Rangers prospects Marc Staal, Tom Pyatt, Marc-Andre Cliche and Artem Anisimov are playing for the World Junior Championship gold medal today in Leksand, Sweden -- giving the Rangers more prospecdts in the gold medal game than any other NHL team.
For nearly 30 years, the World Junior Championships have been the No. 1 international predictor of future NHL stardom for players under 20. Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg are just a few of the countless superstars who made their mark in past World Juniors.
Staal, Pyatt and Cliche reached today's title game after their Canadian squad beat Team USA in a dramatic seven-round overtime shootout on Wednesday in Leksand.
Canada's 2-1 win over a U.S. team that had begun the tournament with two losses gives it a chance to win a third consecutive gold. Both Staal and Pyatt were members of last year's Canadian team, while Cliche is now assured of at least a silver medal in his first World Junior event.
In today's gold-medal game, Team Canada will face the Russian team that includes Rangers 2006 second-round draft pick Artem Anisimov.
In another game already completed today, Team USA defeated host nation Sweden 2-1 for the bronze medal. Defenseman Erik Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick of the St. Louis Blues last June, scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period.
The Russians had beaten the Swedes 4-2 in Wednesday's other semifinal, and Anisimov had a big hand in the victory. As a result of Russia's win, the Rangers became assured of having more draft picks in the gold-medal game than any other NHL team.
In the Canadians' victory, Staal played on the top defensive pairing with Ryan Parent and managed one shot on goal in the second period. Pyatt, who was on Canada's No. 2 line, finished the game with two shots, while Cliche skated on the third line but did not register a shot.
The U.S. team scored first on Wednesday when Edmonton second-round draft pick Taylor Chorney connected on a power play at 5:04 of the second period. Canada's Luc Bourdon, a first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, forced the overtime on a power play with 7:41 to go in the third period.
Team USA outshot Canada 12-2 in the 10-minute overtime and 35-28 for the game, but could not beat Canadian goaltender Carey Price, a Montreal Canadiens draftee. American goaltender Jeff Frazee, a New Jersey Devils prospect, was equally sharp through 70 minutes. It was not until Round 7 of the shootout when Canada's Jonathan Toews came up with the goal that sent his nation into the championship game.
The game ended with Price stopping Peter Mueller to seal the win. Mueller had earlier beaten Price in the shootout's second round. Five of seven Canadian shots went in against Frazee during the game-ending shootout, while four of seven American shots beat Price.
In Russia's 4-2 win over Sweden on Wednesday, Rangers prospect Anisimov, a 6-foot-3 forward taken 54th overall at last June's NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, scored an even-strength goal at 4:16 of the second period, giving Russia a 3-1 lead at the time.
Playing on his team's third line, Anisimov now has two goals in the tournament. On Wednesday, he scored on his only shot on goal and finished the game with a plus-3 rating.