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Denisenko Captains Russia to Silver at 2020 World Juniors

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

Grigori Denisenko has added another medal to his mantle.

A year removed from winning bronze at the tournament in 2019, the Florida Panthers prospect is now bringing home a silver medal after Russia lost the lead late in a 4-3 loss to Canada in the final game of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Sunday.

Selected 15th overall by the Panthers in the 2018 NHL Draft, Denisenko had yet another stellar showing at the event, recording a team-leading nine points (three goals, six assists) while also serving as Russia's captain. Last year, he finished tied for event's scoring lead with nine points.

In the championship game, the 19-year-old forward assisted on his team's first goal and then banged in a rebound late in the middle frame to give Russia a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission. But in the third, Canada scored three goals to secure the 4-3 final and win gold.

Tweet from @HeresYourReplay: 🚨 Grigori Denisenko2-1 RUS🎥 @TSN_Sports #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/2McoNUlmpL

Making his final appearance at the U-20 tournament, Denisenko has posted seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in two career trips to the World Juniors.

"Denisenko didn't have the points that he had last season, but he was clearly one of Russia's best players, and his talent was evident whenever he was on the ice," The Athletic's Corey Pronman wrote in his summary of the tournament. "He's a dynamic skater, puck handler and playmaker who played with a lot of energy and created significant amounts of offense."

Suiting up for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in Russia's top men's league, the KHL, Denisenko, who is in the final year of his contract with the club, has notched four goals and four assists in 27 games.

While he didn't medal, Spencer Knight also had a great showing at the tournament.

Manning the crease for the United States, Florida's 2019 first-round pick owned a 2-2-0 record behind a 2.49 goals-against average and .913 save percentage over four starts. Named one of USA's top-three players, he was also honored as a player of the game on multiple occasions.

In USA's 1-0 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals on Jan. 2, he stopped 28 of 29 shots.

Tweet from @HeresYourReplay: Great save here by 🇺🇸 Spencer Knight on 🇫🇮 Lenni Killinen to keep this 0-0🎥 @TSN_Sports #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/5frKAZjT4O

As consolation, Knight, who will be eligible to compete in the World Juniors again next year, did receive an award upon his return home. On Monday, the 18-year-old was named Hockey East's "Goaltender of the Month" for December after stopping a combined 53 of the 54 shots to lift No. 4 Boston College to a home-and-home sweep of No. 14 Notre Dame before heading overseas.

Fifteen games into his freshman season, Knight has gone 11-4-0 -- including a nine-game winning streak -- with a 1.73 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and four shutouts.

"For a freshman to put up the numbers he has a on a team that I guess you would say was fairly suspect coming into the season, they turned that program around in a hurry and Spencer is a big part of that," Panthers Director of Player Personnel Bryan McCabe said. "I believe he's got four shutouts as a freshman. His numbers are off the charts."

Last but not least, Justin Schütz also didn't medal, but did achieve his goal.

After helping Germany return to the top division with a win at last year's 2019 IIHF 1A World Junior Championship, the 19-year-old forward made sure that his home country would remain there by racking up two assists in a 6-0 win over Kazakhstan in the relegation final on Sunday.

"I think German hockey's rising a little bit," Schütz said at Florida's development camp this past summer. "We performed well in the U18 and U20. Next year, we're just trying to stay up in the top division. That's the challenge… It's going to be tough, but we're going to do it."

A sixth-round pick (170th overall) by the Panthers in 2018, Schütz finished the tournament with four assists, including a gorgeous helper in Germany's 6-3 loss to the United States on Dec. 27.

Tweet from @HeresYourReplay: 🚨 Dominik Bokk3-2 GER pic.twitter.com/eE4ctkhoNX

After spending most of last season with junior clubs and with EC Salzburg II in the Alps Hockey League, Schütz will now return to the DEL, which is Germany's top men's league. In 25 games with Munich EHC, he ranks third in the league among U-20 players in scoring with 10 points.

Photo Credit: Andrea Leigh Cardin

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