The 2011 IIHF U20 World Championship tournament ended today, as almost two weeks of high-octane, patriotic hockey comes to a close. Five Caps prospects participated, with four of them earning hardware. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov won gold with Russia, Cody Eakin won silver with Canada, and Patrick Wey earned bronze with USA. Here is a breakdown of how each did in the tournament.
Goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer didn't have as much to work with as the other Caps prospects. He played on a team that didn't qualify for the tournament last year. They did about as they were expected to do: end up in the relegation round. Grubauer did a solid job, but wasn't incredible and didn't catch much attention. It was his first year in the tournament and he did what he could with what he had.
Defenseman Patrick Wey was at times the best defenseman on the ice for the bronze medal-winning Americans. He wasn't expected to play a big role on this team, a team that included four professional players and 8 players returning from last year's gold medal-winning team. However, he put a role upon himself and took it. He played a tough, sound game. Wey put himself on the radar of a lot of people with his play in this tournament. He caught a lot of attention, and he'll bring a bronze medal back to Boston College as a sign of his efforts.
The Canadian team was considered an "underdog" going into the tournament (as much as one can be when the team has played in the last 10 gold medal games). Cody Eakin, who was among the final cuts of last year's squad, was not suspected to be one of the standout players of the team. He was. He worked hard, created chances, scored, and brought 100% energy to every shift. His dedication and effort earned him the honor of being Canada's Player of the Game for the Gold Medal game, a game in which Canada blew a 3-0 lead in the third period to Russia. Eakin will go back to the Swift Current Broncos with a silver medal.
The Russians won gold this year, coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period against Canada in the gold medal game. Both Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov played huge roles on the Russian team that was able to come from behind late for the second-straight game. Both earned all-tournament honors as well. Kuznetsov established himself with drive and aggression, not to mention a nice set of hands. He single-handedly brought the Russians back in the qualifying game, just as Orlov did in the semi-final game. They simply dominated, and it looked like both were ready to come to North America. Kuznetsov even looked possibly ready to battle for a Caps roster spot. Orlov stepped up in more of a quiet leadership role, and while his skills were undeniable, he likely could have taken it to another level. They will be returning to their respective KHL teams with well-earned World Junior gold.
Kuznetsov Grade: A
Orlov Grade: A-
The Caps prospects all played well in the tournament. If this is what the future holds, the future looks bright. Not everyone who has a good World Junior tournament goes on to do great things in the NHL, but with the talent and work ethic these guys displayed, the Caps can't go wrong with this group of prospects. They will now return to their respective teams in their respective countries with memories from a great week in Buffalo. We will get to check up on them again during Development Camp in July.