Which Ten NHL Teams Did The Best at The WJHC In Buffalo ?

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2011

Which Ten NHL Teams Did The Best at The WJHC In Buffalo ?

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    The Russian junior team won the gold medal this year at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. After losing their first two games of the tournament to Canada and Sweden, they went on a six-game unbeaten run to take it all.

    The Russians beat Finland 4-3 in overtime in the quarterfinals and then Sweden 4-3 in a shoot-out in the semifinals.

    The Russian team then came back from a 3-0 deficit to Canada in the third period to win the gold medal game 5-3 and become the best U-20 hockey nation in the world.  

    NHL draft picks who are still under the age of 20 and have not made it to the big leagues yet are featured every year in this tournament.

    It's a good opportunity to see how the best of these young players do in a high-pressured international competition against the rest of the best in the world.

    This slideshow is a quick look at the 10 NHL teams whose prospects had the best tournament at the 2010/11 IIHF U-20 hockey championship.      

10. Nashville Predators

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    The Predators only had two players at the tournament. They were beauties.

    One was defenseman Ryan Ellis, who was chosen Team Canada's captain and as the best defenseman at the tournament. The tiny offensive play-maker lead all defensemen at the tournament in scoring with 10 points in seven games.

    The slick skater had a great tournament for Canada and looks to be an offensive contributor at the NHL level despite his size (5'10", 170 lbs).

    The other Nashville prospect was Swedish right winger Patrick Cehlin. Another 5'10" 170 pound player, Cehlin was a contributor on a very fast, very good Swedish team. Cehlin had four goals and six points in five games for the Swedes.

    He tied Jesper Fasth for the team lead in scoring despite missing the bronze medal game vs. the US due to injury. He was fast on a very fast team and strong on the puck for his size.    

9. New York Islanders

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    There were four Islander prospects featured at the World Junior Tournament this year.

    The most highly regarded going in was Nino Niederreitter of the Swiss national team. Nino had a fabulous tournament last year, but he didn't dominate the same way this year. The Swiss finished a respectable fifth this year beating the Finns in their playoff game.

    Nino had a good tournament with two goals and four points in six games. He still looks good at this level of hockey, big and fast. He was perhaps a little more fearless at last year's World Juniors when he impressed so much.

    Casey Cizikas (pictured above) was strong for the silver medal-winning Canadiens. His three points in seven games were augmented by his tireless penalty killing and forechecking. He looks like he can play a role at the NHL level.

    Calvin De Haan was solid on defense for Canada often playing in the No. 1 pair. He had five assists in six games to go with his solid defensive play. 

    Brock Nelson got in five games for team USA. He was a physical presence at this level. He has NHL size but the fear has to be that his lack of offense won't ever allow him to join an NHL roster. He could potentially be an NHL energy line player. 

    Three out of four of the Islander prospects still look like quality NHL players in the making. Nelson could make it too and perhaps his offensive chops will surprise in the future. 

8. Dallas Stars

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    Dallas didn't have as many prospects performing at the World Juniors as some NHL teams did, but they certainly managed to send some quality players to the tournament.

    Jack Campbell couldn't duplicate last year's gold-medal winning performance. He was chosen as the starter from the beginning this year and he managed well. He played all six games for the Americans, leading the tournament with a .941 save percentage.

    He had a second-best 1.70 GAA behind only Joni Ortio of Finland (1.69). Campbell was chosen the best goalie of the U-20 World Championship this year. His only loss was to Canada, 4-1 in the semi-finals.

    John Klingberg was a swift, skating defenseman for the fourth-place Swedish team. He was an excellent puck mover on a very good Swedish team. He needs to add some muscle, but is still only 18. 

    Klingberg managed a goal and an assist in six games.    

    Patrik Nemeth for Sweden had two assists at the tournament. The defenseman has better size than Klingberg (6' 3" 212 pounds) but doesn't seem to have the same set of skills. 

7. New York Rangers

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    The Rangers had four quality players at the World Juniors.

    Chris Kreider lead team USA with four goals and tied Charlie Coyle for the team lead with six points. He was a dangerous offensive force whenever he was on the ice.

