The 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships have concluded, with Finland winning their first gold medal since 1998 over archrival Sweden. As today's gold medal contest was getting underway, the IIHF announced their annual positional awards and the media's tournament all-star team.
This year's games featured a number of upsets, including Czech Republic stealing a game on a dazzling shootout move, the Americans crashing out in the quarters at the hands of the Russians and Canada leaving the tournament empty-handed for the second consecutive year.
Though the performances of some teams were surprising, most of the selections for the awards and all-star team were relatively predictable. A number of the high-profile players we mentioned heading into the tournament had a fantastic few weeks. We'll look at those selected, and throw in some honorable mentions as well:
Filip Forsberg, Sweden
From the minute the Predators decided to release Forsberg, he was expected to have a huge tournament and earn his second gold medal. While he did enjoy a fine tournament, taking MVP and Best Forward honors, he was forced to settle for his second consecutive silver medal.
Forsberg played in the gold medal game in all three tournaments at the World Juniors, appearing on two tournament all-star teams. His four goals and eight assists were good for second among all players, and luckily for him, the IIHF gave him the nod for the individual awards prior to the gold medal game.
Teuvo Teravainen, Finland
Teravainen was the tournament's best player, and it was hardly close. Despite scoring just two goals, Teravainen led the tournament in assists (13) and points (15). In the gold medal game, Teravainen was at the center of the Finnish attack, assisting on all three of their goals. For my money, he should've been named tournament MVP and Best Forward ahead of Forsberg. But they didn't ask me, now did they?
Teravainen, a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012, was the most dominant force for the gold medal winners throughout the tournament. His penalty shot goal in the third period in the semifinals was the final nail in Canada's coffin. He may be a darkhorse for the Finnish Olympic roster. But even if he's not going to Sochi, expect to hear about him starring alongside Hossa, Kane, Sharp and Toews in the Windy City sooner rather than later.
Anthony Mantha, Canada
As TSN's Bob McKenzie said throughout their tournament coverage, Anthony Mantha was labeled as a guy who "does nothing but score goals" prior to the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Seven games later, I'm still trying to figure out why that's a bad thing. Mantha, who was selected 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, was a major player for Canada, scoring five goals and four assists in their seven games.
While I agreed that a Canadian forward deserved to be on this list, I would've picked Mantha's linemate, Jonathan Drouin. Drouin seemed to pace his team's offensive attack, for better or worse. But he took two critical checking to the head penalties that resulted in 10-minute misconducts, including one just minutes after he brought Canada within a goal in the semifinals against Finland.
Other forwards deserving of an honorable mention: Canada's Curtis Lazar, Slovakia's Martin Reway, Sweden's Elias Lindholm and Andre Burakowsky, Finland's Saku Maenalanen, Russia's Pavel Buchnevich, United States' Nick Kerdiles and Riley Barber.
Rasmus Ristolainen, Finland
The man with the golden goal, Ristolainen enjoyed a stellar tournament for the second consecutive year, though this one may be a bit more memorable. He was a calming presence on the blue line that was able to inject some offense into the otherwise passive Finnish strategy, netting four goals including the gold-medal winner in overtime against Sweden.
The eighth overall pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, Ristolainen will be another name considered for Finland's Olympic roster, but proved once again he's one of the elite defensive prospects in the world.
Nikita Zadorov, Russia
Russia was thrilled to get Zadorov back from the Sabres, after he was given a brief look at the NHL level. That experience helped him become one of the premier players in the tournament, where he tied Ristolainen for the most goals by a defenseman with four. Two of those came in quick succession on a pair of five-on-three man advantages in the third period to upset the Americans in the quarterfinals.
Zadorov will return to the London Knights, where he has only played eight games so far this season but already has six points.
Other defensemen worthy of an honorable mention: Finland's Esa Lindell and Ville Pokka, Canada's Derrick Pouliot and Aaron Ekblad, United States' Connor Carrick, Sweden's Christian Djoos.
Oscar Dansk, Sweden/Juuse Saros, Finland
There hasn't been a tournament with this many strong goaltending performances in quite some time. It was fitting that while Dansk was named the tournament's best goalie, Finland's Juuse Saros was named to the all-star team. Both goalies played magnificently throughout the tournament and especially in the gold medal game, but Saros led all goaltenders in save percentage (.943) and goals against average (1.57).
Andrei Vasilevsky, who was playing in his third World Junior tournament, also deserved some consideration as he led Russia to the bronze medal. Though he may have the best professional prospects of the three, he was simply outdone in these games.
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