The World Junior Championship is right around the corner, and the announcement that two Calgary Flames prospects (Mason McDonald and Brandon Hickey) will be suiting up for Team Canada is a pretty significant feather in the cap of those players and Calgary’s drafting and development team. Add in the towering Swedish blueliner Adam Ollas Mattsson who will be representing the Tre Kronor in Finland and suddenly there’s more Flames representation than in many years.
For a bit of historical context, here are the past five World Junior Championships and the Flames that suited up in them.
In last year’s tournament, the Flames had one lone representative: Russian defenseman Rushan Rafikov. Rafikov was very effective in a shut-down role for the Russians and helped bring them to the gold medal game, where they promptly lost to Canada in a hotly-contested 5-4 game.
In 2014, the Flames were represented by 2012 pick Jon Gillies (who had backed up for the Americans in 2013 but returned in 2014 as the starter). He was okay, but his performance didn’t really wow anybody. The Americans went 3-1 in the round robin (just behind Canada), but lost to the Russians and finished fifth in the tournament.
There were four Flames in the tournament in Ufa: three 2011 picks (Finland’s Markus Granlund, Canada’s Tyler Wotherspoon and the USA’s Johnny Gaudreau) and one 2012 pick (Gillies). The Americans were the story of the tournament they were driven by two JGs: goalie John Gibson and Johnny Gaudreau. After Team USA split their four round robin games, Gaudreau turned it on and the Americans beat the Czechs, Canadians and Swedes to capture gold. Gaudreau led the tournament in goal-scoring and was named to the tournament all-star team. Gillies got a gold medal as Gibson’s back-up, playing a period in relief of Gibson in an effort to keep him fresh.
Canada finished fourth and Wotherspoon was solid. Finland finished seventh and Granlund was third in tournament scoring.
The good: Calgary was one of the two hosts of this tournament.
The bad: basically everything else. Sven Baertschi played for Switzerland but got walloped early and missed time with a concussion. Bill Arnold played for the Americans, but it was a weaker team than usual and they finished seventh. Markus Granlund played for the Finns and got to play with his big brother Mikael, but the Finns fell just short of a medal and finished fourth.
Since-departed defender John Ramage captained Team USA at the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo. After a heart-breaking semi-final loss to Sweden, he led the team to a bronze medal win. Joni Ortio suited up for Finland and was excellent, though the rest of his team wasn’t and they finished sixth.