    He was a key to the defeat of a great Team Sweden in the bronze medal game. He had two goals in that final game, the first and the last. 

    Jesper Fasth, a winger with the Swedish team, had an equally good tournament for his country. Speedy and dangerous, he tied Patrick Cehlin for the team lead with four goals and six points in six games. 

    Ryan Bourque had a fair tournament making plays and skating hard. He didn't manage to score for what turned out to be a tight defensive, but offensively challenged US team.

    Bourque has NHL speed and pedigree, but the rest still needs to arrive. The tiny left winger is developing every year.

    The last Ranger was Czech winger Roman Horak. He managed an assist and 15 shots in five games for the seventh-place Czechs. His purported offensive skills didn't show at this tournament.  

6. Detroit Red Wings

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    Detroit never has the high picks that a lot of the other teams on this list have, and yet their prospects always seem to be of the highest quality. Detroit may just be the best drafting team in the NHL.

    Teemu Pulkkinen led Finland through a very successful tournament. Despite the loss of touted prospect Michael Granlund before the World Juniors, the Finnish team was second to the US in Group A, with only a Boxing Day overtime loss to the Americans to mar their record in the round robin.

    Pulkinnen had three goals and nine points in six games. Previous international success had been partially attributed to success with the aforementioned Wild prospect Granlund.

    This was an opportunity for Teemu to prove his skills without Granlund around. He took advantage. The 111th pick overall from last year's NHL entry draft is looking more like a steal.

    Calle Jarnkrok for the Swedish U-20 team had five points in six games while helping the Swedes finish fourth. He was yet another of a group of highly skilled, quick skating Swedes, in Buffalo this year.

    Andrei Nestarsil was part of what had to be another disappointing performance by the Czech team at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He had a goal and two assists for the Czech team.

    Despite his speed and reasonable size, he didn't really dazzle on a team that finished seventh. He did score his goal in the game versus Slovakia, where they beat them 5-2 to finish seventh.The undrafted Martin Frk and Jacub Jerabek were the stars for the Czechs at this year's tournament.  

    Mitch Callahan scored a goal for Team USA. He was a feisty presence on the American team this year, but his size and average skating may limit his ability to be the same in the NHL.

5. Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Recent world junior tournaments have highlighted Lightning stars like Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. This year while the best of the best weren't Tampa Bay prospects, some very good ones still appeared.

    Richard Panik led a struggling Slovakian team to an eighth-place finish behind the Czech U-20 squad. He tied Brayden Schenn for the goal scoring lead in the tournament with eight in six games.

    His ten points tied him with Ryan Ellis for fourth most points in the championship. He scored both his team's goals in their last loss to the Czech Republic. 

    Compatriot Adam Janosik had five assists for Slovakia in six games. Janosik is a defensemen built on the Ryan Ellis model. He looks to have great offensive skills and just needs to add some size and strength to make the NHL. 

    Right winger Carter Ashton has a good tournament for Canada. He was a strong defensive presence and tough on the cycle. He managed a goal and two assists in seven games for Canada. 

    Brett Connolly is a pure scorer who had trouble doing so at this year's World Juniors. The 18-year-old only managed three assists ,but he should be expected back next year as an offensive leader on Team Canada. He suffered a concussion just before the tournament started.  

4. Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers have a surfeit of young talent in their organization. A lot of it was highlighted at this year's U-20 hockey championship in Buffalo.

    Eric Gudbranson was drafted third overall behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin last summer. The towering defenseman had a great offensive tournament for Team Canada with three goals and two assists in seven games.

    His quality point shot paid off for the Canadian team. Eric was good on the back end as well, though he did have trouble containing some of the world's fastest skaters.

    Quinton Howden had a useful tournament for the silver medal-winning Canadians. His two goals and three assists included the game winner vs. the Americans in the semi-final.  

    Joonas Donskoi was a point-a-game player with three goals in six games for a good fifth-place Finnish squad. His versatility at both ends of the ice make the winger look more like a quality NHL player. He is still only 18.

