Another World Junior Championship is in the books and once again Team Canada has left the tournament empty handed- much in thanks to two Buffalo Sabres prospects but we’ll get to that later. While neither Canada nor the USA medaled in the tournament, all three Buffalo Sabres prospects in the tournament brought home medals and hardware from the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Canada lost 2-1 in the bronze medal game to Russia as the tide of junior hockey has certainly turned. No longer can Canada waltz over the other teams on route to an easy gold medal and even the USA found out how difficult the tournament is as the defending champions were knocked out in the semi-finals. It has now been 5 years since a once dominate Team Canada has claimed gold at the World Junior Championships.
Enough of me whining about Team Canada and on to the good news about the Buffalo Sabres prospects from the tournament. Although
they walked away with Bronze, Russia won their gold medal. Aside from winning the tournament, Russia’s goal has always been to beat Canada at this tournament. If Russia can beat Canada they are pretty happy no matter the outcome of the rest of the tournament. This year, Russia got to beat Canada and denied them a medal in the bronze medal game. Talk about a win-win for the Russians!
With the Russians winning the gold medal it also means that Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov will return with bronze medal’s after both had solid tournaments. This was Grigorenko’s second bronze from the tournament while Zadorov brought home his first medal. Grigorenko scored a goal in the bronze medal game while Zadorov was held pointless but played a strong game on the blue line.
Grigorenko finishes the tournament with 5 goals and 8 points in the 7 games and Zadorov finished with 4 goals and 5 assists. Both players excelled during the tournament and Grigorenko was named as one of Russia’s top three players throughout the tournament. The Buffalo Sabres are now hoping that Grigorenko can carry his strong play from the World Juniors back to the NHL.
How odd is it to see Sweden and Finland battling for the gold medal? Obviously Sweden was one of the top teams to watch from the
start, but who had Finland making it to the finals?
With Finland surprising everyone making it to the finals, Rasmus Ristolainen was also given a chance to battle for the gold medal as a member of team Finland and he didn’t disappoint. Ristolainen led Finland to a gold medal after he scored the winning goal in overtime to solidify the win for Finland. Ristolainen had a solid tournament in his own right and was named the best denfenceman at the 2014 World Juniors despite playing in just 5 games. Ristolainen finished the the tournament with 3 goals as he departs with a gold medal.
Here is the OT gold medal winning goal, scored by Ristolainen!
Both Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov were named to the 2014 World Junior all star team after strong showings in the tournament. This is the second straight year the Sabres had a defenceman on the all star roster after American Jake McCabe was named from last years tournament.
All in all the 2014 World Junior Championship was a great tournament for Sabres prospects. One gold medal, best defenceman, two bronze medals and two players named to the all star team. The Buffalo Sabres might seem bleak right now, but the future looks awfully bright with both Ristolainen and Zadorov on the blue line.
Congratulations to Rasmus Ristolainen on his gold medal and to Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko on their bronze medal.