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Top 2012 Draft prospect Girgensons tops Latvia WJC camp roster

by Mike G. Morreale


Latvia will be in Group A at the 2012 World Junior Championship and play all its games at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Dec. 26 - Latvia vs. Sweden
Dec. 27 - Latvia vs. Slovakia
Dec. 29 - Latvia vs. Russia
Dec. 30 - Latvia vs. Switzerland
Jan. 2 - Quarterfinals
Jan. 3 - Semifinals
Jan. 5 - Gold medal/Bronze medal games
Following a one-year hiatus, Latvia returns to the top level of the World Junior Championship later this month, when it will take part in the 2012 WJC.

The Latvian Ice Hockey Federation released its 31-player pre-tournament roster Tuesday. Those players will report to Brooks, Alta., for a camp that begins Dec. 18. Coach Eriks Miluns will finalize his 22-man roster Dec. 23 in preparation for his team's preliminary-round opener against Sweden three days later at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

Latvia has never finished higher than eighth in two other appearances at the top-level World Junior Championship -- ninth in 2010 and eighth in 2009. This year Latvia will be in Group A along with Russia, Sweden Slovakia and Switzerland. The teams in Group B are Canada, the U.S., Czech Republic, Finland and Denmark.

Highlighting the Latvian roster is 2012 NHL Draft-eligible prospect Zemgus Girgensons, who plays for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League. Girgensons, who is committed to the University of Vermont next season, is considered by many to be the best prospect available from the USHL. In 18 games this season, Girgensons has 9 goals, 20 points and a plus-3 rating. He also leads the team with 8 power-play points and 62 shots on goal.

Another player to keep an eye on is 2012 draft prospect Theodor Blueger, who plays at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep in Faribault, Minn. According to NHL Central Scouting, Blueger, who is committed to Minnesota State for 2012, is a 'B Watch' player -- meaning he could be drafted anywhere from the third to fifth round in June.

The only player on the roster drafted by an NHL team is left wing Kristians Pelss, who was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round (No. 181) in 2010. Pelss is one of five returning players from last year's team that won the gold medal at the 2011 WJC Division I Group A in Belarus. He has 12 goals and 18 points in 28 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League this season.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale


GOALIES -- Rihards Cimermanis, HK Juniors (2012 draft eligible); Kristers Gudlevskis, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Elvis Merzlikins, HC Lugano, SUI (2012 draft eligible).

DEFENSEMEN -- Vladislavs Dudins, Olimpiya (2012 draft eligible); Kristers Freibergs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Nikita Kolesnikovs, Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL (2012 draft eligible); Krists Kalnins, AIK HK, SWE (2012 draft eligible); Kriss Lipsbergs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Kristaps Nimanis, Red Ducks, FIN (2012 draft eligible); Martins Mezulis, Rapperswil, SWE (2012 d raft eligible); Arturs Salija, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Edgars Siksna, SK Liepajas Metalurgs (2012 draft eligible); Sandis Sostaks, SK Liepajas Metalurgs (2012 draft eligible); Juris Ziemins, HK Juniors (2012 draft eligible); Pauls Zvirbulis, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible).

FORWARDS -- Toms Andersons, SC Bern, SUI (2012 draft eligible); Arturs Birstins, HC Most, CZE (2012 draft eligible); Theodor Blueger, Shattuck-St. Mary's, HS-MN (2012 draft eligible); Maris Dilevka, Sk Liepajas Metalurgs (2012 draft eligible); Zemgus Girgensons, Dubuque, USHL (2012 draft eligible); Pauls Hodzko, SK Liepajas Metalurgs (2012 draft eligible); Vitalijs Hvorostinins, Vaasas Sport (2012 draft eligible); Nikolajs Jelisejevs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible),Nikita Jevpalovs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Edgars Klavins, AIK J20, SWE (2012 draft eligible); Arturs Kuzmenkovs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Kristaps Legzdins, Syrianska HK, SWE (2012 draft eligible); Roberts Lipsbergs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Kristians Pelss, Edmonton, WHL (Edmonton); Davis Straupe, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible); Kirils Tambijevs, HK Riga (2012 draft eligible).
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