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THROWBACK THURSDAY: World Junior pedigree

With the return of the IIHF World Junior Championship to Edmonton and Red Deer in 2021, we look at some notable Oilers who made their name in these cities at past tournaments.

by Jamie Umbach /

During the Oilers 40th Anniversary Season, is looking back at the history of the franchise weekly with Throwback Thursdays.

EDMONTON, AB - We've done the dance before with Calgary in 2012.

Now, Red Deer will join Edmonton in 2021 in hosting the 45th rendition of the IIHF World Junior Championship for the 13th time on Canadian soil.

Rogers Place has already had a taste of international hockey in its early days with the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the Canadian Women's National Team's 2-1 overtime win over the United States back in December of 2017, while Red Deer hosted the tournament in 1995.

Plenty of Oilers, past and present, played significant roles for their countries at World Juniors in Edmonton and Red Deer during those years in what has become one of Canada's favourite Christmas traditions. We take a look at some of those Oilers in today's edition Throwback Thursdays.

Oscar Klefbom - Sweden (2012)

It was a golden visit for Oscar Klefbom during one of his first visits to Edmonton after being drafted by the Oilers in the first round, 19th overall at the 2011 NHL Draft.

The Swedes went undefeated in their four preliminary round matches, scoring 26 goals and winning two big games beyond regulation against Switzerland and Russia, who they'd eventually meet in the finals with Canada crashing out in the semi's in a 6-5 thriller to the Russians that almost featured a five-goal comeback.

Sweden outshot Russia 58-17 in the gold-medal game, but needed overtime for Mika Zibanejad to score in overtime and send the Swedes into raptures with their first gold medal at the tournament since 1981 with a 1-0 win.

Klefbom recorded a goal and an assist in six games for Sweden, earning First-Team All-Star honours.

Ryan Smyth - Canada (1995)


Amid the madness of a Canadian gold-medal celebration, centre right, is an Oilers legend who needs no introduction.

Ryan Smyth scored two goals and five assists in seven games for Canada at the 1995 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Red Deer during a flawless 7-0-0 round robin for the Canadians. Back then, the tournament used a round-robin format with the top three teams at the end winning medals.

It was a year when number 94 also played 50 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors and his first three games as an Oiler after being drafted fourth overall in 1994. The Banff, AB native was also joined at the tournament by his eventual 2005-06 Oilers teammate Todd Harvey, who scored six goals.

Janne Niinimaa - Finland (1995)

By the time the 1995 tournament came around, Niinimaa was already a World Junior veteran. 

Donning the 'C' that year, the former Oiler for parts of six seasons lit the lamp twice and added three helpers in his second stint at the tournament for a Finland team that included Jussi Markkanen in between the pipes.

The Finns finished fourth, just missing bronze to their Scandinavian counterparts Sweden. Despite beating the United States and challenging Canada in a 6-4 defeat, they'd rue losses to the Czech Republic and Russia and end with a 3-3-1 record.

Niinimaa would continue to play a crucial role internationally for Finland at six World Championships and two Olympics in Nagano and Salt Lake City, winning one bronze medal.

Kevin Gravel - United States (2012)


It may not have been the tournament Gravel or the United States envisioned seven years ago, but the Kingsford, Michigan product would score a goal in six contests in his lone international tournament for his country.

After beating Denmark 11-3, the United States lost their following three games and found themselves in the relegation round. Despite comfortably staying up with Switzerland and Latvia, it would be a tournament to forget for the four-time gold medalists.

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