    The fourth Panther was Nick Bjugstad of the American team. Nick had two goals and two assists in six games. The hulking winger sometimes looked lost out on the ice against a lot of much faster players.

    He did score the game-winning goal vs. the Swedes in the bronze medal game. Nick is another 18-year-old with plenty of time to bloom.   

3. St Louis Blues

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    Vladamir Tarasenko led the Blues' prospects at the World Juniors. He had four goals and 11 points in seven games for the gold medal-winning Russian team.

    Tarasenko scored the tying goal and assisted on the winning goal in the gold medal game against Canada. He was one of the most dominant players for the Russians in what was an incredibly difficult tournament to win. Tarasenko looks to be a can't-miss offensive force in the NHL.   

    Sebastien Wannstrom was one more talented Swedish prospect at this year's U-20's. Wannstrom had a goal and four assists in six games and was a constant threat to score throughout the tournament.  

    Jaden Schwartz for the silver medal-winning Canadian team started strong with a goal and two assists in Canada's first two games of the tournament: a 6-3 win over Russia and a 7-2 win over the Czech Republic.

    Unfortunately, before he scored his goal in the Czech game his ankle had already been rolled over and fractured. The injury kept him out of the rest of what was looking to be a very good tournament for Jaden.  

2. Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals were the team with the most prospects on the gold medal-winning Russian team. It looks like their willingness to draft Russian players may pay off for them soon.

    Evgeny Kuznetsov was the leading scorer on the Russian team this year with four goals and twelve points in seven games. Like Tarasenko, he was crucial to powering the Russian Cinderella gold medal win.

    He had the game winner in overtime vs. the Finnish team in their first elimination game. Kuznetsov had three assists in the gold medal game vs. Canada. He proved to be an unstoppable skater at this level.

    Dmitri Orlov was the second highest scoring defenseman at the World Junior Hockey Championship with 10 points in seven games. The play-maker was unpredictable with the puck in every game.

    He got into trouble at the blue-line and in his own zone on occasion, but his offensive skills more than balanced that out. 

    Cody Eakin, a center with the silver medal-winning Canadians, had three points in six games. It was hoped he and Brett Connolly would step up offensively for Canada when Jaden Schwartz went down, but it never really happened. Eakin is quick and a natural scorer but his size may become an issue at the NHL level.

    Patrick Wey was a defenseman on what proved to be a very tight defensive core on the bronze medal winning American team. He didn't make an offensive contribution at the World Juniors but didn't look out of place getting the puck out of his own zone.  

    Phillip Grubauer was one of the goalies on the German U-20 team. He was yanked after giving up four goals in the first period versus Switzerland in Germany's first game.

    He put up a better show vs. Slovakia losing 2-1 in overtime, but then was yanked again against Finland for Nicklas Treutle. He played against the Czechs and lost and didn't play again. He doesn't look to be the next Olaf Kolzig in Washington.    

1. LA Kings

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    This appearance by LA Kings prospects at the World Junior Hockey Championship is reminiscent of what happened in 2002 in the gold medal game.

    That year, Russia beat Canada in a back-and-forth 5-4 game in which Alexander Frolov lead his team past a Mike Cammalleri-led Canadian team. The two stars at the time were both LA King prospects.    

    Brayden Schenn lead all scorers at the tournament with eight goals and 18 points in seven games. This was despite struggling with a shoulder injury late in the playoff rounds.

    Schenn was chosen as the best forward of the tournament and World Junior MVP. He was unstoppable early and had six more points than the best Russian, Kuznetsov. Schenn is progressing nicely. Look for him to stay in LA next year.

    Maxim Kitsyn was a key member of the winning Russian team. The LA prospect had five goals and nine points in seven games. Kitsyn played with Kuznetsov throughout the tournament and didn't look out of place.

    Kitsyn is a streaky scorer and had three of his goals versus Slovakia. He looked consistently good once the Russians were in the playoffs.  

    Derek Forbort was the third King playing at the World Juniors. Forbort made no offensive contributions on Team USA, but he was impeccable in his own zone, always getting the puck out in a hurry. He looked like a quality shut-down defender and puck mover at the U-20's.