Rangers 2005 first-round draft pick Marc Staal
had a big hand Thursday in Canada's winning the World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal.
The Canadians beat Russia 5-0 in Vancouver to claim their second consecutive title in the annual Under-20 World Chammpionship event, and Staal earned the Directorate Award as the tournament's best defenseman.
Past winners of this prestigious international award include the Rangers' own Darius Kasparaitis, as well as current NHL players Mattias Ohlund, Bryan McCabe and Teppo Numinen, and retired NHL stars Viacheslav Fetisov and Calle Johansson.
"I didn't really hear anything," Staal, a native of Thunder Bay, Ontario, told the Canadian Press after his team beat Russian on Thursday night. "I just kind of blacked out for a bit."
Staal had only one assist in the tournament, but officials recognized him for his stellar work at shutting down high-scoring opponents.
"I kind of wasn't really expecting it (the award) before the game or even after the game," Staal said. "It's a pretty big honor."
During the World Junior tournament, Staal, who plays with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, was paired on defense with Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Parent, who was also picked in the first round of last year's NHL Entry Draft.
Center Tom Pyatt, another Rangers prospect playing in the Ontario Hockey League, joined Staal on the victorious Team Canada squad.
This marked the first time in nine years that Canada has won back-to-back titles, with both victories coming under the direction of head coach Brent Sutter.
Staal's older brother Eric is currently starring for the Carolina Hurricanes and ranks among the NHL's top 10 scorers.
Other award winners at the tournament included Tuuka Rask, a Maple Leafs draftee named the top goaltender, and Evgeni Malkin, a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect drafted second overall in 2004.