POULIOT PLAYING FOR CANADA
There has been a lot of attention on the Penguins' elite defensive prospects like Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin for what they are doing at the NHL level, and deservedly so.
And while the future is now for them, it hasn't come yet for another blue-chip blueliner in Derrick Pouliot. However, his sure is bright with the way he is playing for both his junior team and his country.
Pouliot, taken eighth overall by the Penguins in the 2012 NHL Draft (which also brought Maatta and Dumoulin to the organization), is currently representing Canada in the 2014 World Junior Championship from Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Malmo, Sweden. This is the Saskatchewan native’s first time playing in the tournament, as he nearly made Canada’s roster last year before being one of the final omissions as one of the youngest players invited to camp.
Pouliot, 19, recorded two assists to help Team Canada – which is coached by Brent Sutter, the father of Penguins center Brandon Sutter – open the tournament with a 7-2 win over Germany on Thursday. Pouliot will be looking to help his country rebound from its tough finish last year, where Russia defeated Canada 6-5 in overtime to win the bronze medal – sending the Canadians home without a medal for the first time since 1998.
Before traveling overseas with Team Canada, Pouliot had been starring for the defending Western Hockey League champion Portland Winterhawks. The gifted, smooth-skating offensive defenseman, in his fourth full season with the team, leads all Winterhawks defensemen in scoring and ranks ninth among league blueliners with 30 points (9G-21) in 28 games played.
Pouliot was one of the last cuts at his first Penguins training camp this September. If he responds to that like he did to being left off Canada’s roster for last year’s World Junior Championship, there’s certainly a chance we could see the future power-play quarterback in Pittsburgh sooner rather than later.
SUNDQVIST PLAYING FOR SWEDEN
Pouliot isn’t the only Penguins prospect playing in his first World Junior Championship: forward Oskar Sundqvist
, Pittsburgh’s third-round draft pick (81st overall) in 2012, is representing the tournament’s host country. The Swedes were silver medalists last year, losing 3-1 to the United States in the gold medal game.
They've been called the team to beat in this year's tournament, and did nothing to discourage that sentiment with a 5-3 win over Switzerland in their opening game on Thursday. Newcomer Sundqvist made a big impact in the contest for his country, scoring a goal and going 9-3 on faceoffs.
The 19-year-old is currently playing in Sweden’s top professional league for Skelleftea. Thus far, he has nine points (3G-6A) in 32 regular-season games as one of the league’s youngest players.
WHERE TO WATCH TEAM USA
Washington, Pa. native Riley Barber is captaining Team USA at the tournament. All of their games will be broadcast on NHL Network and streamed live at NHL.com (watching on the web is available in the U.S. only), and Pittsburgh’s own Steve Mears will be calling play-by-play for all of those contests. For the full schedule and more information, click here.