OTTAWA - A report card look at Canada's world junior championship team following Monday's 5-1 win over Sweden in the gold-medal game:
Another gold medal deserves a top grade. This team occasionally looked like the kid who only studies subjects he's good at, but they turned out to be a well-rounded squad on the final exam. One of the top-two scoring teams in the history of the tournament played defence in the final. Grade: A.
Not big up front, but they played tough and made up for defensive shortcomings by scoring early and often. Oshawa Generals forward John Tavares showed why he's is the front-runner to go first overall in the NHL draft with a tournament-leading eight goals in six games. Both he and Cody Hodgson may be only 18 and eligible to play for Canada again in 2010, but they'll likely be in the NHL. Hodgson, who led the tournament in points, was the perfect playmaking foil to Tavares's finish at the net when Canada was a man up. Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats scored the biggest goal of the tournament with five seconds left against the Russians to keep his country's hopes for gold alive. The checking line of Evander Kane, who is just 17, Patrice Cormier and Stefan Della Rovere was a thorn in the side of the opposing team's top lines. Grade: A.
Occasionally out of position and unhelpful to goaltender Dustin Tokarski, Canada's blue-line put it together in the final to limit the high-flying Swedes to only one goal. In defence of the defence, they were not tested at all in Canada's first three games and then suddenly had to flip a switch against teams that could take the play to them. Captain Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds was a steadying influence in his demeanour and his play when Canada quickly fell behind the U.S. 3-0 in the preliminary round. Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires played beyond his 17 years. His stock for the 2009 NHL draft should be on the rise. Belleville's P.K. Subban was the darling of Scotiabank Place for his daring darts into the offensive zone. Grade: B.
Dustin Tokarski didn't look like a gold-medal goaltender in his two starts prior to the final, but his performance in the final was another classic by a Canadian netminder. Thirty-nine saves and bailing his team out at the end of the second period when they were in penalty trouble went a long way in a securing a fifth gold medal. Grade: B+.
What sets Canada apart from other countries who may have more talent in this tournament is coaching. Pat Quinn replaced Benoit Groulx as head coach in September and he barely knew his players' names at the end of selection camp. But with his vast hockey experience in both the NHL and international hockey, he was able to quickly identify the team's strengths and weaknesses and didn't try to make it something it wasn't. Credit also goes to assistants Guy Boucher, for his power-play smarts, Willie Desjardins and Dave Cameron. Grade: A.