Juniors will see plenty of Wild action

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2011 - 7:20 AM

Six of the team's prospects are all but locks to play for their countries in the world junior championships, which highlight the best under-20 hockey players in the world.

hide

Denver sophomore Jason Zucker, left, picked 59th overall in 2010, should be a mainstay on the U.S. team in the world juniors. “Jason Zucker doesn’t have a real weakness to his game,” U.S. coach Dean Blais said. The championship game will be played Jan. 5 in Calgary.

Photo: Mark Reis, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The world junior championships is a cultural phenomenon in Canada -- like March Madness in the United States -- but something that hasn't caught on even in the hockey-loving U.S. mainstream yet.

This, despite the fact that two years ago, the United States, with coach Dean Blais at the helm, ended the Canadians' five-year championship run on their home turf of Saskatoon and Regina. On that team were Minnesotans Jake Gardiner, Derek Stepan, Danny Kristo, Jordan Schroeder and Mike Lee.

This month, when the tournament of what's considered the most elite under-20 hockey players in the world begins Dec. 26 and runs until Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Calgary, Wild fans will have plenty of reasons to watch.

"We have a possibility of eight guys in the tournament, which is exceptional," assistant GM Brent Flahr said. "It'll be exciting for all of us."

Six Wild prospects are all but locks -- Jason Zucker (59th overall in 2010) and Charlie Coyle (28th in 2010, acquired from San Jose) for the United States; Mikael Granlund (ninth in 2010) for Finland; and Johan Larsson (56th in 2010), Jonas Brodin (10th in 2011) and Johan Gustafsson (159th in 2010) for Sweden.

Brett Bulmer (39th in 2010) and Zack Phillips (28th in 2011) are at Canada's ultracompetitive selection camp, which began in Calgary on Sunday.

That means five of the Wild's six draft picks in 2010 and the top two in 2011 have a chance to take part in this year's tournament. Not bad for a franchise that ranked 29th in the Hockey News' "Future Watch" issues in 2010 and 2011.

"It shows a lot about this organization and the way they're drafting guys and the way those players step up when it counts," said Aeros forward Jeff Taffe, a former Gophers player from Hastings who represented the United States in the 2000 and 2001 world junior championships in Sweden and Russia.

"I know us down here, we don't take it as serious as the Canadians do. It's like a holiday up there for them. But it's a very special tournament."

In 2010, Wild defenseman Marco Scandella represented Canada and won a silver medal, losing to Zucker and the U.S. in the finals. That tournament took place in Canada, too, so he knows how much pressure will be on Canada again this year.

"Zuck and I are still buddies, but I'm jealous of him," Scandella said, laughing. "There's always pressure in hockey, and playing in such a hockey hotbed is a great situation for young players to deal with pressure. When you have the crowd behind you, you play better and you're pumped up, but it's stressful, too."

It's this experience of playing in enemy territory that makes Blais think Zucker will be valuable to this year's squad. The U.S. camp begins Saturday in Camrose, Alberta.

"Jason Zucker doesn't have a real weakness to his game," Blais said. "When he was in Saskatoon, he was just a role player, didn't get much ice time, but he gave us everything he could. ... He's a leader and he's going to rub off in a real positive way on the whole team."

Two years ago, U.S. General Manager Jim Johannson made a video to display how he wanted USA Hockey to play -- speed, transition, finishing checks.

"I could have put Jason Zucker in every single clip because he does all those things well," Johannson said.

Johannson also looks forward to seeing what Coyle can do for the Americans

"He played well for us last year in Buffalo, and we probably put him in a little bit higher role than you'd like to for a guy with the level of experience he had coming into the tournament, but he flat out earned the ice time," Johannson said. "With Charlie, the size and strength and the below-the-circle game he has can lead to being a real dominant force at this championship."

Most neat for the Wild, the team will spend the night in Banff, Alberta, on Jan. 5 -- the night of the championship in nearby Calgary.

"So you know the boys will have fun," Flahr said. "Mikko [Koivu] will be rooting for Finland, the Canada boys for Canada, the U.S. guys cheering for the U.S."

  • WILD • Up next: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Winnipeg • TV: FSN (100.3-FM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Diego 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Indiana 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Detroit
Dallas 7:00 PM
New Orleans
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Vancouver 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Chicago 7:00 PM
Nashville
Arizona 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Carolina 8:00 PM
Calgary
Buffalo 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Columbus 9:30 PM
San Jose
Connecticut 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close