For the second year in a row, Islanders 2006 first-round draft pick, Kyle Okposo
will help lead a talented American squad at the 2008 World Junior Championship, taking place this year in Liberec and Pardubice, Czech Republic from December 26-January 5. Joining Okposo is Islanders 2006 fourth-round draft pick Rhett Rakhshani
, who will be making his first appearance at the World Juniors.
"As expected by their good showing at the Islanders Prospects Camp this summer, Kyle and Rhett will be joining the US team at the World Juniors," said assistant GM/Director of Amateur Scouting Ryan Jankowski. "Kyle is going to provide good leadership on this team having played last year, while Rhett also has plenty of international experience having skated with the Under-18 Junior National Team. They're going to provide a spark for the US offense at this year's tournament."
Also appearing in their first World Junior Championship are Swedish prospects forward Robin Figren – drafted by the Islanders in the third round in 2006 – and goaltender Stefan Ridderwall – selected in the seventh round.
"We are equally as excited for Robin and Stefan, who both persevered to make the tournament after missing out last year," said Jankowski. "Both players are off to excellent starts to their season. Robin has battled through injury, but will be healthy for the Tournament and Stefan has been effective, while playing limited time in the Swedish Elite League. Their attitude and exceptional competitiveness will help an underrated Swedish team."
At the 2007 World Junior Championship in Sweden, Okposo's US squad placed third, after defeating Sweden 2-1 in the Bronze Medal Game. The Americans fell to the Canadians 2-1 in a semifinal matchup that went into a shootout.
Okposo is currently playing in his second year with the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the WCHA. Last season, Okposo ranked second on the team in goals (19) and points (40) as a freshman. This season, Okposo is tied for the team lead with six goals through 16 games.
Fellow WCHA forward Rakhshani is a sophomore at rival Denver University, which currently ranks fourth in the nation. The Southern California native placed first on the team with 26 assists in his freshman year. This year, Rakhshani is second on the team with seven assists.
Figren is playing in his second season in the Western Hockey League, having traded in
|Robin Figren |
Swedish Junior hockey for Canadian Junior hockey last season. With the newly formed Edmonton Oil Kings, Figren is having a standout year. In 23 games, Figren leads Edmonton with 12 goals and 22 points.
Swedish counterpart Ridderwall is taking part in his first season in the Swedish Elite League having jumped from the junior ranks. Serving as Djurgardens' backup netminder, Ridderwall has compiled a record of 2-2-0 with a 2.62 goals against average and a .903 save percentage.
"We're proud of all of our kids competing at the World Juniors," said Jankowski. "We wish them great success."Check out the new Islanders TV feature "I on the Future." Click here to see the video with Kyle Okposo.