This December, the best hockey players under the age of 20 from around the globe will congregate in Ufa, Russia to take part in the World Junior Hockey Championship. If everything goes according to plan, four Dallas Stars prospects will be competing at the prestigious tournament.
Brett Ritchie (Canada), Radek Faksa (Czech Republic), Emil Molin (Sweden), and Esa Lindell (Finland) were all invited to their respective country’s selection camp recently and could be playing in the tournament later this month. It’s also notable to point out that although they aren’t Dallas prospects, two Plano, Texas natives, Seth Jones and Stefan Noesen, have both been invited to Team USA’s camp.
Forward Brett Ritchie, is having a breakout season in the Ontario Hockey League for the Niagara IceDogs. Earlier in the season, he was named the OHL “Player of the Week” for posting an eye-popping 10 goals, 3 assists and plus-7 rating in three games. A consistent offensive threat the entire season, Ritchie leads his team with 24 goals and ranks top-five in league scoring with 47 points. In all, he has 24 goals and 23 assists totaling 47 points in 30 games. To put that in perspective, only 11 players in the entire 20-team OHL have recorded over 40 points this season. Given his impressive production, it’s little surprise that Canada came calling to offer him a spot as one of 37 players on the selection camp roster.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound forward from Orangeville, Ont., was Dallas’ second-round selection (44th overall) in 2011. He’s in his fourth season in the OHL, where he’s posted 82 goals, and 80 assists, totaling 162 points in 197 games.
Forward Radek Faksa is looking to secure his spot on Czech Republic’s roster for the second time at the World Junior Championships after competing for his home country in 2012. He’s followed up his impressive rookie campaign this season by ranking second in scoring among all Kitchener Rangers with 7 goals, 17 assists and 24 points in 26 games.
The 6-foot-3 forward is from Opava, Czech Republic, but moved across the country to Trinec by himself at the age of 11 to pursue his dream to play in the NHL. Just last year, he moved to Canada to play for Kitchener, and this past summer, got one step closer to achieving his dream and was drafted by the Dallas Stars as their first-round selection (13th overall).
Forward Emil Molin is looking to crack the WJC line-up for his first time with Sweden, the defending World Champions. The native of Gavle, Sweden was invited to his home country’s selection camp after posting 3 points in 22 games for Byrnas in the Swedish Elite League. Molin was Dallas’ fourth-round selection (105th overall) in 2011.
Defenseman Esa Lindell has 4 points for Kiekko-Vantaa (2 goals, 2 assists) in eight games, and has yet to earn a point in 19 games for Jokerit in Finland’s top hockey league. Lindell was Dallas’ third-round selection (74th overall) in this year’s Draft.
All four of these players have participated in Dallas’ annual Development Camp at some point in the last two years, and with continued growth, could crack the lineup someday as NHL players.
For now, their focus will be on this year’s World Junior Championship. Although largely overlooked in the United States, the WJC is a major hockey event and arguably has the same level of intensity and competitiveness as hockey in the Winter Olympic Games. Each team is expected to finalize their rosters later this month, with the tournament commencing on Dec. 26 and ending on Jan. 5. Select round-robin games as well as all medal games will be broadcast nationally on NHL Network.