see much ice time in the 2006-07 WJC in Leksand and Mora, Sweden, but his intriguing combination of size, athleticism and raw skill were obvious. He took home a bronze medal.

In the next two tourneys, van Riemsdyk was entrenched atop the Team USA lineup. His best WJC performance came in the 2007-08 tourney in the Czech Republic. The Americans failed to win a medal but JVR led the entire tournament in scoring with 11 points (5g,6a) in six games. 

Most notably, van Riemsdyk had a third-period go-ahead goal against Russia (with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal) in a 3-2 preliminary round victory and then a four-point (1g, 3a) performance in a 5-3 win over Finland on New Year's Eve. The Americans swept the round-robin portion of the tourney but then lost to Canada in the medal-round semifinal and to the Russians in the bronze medal game.

By the 2008-09 WJC in Ottawa, JVR was the most experienced player in the tournament. He was expected to dominate. van Riemsdyk posted 10 points in six games (6g, 4a), including a two-goal game against Germany in the preliminary round opener and a three-point game (1g, 2a) against Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, the Americans were upset, 5-3, by Slovakia in the quarterfinal game.

JVR's career at the WJC ended with him posting a combined 12 goals and 22 points in 19 games for Team USA over the course of his three tournaments.


Originally selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the seventh overall pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, Voracek left his native Kladno, Czech Republic, to join the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads at age 17.

During his draft-eligible 2006-07 season and his draft-plus-one 2007-08 seasons, Voracek played for the Czech national under-20 teams at the World Junior Championships in Sweden and in his home country.

Unsurprisingly, Voracek played a bigger WJC role for his national team as an 18-year-old than he did at age 17. Voracek chipped in three points (1g, 2a) at the 2006-07 World Juniors in Leksand and Mora. The next year, in Pardubice and Liberec, he posted six assists in his six games.

Voracek would have been a shoo-in to join the ranks of three-tourney WJC veterans but he turned pro after the 2007-08 season and was a rookie on the Blue Jackets during the 2008-00 season.


An incoming pro rookie in 2020-21, Zamula's career arc thus far is similar to that of Phil Myers. Zamula was signed by the Flyers as an 18-year-old undrafted free agent out of the Western Hockey League (Calgary Hitmen) after he went unselected in the 2018 NHL Draft. His stock took off almost immediately over the next two junior seasons.

In his draft-plus-two 2019-20 junior season, apart from posting 28 points in 28 games in the WHL for the Hitmen, Zamula earned a top-pairing role for eventual silver medalist Russia at the WJC. He opened the tourney with a two-goal game, played in all manpower situations to lead his team in ice time and went on to post five points (2g, 3a) overall in his seven games.

Immediately after the tournament, it was revealed that Zamula was playing through a condition that required season-ending back surgery. He missed the remainder of the WHL season. However, Zamula was fully recovered to take part in the Flyers' Phase 3 training camp in July before the Stanley Cup playoffs and he even dressed for the NHL team during the round-robin phase before the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.


Veteran Flyers winger Michael Raffl has been part of the Austrian national team in various age groups right up to the men's national team. Unfortunately, because Austria is a secondary power in international hockey, he never played in the elite-level WJC. He did, however, represent Austria at the Division 1 Under 20 Worlds in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Raffl captained the team in the latter tourney, and piled up 13 points (5g, 8a) in 13 games. Later, he represented Austria's senior national team multiple times at the World Championships, Olympic qualification tourney, and the 2014 Olympics.

Not included in the totals above are second-year Phantoms/Reading Royals goaltender Felix Sandström, third-year pro center German Rubtsov, third-year pro winger David Kase, second-year Phantoms forward Maksim Sushko or restricted free agent center Mikhail Vorobyev.

Sandström played for Team Sweden at the 2015-16 and 2016-17 WJC tournaments. 
Rubtsov represented Russia at the 2016-17 (a broken nose during the tourney curtailed his participation) and 2017-18 tourneys. Kase played for the Czech Republic 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 editions.

Sushkko captained Team Belarus at the 2017-18 tourney and led the team with eight points (2g, 6a) in six games. He also played for Belarus at the 2016-17 and 2018-19 Division 1 Under-20 Worlds, captaining the latter team. Vorobyev posted a tournament leading 10 assists and scored a gold-medal game shootout goal for silver medalist Russia at the 2016-17 WJC tournament.

Additionally, it should be noted that Flyers center Nolan Patrick was a Hockey Canada fast-track player in different age categories. However, bilateral sport hernias kept him out of the 2016-17 World Juniors in his draft year. The next year, he was in the NHL with the Flyers.

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