Five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects will proudly don their home countryâ€™s sweater this holiday season to compete in the Under-20 World Junior Championships. The WJCs are arguably the most exciting international hockey tournament outside of the Olympics and playing for oneâ€™s country during this event is a career builder.
Last year Carter Ashton, Brett Connolly, and Canada came up short in the finals, allowing five third period goals to Russia in the gold medal game to lose, 5-3. Host team USA beat Sweden for the bronze in Buffalo, New York.
The last Lightning prospect to win a gold medal was Dustin Tokarski for Canada in 2009 when â€œThe Tikâ€ was player of the game in the championship game â€“ a win over Victor Hedman and Sweden. Dana Tyrell was also a part of that Canadian team, but was injured in pre-tournament action and missed the tournament.
Hereâ€™s a look at each Lightning prospect participating in this yearâ€™s event, to be held December 26 through January 5 in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. Check NHL Network listings for broadcasts.
Halifax Mooseheads 2 @ Moncton Wildcats 0
D Daniel Milan, MON: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 0 Hits
Season Totals: 29 GP, 0-4-4, -9, 27 PIM
Milanâ€™s scoreless streak hit 11 games in the loss.
QMJHL Note: Lightning prospect Adam Janosik of Gatineau has joined Team Slovakia in preparation for the upcoming U20 World Junior Championships.
Guelph Storm 1 @ London Knights 3
C Vladislav Namestnikov, LDN: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 33 GP, 17-23-40, +10, 28 PIM
Former Lightning camper Seth Griffith scored an empty net goal for his 26th goal of the season as London topped division rival Guelph, 3-1. The undrafted Griffith has 46 points in 33 games to go with a plus-17 rating. He has a 12 game point streak going and has had at least a point in 24 of his last 26 games. He was passed over in last yearâ€™s draft and camped with the Lightning before being sent back to the OHL without a contract. He sits in sixth in the OHL in points and is second in goals.
Owen Sound Attack 3 @ Sarnia Sting 5
D Geoffrey Schemitsch, OS: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 22 GP, 0-7-7, -1, 16 PIM
Likely 2012 top-3 pick Nail Yakupov had a goal and an assist in Sarniaâ€™s win over Geoffrey Schemitsch and Owen Sound. The Russian has 51 points in 25 games. Yakupov, Lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov, and Quebec Rempart Mikhail Grigorenko are expected to be the offensive leaders for Russia in the upcoming U20 World Junior Championships.
JYP 0 @ Pelicans 1 (SO)
Riku Helenius, JYP, DNP
Season totals: 14 GP, 8-6-0, 6 SO, 1.51 GAA, .931 sv%
Riku Helenius sat backup to Joni Myllykoski as Myllykoski posted his first shutout of the season (Helenius has 6) only to fall to defeat in the shootout. JYP outshot Lahti 33-24 in the match, but no cigar. JYP draws Blues Espoo on Friday.
Elsewhere, Nikita Kucherov and Nikita Nesterov have been named to Russia's 2012 U20 World Junior Championships preliminary roster, and began participation in Russia's pre-tournament camp which will run from 12/7 to 12/18 in Novogorsk.
Chelyabinsk 2 @ Ekaterinburg 1 (OT)
Nikita Nesterov, Chelyabinsk, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals (KHL): 7 GP, 0-0-0, +9, 4 PIM
Season totals (MHL): 23 GP, 6-9-15, +12, 20 PIM
Nikita Nesterov was scoreless in 9:50 in Chelyabnisk's 2-1 overtime win over Ekaterinburg. Ex-Leafs draft pick Vladimir Antipov had the overtime winner. The two teams rematch on Friday.
Dynamo Moscow 2 @ Cherepovets 1
Vasily Koshechkin, Cherepovets, DNP
Season totals: 20 GP, 9-8-0, 1 SO, 2.76 GAA, .914 sv%
Vasily Koshechkin did not dress in Cherepovets' 2-1 loss to Dynamo Moscow. Ex-Lightning prospect Marek Kvapil had the winner for Dynamo, his 6th of the season. Cherepovets draws Novgorod on Thursday.
Word on the street: the latest rumor is that Nikita Kucherov may have been nicked in the Subway Super Series and that the Russian Hockey Federation may be holding him out of play to keep him healthy for the U20 World Junior Championships. Grain of salt.
Lulea 2 @ Brynas 1 (OT)
Johan Harju, Lulea, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 28 GP, 9-5-14, +4, 8 PIM
Lulea snatched victory from the iron jaws of defeat today, stealing an OT win from Brynas 2-1. Trailing 1-0 with 29 seconds left to play, ex-Blues draft pick Simon Hjalmarsson potted a power play goal to force the extra period. And then, 31 seconds into overtime, Mattias Persson potted the winner. Grand theft larceny. Lulea faces Vaxjo on Thursday.
Elsewhere, Nikita Kucherov did not appear for CSKA's senior or junior side today.