The 2016 World Junior Championship tournament came to a close in Helsinki, Finland Tuesday afternoon with the host country winning the gold medal in overtime over Nashville Predators prospect and Milwaukee Admirals forward Vladislav Kamenev and Russia, 4-3.
Kamenev had himself quite a tournament. The Russian captain potted five goals and added an assist for six points in seven games. If that wasn’t enough, three of those five goals came in the clutch. He scored the game-tying goal inside the final minute of the quarterfinal to force overtime against Denmark and then, once in the extra session, bagged the game-winner. Then, on the grand stage that was the Championship game, Kamenev opened the scoring with a laser of a shot that beat the goaltender five-hole.
The lone Nashville representative in the tournament will return to Milwaukee of the AHL with a silver medal around his neck.
Inside the Preds dressing room on Tuesday morning, players from all over the globe were sharing their own World Juniors experiences so I asked each of them to name their favorite World Junior memory.
Full disclosure: players that won gold medals weren’t allowed to choose that oh-so-obvious answer. (Some worked it in anyway.)
Filip Forsberg (Sweden: 2012 in Alberta, 2013 in Ufa, 2014 in Malmo)
“Excluding the gold medal game in Calgary, it’s probably the whole experience playing at home in front of all the Swedish fans. That was probably one of the best tournaments I’ve ever played in. Obviously, it was a terrible ending [when we lost in the final] but it was a great experience for sure.”
Ryan Ellis (Canada: 2009 in Ottawa, 2010 in Saskatchewan, 2011 in Buffalo)
“Any chance you get to represent your country on any kind of stage — especially that one — it’s very exciting. I got a chance to captain the team and we had a lot of success. It was a big honor for me. It was in Buffalo and we had a lot of fun there. We came a period away from winning it all so it ended in heartbreak but the whole experience was a good one.”
Austin Watson (USA: 2012 in Alberta)
“Just being at the tournament itself. Being an American kid, you grow up watching that [tournament] after Christmas. It’s an exciting time for all young hockey players. You get to see the best players who are 18, 19 and 20 years old, it’s pretty special. So, I think just being there in Calgary and Edmonton, being able to represent your country, is pretty special. It’s kinda funny. I got a tooth knocked out in an exhibition game so, when they had all the meetings [announcing the final cuts] I was at the dentist. I came back and got the word [that I had made the team] a little late. It was a relief because you’re there a couple weeks before and then you make it and you get that rush of excitement like ‘I’m going to be playing in the tournament?” and it’s just really special.”
Roman Josi (Switzerland: 2008 in Pardubice/Liberec, 2010 in Saskatchewan)
“The one I played in in Canada was definitely special. I mean, I got hurt in one of the games and couldn’t play anymore but the first couple games I played in were awesome. The crowd was great and we ended up winning the quarterfinal against Russia so it was definitely special in a good and bad way too because of my injury but that was a fun one. It’s the biggest tournament for juniors, it was a lot of fun and I was very excited to play for my home country.”
Cody Hodgson (Canada: 2009 in Ottawa)
“I think just standing on the blueline. When you’re in the tournament, it’s such a bubble. You don’t really realize what’s going on around you or anything like that, you just kind of stay focused on what you need to do. So, the final buzzer goes and you realize you’ve won and you’re standing on the blueline singing your own national anthem. It was pretty unique having it in Canada too so all my family and friends and relatives, grandparents, aunts, unlces, everyone was in the crowd so I got to share it with them. That’s what I remember the most.”
Petter Granberg (Sweden: 2012 in Alberta)
“Oh it was great. We had a great group of guys. It was four years ago and it turned out we won the tournament. It was a great experience and great feeling. It was so much fun. Every hockey player wants to represent their home country so I have great memories from the tournament. I’ve got my medal in a bag back at the hotel. This year, I’m bringing it with me. I mean, not for every road trip or anything but, instead of keep it in Sweden, I brought it here.”
Colin Wilson (USA: 2008 in Pardubice/Liberec, 2009 in Ottawa)
“The first year I made it, I didn’t know for sure I was going to make it so I was extremely excited. Growing up in Canada, I knew how big of a deal the World Juniors was. It’s a surreal experience to start with. You grow up watching it and it’s a cult around hockey so it was just exciting to be a part of it. You’re representing your country so you feel like you’re going into battle almost. Especially when you’re playing Canada and other countries that you’ve [built rivalries] with, it’s a lot of fun to play.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua