Wild, Blues players recall past highlights watching World Juniors

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2014 - 12:28 AM
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Wild right winger Nino Niederreiter (22) credits his play for Switzerland in the 2010 World Junior Championships for making him the fifth overall draft choice the following June by the New York Islanders.

Photo: Alex Gallardo, Associated Press

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In both the home and visiting locker rooms Tuesday morning at Xcel Energy Center, grown NHLers couldn’t keep their eyes off the Canada-United States game of the World Under-20 Championships.

In St. Louis’ room, Jaroslav Halak and Jay Bouwmeester were glued to the TV as Canada ended up edging the Americans 3-2 to win Group A heading into Thursday’s relegation round of what is dubbed the world junior championships.

“Well, most of us have played in it,” said Bouwmeester, who actually played for Canada in three world juniors. “It’s such a great tournament.”

Two years ago, the Wild’s Jonas Brodin won gold with Sweden by beating Russia in Calgary, Alberta. Charlie Coyle represented the United States that same year and Mikael Granlund played for Finland.

“I still pay attention and keep up with it on Twitter and we watched the U.S.-Germany win in the lounge Sunday,” Coyle said. “In Canada, it’s unbelievable. Playing in Edmonton and Calgary two years ago, I couldn’t believe how everyone’s a fan.”

The Wild’s Nino Niederreiter credits the exposure he got playing with Switzerland in the 2010 world juniors for the reason he went fifth overall the following June to the Islanders.

Niederreiter scored six goals and 10 points in the tournament to finish seventh in scoring and make the all-tournament team.

In an upset over Russia in the quarterfinals, Nieder- reiter scored the tying goal with 33 seconds left and the winner with 14 seconds left in overtime.

“It changed my direction,” Niederreiter said. “It definitely was a chance to showcase myself. That game against Russia, those goals, it was probably the best moment of my life.

“We got to play in Saskatoon. Every game was packed. It was so exciting. Even in Europe, they don’t look at world juniors the way Canadians do. People love to see who’s really good in the tournament and then follow them for years in the NHL.

“I just think it’s a cool tournament for fans, and a really cool tournament for players.”

The Wild has two players partaking in this world juniors.

Matt Dumba, a defenseman for Canada and a first-round pick in 2012, had a strong game against the United States on Tuesday after fighting off flu-like symptoms all tournament. In four games, he has one assist, is plus-1 and has six penalty minutes.

Gustav Olofsson, a defenseman for Sweden and a second-round pick in 2013, assisted on Sweden’s winner with 2:22 left against Russia on Tuesday. The Colorado College blue-liner has one goal and four points in four games and is plus-6.

Center Christoph Bertschy, a Wild sixth-round pick in 2012, made Switzerland’s team but is missing the tournament because of an injury.

Other Wild players who have participated in the world juniors include Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Josh Harding, Dany Heatley, Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke, Marco Scandella, Jason Zucker, Erik Haula and Johan Gustafsson.

Olympic roster coming

After the Winter Classic live on NBC on Wednesday, the U.S. will unveil its 25-man roster for the Winter Olympics.

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