Mining for gold
While Team Canada hits the ice on Boxing Day hoping to six peat at the World Juniors, the Canadiens are hoping to see one of their prospects draped in gold for a fifth consecutive year.
Following the golden performances of P.K. Subban in 2008 and 2008, Carey Price in 2007 and Kyle Chipchura and Guillaume Latendresse in 2006, who all led their country to the top as Habs hopefuls in their respective years, four Canadiens draftees will be vying to keep the streak alive in Saskatchewan from December 26 to January 5.
For the first time since 2006, the Canadiens will be without a representative on the Canadian squad, with 2009 first-rounder Louis Leblanc making it to the last cut for Team Canada before being released on December 15.
The Habs will be keeping a close eye on the U.S., Russia and Finland squads when the tournament kicks off this week, with each of those teams sporting at least one top Canadiens prospect in their lineup.
On the American side, Danny Kristo is making his second World Junior appearance in the Stars and Stripes after having helped lead Team USA to a fifth place finish a year ago in majestic Ottawa. The Habs’ top pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft scored a goal and posted a plus-2 rating in six games for the U.S. last Christmas. It will be another uphill climb for the Americans who had not reached the podium since beating Canada for the gold in 2004.
As for the Russians, they will be able to count on Maxim Trunev, a Canadiens fifth rounder in 2008. Poised to make his tournament debut, the winger will be looking to lead Russia back to gold for the first time since 2003, while trying to keep his nation’s all-time record of seven straight gold medals (1974-1980) safe from the surging Canadians.
Finland will count on two Canadiens prospects. Drafted 65th overall by the Habs this past summer, Joonas Nattinen will be making his second appearance on Junior hockey’s biggest stage and is coming off his inaugural tourney when he amassed three points in six games for the eventual seventh-placed Finns. The 19-year-old center will be joined by super-sized goalie Petteri Simila, who was also drafted by Montreal in 2009 and will be making his World Junior debut.
With the gifts unwrapped and the turkey still digesting, the real holiday festivities kick off on December 26.
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