A preview of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships
Every year around this time, young hockey players aspiring to turn pro someday are given the opportunity to showcase their abilities knowing that scouts are watching and to represent their country. The 2012 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation)’s annual World Junior Championships get under way from Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. Team USA, which won the Gold medal back in January 2010, defeating Canada in overtime, and won Bronze last year in Buffalo, opens against Denmark tonight at 8 PM (games are televised on the NHL Network in the U.S.).
You might be wondering “why should I care about these prospects right now?” Well, the New Jersey Devils had two prospects that were invited to Team USA’s tryout camp for this year’s W.J.C. roster. The first was forward Reid Boucher, who was the Devils’ 4th round pick in this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Boucher is 5’9″ and most known for his incredibly accurate shot, as well as his stick-handling ability. The 18-year old did not make Team USA’s roster this year, but he certainly has the skill to warrant another tryout next year.
The other Devils prospect to get a crack at Team USA’s roster was defenseman Jonathan Merrill, the Devils’ 1st draft pick in 2010. Merrill made the team last year and led Team USA to a Bronze medal. The 6’3″ defenseman registered five points in six games during the tournament and was named Team USA’s third star of the tournament. Unfortunately, Merrill was suspended for violating team rules and has missed the entire college hockey season with the Michigan Wolverines to date. He is scheduled to return to his team following the tournament, but hopefully the opportunity to play in the World Juniors will continue his development towards making the Devils roster someday.
The Devils also have one prospect who made Team Canada’s World Juniors roster: goaltender Scott Wedgewood, the Devils’ third round draft pick in 2010. While his numbers with the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers wouldn’t amaze you, he was the Whalers’ MVP of the playoffs last spring, as they upset the heavily favored Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Wedgewood is one of four goaltenders that made Canada’s roster for 2012.
So the Devils do have two players involved with this year’s tournament. In the past, Zach Parise helped Team USA win Gold in 2004, in 2010, Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson got the chance to play together for Team Sweden and Adam Larsson represented Team Sweden in 2010 and 2011. In fact, Larsson posted two goals and six assists during the past two tournaments, making him Sweden’s highest scoring defenseman ever during the World Juniors. Now in 2012, it is Jonathan Merrill and Scott Wedgewood that have the chance to shine in a significant tournament. Team Canada opens Finland at 3:30 PM Eastern today and Team USA gets under way at 8 PM.