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Looking Back at Rangers Performances in World Juniors

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

While the NHL may be on its holiday break, things in Finland are just heating up, as the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship is underway.

Several Rangers prospects are currently representing their countries in this year's tournament, including American goaltender Brandon Halverson, forward Aleksi Saarela of Finland and goaltender Adam Huska of Slovakia.

While the fatest of those players is yet to be determined, the current batch of Blueshirts are filled with players who at one time represented their countries in the annual prospect tournament. In fact, 12 current Rangers played in at least one tournament back in their teen years.

Let's take a look back at those performances, broken down by country.

Team USA

The Rangers have two representatives of Team USA's 2010 Gold Medal squad in Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider. The 2010 tournament marks the only appearance for Stepan, but boy did he make the most of it, captaining the team and scoring four goals and 14 points in just seven games for the Americans in Saskatchewan, Canada.

"It's crazy. It's such a fun tournament," Stepan said. "You essentially get two weeks to bond with a group. You play seven games if you make it all the way. Essentially, it's the team that comes together the fastest is the one that's going to have the best chance."

His 14 points led the entire tournament and he was named to the tournament's all-star team, as the U.S. defeated Canada in the tournament's final match.

"You have to enjoy it," Stepan said. "It's just such a fun tournament. That's the biggest thing. You have to enjoy it. You know the building is going to be full. It's fun hockey."

Kreider, meanwhile, finished tied for sixth in goals with six in the seven-game tournament. He added an assist to finish at a point per game pace.

No. 20 would return the following season and put up similar numbers with four goals and two assists in six games, but Team USA would not match its overall success from the 2010 tournament.

J.T. Miller is the other American-born player with a Gold Medal to his name, capturing the championship at the 2013 games after a disappointing 2012 tournament. The 2011 first-round pick had a stellar tournament, scoring two goals and seven assists for nine points in seven games, including an assist in the Gold Medal game against Sweden.

After finishing seventh in 2012 with a team that is littered with NHLers, Miller said the 2013 squad was just a hard-working group that got the job done.

"It was an awesome experience, especially to do it with more of my friends, my draft class, the '93s, a lot more buddies," said Miller, who added how grateful he was to the Rangers for allowing him to leave Hartford for the tournament. "It was a real special time."

Miller also played for Team USA at the 2012 games, scoring two goals and two assists in six games.

Captain Ryan McDonagh appeared in one WJC back in 2009, where he had three assists in six games. Forward Emerson Etem was a member of both 2011 and 2012 squads, where he posted a goal and five points in 12 games.

Team Sweden

Forwards Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast were teammates on Sweden's 2011 squad when the tournament was held in Buffalo. Fast finished the tournament with four goals and two assists for six points in six games, while Lindberg had an impressive four points in the six games.

"It's a very fun tournament," Fast said. "Probably the biggest tournament you can play at that age. It's a very exciting time and just being around those types of players, it's the best players at that age from around the world."

A little further back in time saw a young goaltender named Henrik Lundqvist man the net for Sweden in back-to-back tournaments in 2001 and 2002. While Sweden didn't capture a medal in either year, Lundqvist was strong, finishing in the top-five in save percentage both seasons.

Team Canada

Defenseman Marc Staal picked up back-to-back Gold Medals with team Canada in both 2006 and 2007. Staal finished his first tournament -- held in British Columbia -- with an assist in six games, and was pointless in the 2007 tournament.

"Definitely two tournaments that as an early amateur hockey player is one of the greatest experiences of my life up to that point," Staal said. "Going from playing in the junior ranks to playing in Vancouver to a sold out, crazy crowd was a blast. Definitely a lot of fond memories going back."

Rick Nash appeared in his only tournament back in 2002 when his one goal and two points in seven games helped lead the Canadians to Silver in the Czech Republic.

The thing Nash remembers most is getting the opportunity to play for his country at such a young age.

"It was fun to represent your country on a national level, worldwide for the first time," said Nash, who has since appeared in three Olympic games for Canada. "World Juniors is such a big deal in Canada, and I'm sure a big deal around the world. It's exciting to be at a young age and represent."

Lastly, Kevin Klein skated in in the 2004 tournament for Canada. The team finished second to the United States.

Team Norway

Forward Mats Zuccarello competed in his one and only World Junior Championship tournament back in 2006, when he finished with two assists for the Norwegians in British Columbia.

"Coming from Norway, especially, it's a big thing for us. It's like the World Championships or the Olympics for us, playing with all the big dogs that were drafted or was going to be drafted," Zuccarello recalled. "For us, it was amazing. It's something you take with you for the rest of your life for sure."

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