It can be argued that Goaltender is the ultimate pressure position in sports, and the World Junior Hockey Championships are perhaps the biggest stage for young aspiring NHLers. A spectacular tournament can lead to speculation of an upcoming future as a starting goalie in the NHL, and a bad tournament can tarnish a young goalies reputation forever.
However, does a great tournament mean success in the NHL, or are the WJC's a poor barometer for how well a young goalie will fare in the NHL?
Marc-Andre Fleury's Junior career was spectacular at times as he was named the Tournament MVP and Top Goaltender in 2003. Both tournaments that he played in ended in Silver medals, and without two brain cramps in the 2004 final he would have one gold as well.
Fleury's performance at the WJC's pegged him for stardom and so far he has delivered in the NHL. Already having led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals and putting up a valiant effort against a stellar Detroit squad Fleury has cemented his name among the top goaltenders in the league today.
Roberto was anointed the next big thing in goaltending after he was named to the WJC All-Star team and the tournaments Top Goaltender in 1999. He has continued that success in the NHL.
After being an perennial All-Star mired on a defensively deficient Florida Panthers team for four years Luongo has moved on to Vancouver where despite a being supported by a pop-gun offense he has managed to lead them into the second round of the playoffs.
This year, Roberto was named captain and is considered by many to be the best goaltender in the NHL.
Justin Pogge was sensational at the WJC's in 2006. He put up remarkable numbers in the final three games of the tournament: a 1.00 GAA, three Shutouts, and a .933 S%. He was also named Tournament MVP and the Tournaments Top Goaltender.
Despite this Pogge has looked very shaky in his five games with the Maple leafs this year allowing 20 goals and posting a very poor .855 S%.
It would be unfair to write him off now as he is a young goalie playing on a horrible Leafs team, but his poor fundamentals and erratic style of play make it seem like he is not a good fit for the new NHL.
Mike was spectacular in the 1982 WJC's. He led Canada to a gold medal, was named to the Tournament All-Star team and was named the tournaments Top Goaltender. Unfortunately for Moffat, this early success did not translate into the NHL where he played 19 total games for the Boston Bruins over three seasons.
He never managed to record a shutout and he ended his career in AHL playing for the Nova Scotia Oilers. Mike is one of many goalies who have failed to parlay WJC success into the NHL.
Overall it is tough to say whether the WJC are an accurate depiction of how well a young goaltender will fare in the NHL. A gold medal does not always mean a Stanley Cup, and shooting a puck off your own defenceman and into your own net, a la Fleury, does not mean that you will be a dud in the crease in the big leagues.
I think that the team in front of you has a great deal to do with how well a goalie plays, and in Justin Pogge's case we can see that this is turning out to be true.
The WJC's allow young goaltenders the chance to showcase their skills, but in the end the tournament cannot make or break a career.