Every December, the best young hockey players in the world gather to take part in one of the most prestigious and exciting hockey tournaments in the world (and my personal favourite) – the World Junior Hockey Championships. Legends are born, just ask “Double Dion” Phaneuf. Unheralded players steal the spotlight, like Swiss goaltender Reto Berra. Looking back through the past years there are a lot big names, as well as big busts. For the next few weeks leading up to the tournament, I will report on what has happened to many of the young players who have starred at this tournament over the years. This week will be Canada, and there will be plenty to follow, including the US, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and the rest of the participating nations.
Eric Lindros – 1991
Lindros dominated the competition at the 1991 tournament in Saskatoon, putting up an astounding 17 points in only seven games. He was named the top forward of the tournament, beating out the tournament’s leading scorer (Doug Weight), and the tournament’s leading goal scorer (Pavel Bure). The only other really big name on this club was a young Scott Niedermayer, who interestingly enough was the only member of team Canada to go pointless through the tournament.
Jarome Iginla – 1996
Iginla was the best forward at the 1996 tournament, on a very defensively dominant Canadian squad. Iginla led the way for Canada with 12 points, double that of any other Canadian (Christian Dube and Daymond Langkow were second with six). Interesting that Iginla and Langkow played together back in 1996, maybe that is why they were able to establish chemistry so quickly after Calgary acquired Langkow from Phoenix a few years ago. Iginla is now one of the best and most complete players in the entire league.
Roberto Luongo – 1999
After a disappointing showing at the 1998 tournament (which saw Canada bow out at eight after losing to lowly Kazakhstan), Luongo stole the show in 1999, but after a heroic effort in the gold medal game against Russia, the Canadians fell short losing in overtime. Luongo posted a 4-1 record with two shutouts, and was named as a first-team all-star. He is now sitting pretty as arguably the best goaltender in the World.
Mike Cammalleri – 2001
Cammalleri had a dominant 2001 tournament, posting seven goals in seven games. He was named as a first-team all-star, and was the tournament’s scoring leader. However, Canada fell short once again to Russia in the finals, losing another close one-goal game. Cammalleri is now a very versatile top line forward for Calgary, and is in line to receive a big payday as he hits free agency this coming off-season.
Sidney Crosby – 2005.
Thanks to the NHL lockout, the 2005 team was arguably Canada’s strongest ever. Boasting names like Crosby, Bergeron, Getzlaf, Carter, Phaneuf, Weber, Fleury, Perry, Richards, Coburn, and Seabrook, the Canadians walked all over everyone. Crosby had a solid debut at the 2004 tournament, but broke out in 2005, skating on a line with Bergeron and Perry. He is now arguably the best player in the World and will be a huge part of Canada’s future international teams.
Martin Gendron – 1994
Gendron led the balanced 1994 Canadian team in scoring with seven goals and 11 points. The team featured the likes of Mike Peca, Anson Carter, and a young Bryan McCabe on defence. This was the only year (I believe) in recent memory that no Canadian was named to the tournament all-star team. (A telling sign, perhaps?) Gendron had a dominant junior career, scoring 70 goals in back-to-back seasons in the QMJHL before being drafted by the Capitals. He had a few cups of coffee in the NHL with Washington and Chicago, but only managed to put up four goals in his 30 games in the league. He has basically done the world tour, playing in the AHL, IHL, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. He is now playing in the LNAH for Trois Rivieres.
Marty Murray – 1995
The 1995 team benefited from the lockout, and was very deep at all positions. Murray led the team in scoring with 15 points (tied with Jason Allison). He was also named the top forward at a tournament featuring the likes of the fabled Alexandre Daigle, Ryan Smyth, and German sensation Alexander Serikow. Murray did manage to stick in the NHL for over 250 games, but his offensive game never really translated. He has been playing for Manchester of the AHL the past few seasons and has put up respectable numbers. He had back-to-back seasons with the Flyers where he sniffed the 30-point plateau as well. He was always held back and underrated because of his size, which makes you wonder how he would have done coming up into the NHL today.
Daniel Tkaczuk – 1999
The “other” Tkaczuk (even though their names are spelt differently) has been a monumental bust. He had a fantastic career with Barrie of the OHL, and was picked sixth overall by Calgary in 1997. He led the 1999 Canadian team in scoring, above Simon Gagne, Brenden Morrow, and Brian Campbell. Keeping with the trend of this article, he was selected as a first-team tournament all-star with his 10 points in seven games. He managed an impressive 11 points in 19 games with the Flames in 2000, but was never really able to stick after that in the NHL. Tkaczuk suffered a concussion along the way which definitely did not help his development, and may have been the main reason behind his lack of success.
Jared Aulin – 2002
Canada lost another one goal game to Russia for the gold in 2002. Aulin was tied with Brad Boyes for second in team scoring, behind the sensational Cammalleri. He was selected in the second round of the 2000 draft by the Avalanche, and looked to be on his way to a successful professional career. He played the full five years in the WHL, and then one with Manchester before his debut in 2002 with the Kings (he was a part of the trade that sent Rob Blake to Colorado). Aulin had an interesting time in Los Angeles, where he even dated Paris Hilton for a short time. His injury problems started the following season where he tore his shoulder in a fight, and it was only downhill from there. He was traded to the Capitals but left the team to play hockey back home in Calgary. In the summer of 2007 he was playing a beer league game and was slashed viciously on the neck, sending him crashing to the ice with convulsions. Aulin recovered from the incident and is now playing in the CIS for the Calgary Dinos, quite the fall from potential NHL stardom.
Anthony Stewart - 2004
Some may think that Stewarts inclusion on the “duds” list is premature, however he has struggled to stick with the Panthers since being selected in the deep 2003 first-round. He has managed to play in 55 games for Florida, tallying a less-than-impressive three goals. Some of the guys picked after him in that draft include: Corey Perry, Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, and Dmitri Chernykh. Stewart was tied with Nigel Dawes with 11 points to lead Canada in scoring, ahead of Ryan Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter. He still may make the NHL as a solid energy line winger, but he was touted as one of the next big, scoring wingers to dominate the league.