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Medals All Around For Caps Prospects (the 2013 WJC Recap Edition)

Posted January 5, 2013

Riley Barber, in the red (Photo Credit Alena Schwarz)

As the 2013 World Junior Championship comes to a close, it’s time to take a look at how the prospects within the Capitals organization made out (in short – really, really well).  This year, the Caps had three 2012 draft picks in the tournament, representing two countries.  For Team Sweden, the defending WJC champions, there were first rounder Filip Forsberg and seventh rounder Christian Djoos.  Representing the United States was Riley Barber, a sixth rounder and current Miami University forward.

Setting the Stage

Both Sweden and the US got off to a rough start in the pre-tournament games.  Sweden lost both of their games, including an overtime loss to the US.  The US dropped one of their games lost 5-1 to Finland, leaving them with one win going into the tournament. Once the points started to matter, both teams settled down. Sweden went on to win all five games on the road to the finals, including two shootout wins against Switzerland and Russia. The United States earned all of their wins in regulation, but they lost one game in regulation (Russia was the lucky winner).

In the semi-finals, Sweden faced off against Russia as the US took on Canada. All four semi-finalists were favourites to move onto the finals when the tournament launched, so the match-ups were highly anticipated.  Fortunately for our three prospects, both Sweden and USA won their games and moved onto the final round.

Final Showdown

This morning at 8AM Eastern, both teams got off to a good start defensively.  Sweden opened the scoring in the second period (Filip Sandberg, assisted by Rickard Rakell on the Power Play), but the Americans bounced back six minutes later (Rocco Grimaldi, assisted by Pat Sieloff and Vince Trochek).  Grimaldi scored again before the frame ended (this time, assisted by Jacob Trouba), and Trocheck sealed the deal with an empty-netter sixteen seconds before the last horn sounded.  While Sweden’s 3-1 loss meant missing out on back-to-back wins, the Americans had reason to celebrate, earning their first gold since 2010.

Taking Stock

Prospect-wise, the Capitals’ boys did quite well.  When it came to Sweden, we got a strong look at what Forsberg and Djoos have to offer.  Djoos finished the tournament with three assists.  One of them was originally credited as a goal against Finland, but it was later changed to a primary assist.  Djoos showed solid defensive responsibility at times, while also making a respectable impression on the score sheet.

Going into the tournament, Forsberg not only had the pressure of being a first-round pick for the Capitals, but also wearing the mantle of captain for the Swedish squad.  Finishing the visit to Ufa with three goals and two assists, he showed his skills on both ends of the ice. For his efforts, he was chosen as one of the top three Swedish players of the tournament and named to the 2013 WJC All-Star Team.

On American side of the ice, Riley Barber notched three goals and three assists during his first crack at the WJC.  Barber wasn’t afraid to use his body to make a play, and showed a strong game sense when it came to being where he was needed. While he didn’t make it onto the score sheet in the finals, he wasn’t afraid of trying.  He walked away from the game having earned some quality chances on net and a shiny gold medal for his efforts.

Unexpected Benefits

With only three Caps prospects on the ice at this year’s WJC, it gave Washington fans a chance to get a look at some of the talent expected to appear in this summer’s NHL draft.  Canada has two of the highest ranked draft prospects for 2013 on their roster: Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.  Although MacKinnon didn’t see a lot of ice time and ended up with one assist after spending the tournament on Canada’s 4th Line, Drouin put away two goals and two assists in a performance that should see him moving up on the draft list.

Valeri Nichushkin is another top ranked prospect at the tournament this year, on the books for Team Russia.  Nichushkin was a suspended earlier in the tournament, after hitting Canada’s Tyler Wotherspoon from behind.  Despite that lapse, he demonstrated promise on the offensive side of things by scoring the bronze medal winning goal against Canada in OT.

The American team brought one of the highest ranked rising defensemen in the tournament, Seth Jones. Jones contributed an impressive eight points from the blueline; seven of them were assists.  In addition to the point total, he also demonstrated an impressive knack for defensive positioning.

In keeping with the theme of recent years, Caps fans can once again be proud of their prospects’ performance at World Juniors.  As the clock counts down on the NHL/NHLPA negotiations, the WJC has provided a brief glimpse at some of the biggest names in hockey’s future.  For the Caps, that future appears to be bright, indeed.

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