Two years ago Canada beat Patrick Kane and the USA in the gold medal game of the IIHF World Junior Championship in a dramatic shootout. The game winning save was made by Carey Price. Three years ago Steve Mason led Canada to the gold. In 1999 Roberto Luogno carried the Canadian team on his back (sign of things to come?) but fell just short of the gold. In 2002 Henrik Lundqvist carried a weak Swedish team. Was there a Luongo, Lundqvist, Price or Mason in this year’s tournament?
The two choices to potentially appear on the distinguished alumni list one day appear to be Canadian Dustin Tovarski and Swede Jacob Markstrom. Tovarski won MVP in the finals and Markstrom won MVG for the tournament.
Markstrom came into the tournament billed as the next Pelle Lindbergh or Lundqvist. A tall goalie with excellent skills he is already one of the best goalies in Sweden’s elite league. He was the Panthers’ 2nd round pick last summer and should expect to get a chance in South Florida. But based on his showing tonight he’s going to need some maturing before he makes it to the Price/Mason category, let alone Lunqvist/Luongo status. Canada got under his skin from the first minute of the game and he allowed himself to be tormented continuously, giving the Canadians more confidence.
Canada’s first goal was a power play tally but the referee got the wrong guy as it was actually Markstrom who yanked out John Tavares’ legs. It reminded me of a rookie Ron Hextall who went looking for trouble and often found his team short-handed because of it. Later in the first period Markstrom grossly embellished two incidental contacts and in the second period took a dumb penalty himself for flailing about after running into a Canadian player. TendersLounge always tries to take the side of goalies but I hate seeing any player taking dives, a trait unfortunately found more frequently in European players. Is this something left over from Markstrom’s soccer days?
Dustin Tokarski put coach Pat Quinn in a tough spot throughout the tournament as he gave up early goals in games against the Americans and Russians. Tonight he held steady with a strong butterfly style that kept him well-positioned most of the time and able to recover when he wasn’t. Tokarski definitely had some good luck on his side as the Swedes missed a couple open nets when he was down and out but earned his luck by making 39 solid saves. In addition to earning MVP honors in the gold medal game, Tokarski’s pedigree includes an MVP in last year’s Memorial Cup as well as a triple-OT championship in the Canadian midget championship. Oh, and he signed a contract with the Lightning halfway through the tournament last week.
Is the success of Tokarski and Markstrom on the world stage the type that predicts Price-like success in the NHL? Perhaps, but keep in mind that names like Jimmy Waite, Stephane Fiset, Al Montoya, Maxime Ouellet, Trevor Kidd and Craig Billington also had starring roles at the same tournament and while all of them made it to the NHL none of them will be mistaken for Roberto Luongo.
Check back in a couple years for an updated list of World Juniors distinguished alumni:
Steve Mason (Canada ’08), Carey Price (Canada ’07), Simeon Varlamov (Russia ’07), Justin Pogge (Canada ’06), Tuukka Rask (Finland ’06), Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia ’05), Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada ’03), Kari Lehtonen (Finland ’03), Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden ’02), Pascal Leclaire (Canada ’02), Rick DiPietro (USA ’01), Ilya Bryzgalov (Russia ’00), Vesa Toskala (Finland ’97), Jose Theodore (Canada ’96), Miikka Kiprusoff (Finland ’96), Sean Burke (Canada ’86), Mike Vernon (Canada ’83), Pelle Lindbergh (Sweden ’79)