Edmonton Oil King and Edmonton Oilers’ prospect Kristians Pelss was named the Team Captain for his country, Latvia in the 2012 IIHF World Juniors Tournament. For Pelss, being the team captain, the only player drafted into the NHL, a player currently playing in Alberta, and one of the few players on the team that speaks English fluently made him a very popular man with the media. With every loss, Pelss had to field more questions than any of his teammates. And although the weight of the world looked to be on his shoulders, Pelss handled it all with grace and strength.
This wasn’t the medal that team Canada wanted to play for, but this is the game they ended their tournament with. Despite strong play through their preliminary round, the loss to Russia Tuesday night was the most significant game of the tournament. For Finland, losing is never easy, but losing to Canada in Canada only increased the focus on their loss. Not that a 4-0 loss wouldn’t draw enough attention as it was.
An even dozen, that’s how many goals Team USA managed to score Tuesday against Latvia, after a lackluster preliminary round for both teams.
For the both teams, this game was as much about pride as it was securing a position in this tournament for next year. Now, Latvia has one more game and nothing to lose.
Although the IIHF World Juniors tournament is not an NHL tournament, there are several players in the tournament who have been drafted by NHL teams. For many NHL fans, this is the only opportunity to see many of the prospects in action. Of course this is still a competitive tournament and an excellent opportunity to see the world’s best junior hockey players on display.
Here is a look at how the NHL prospects have done so far at this tournament. All stats were taken from the IIHF team statistics pages.
Neither team had the start to this game that they wanted, but Slovakia certainly found the finish. In what has been the most exciting hockey game in the Pool A preliminaries, Slovakia found the will and the way to come back from a deficit and score three goals in 3:01. Simply incredible.
In front of the Calgary crowd of 12 598 on the second day of competition, it was the goaltenders for both Latvia and Slovakia that defined the game. Kristers Gudlevskis stopping 42 or 44 shots faced was named player of the game for Latvia and Jurjaj Simboch turned away 25 of 26 shots on goal to be named player of the game for Slovakia.
While the Edmonton Oilers have been struggling as of late to find wins, their AHL and WHL affiliates have found themselves in the exact opposite situation. The Oilers have still played some exciting hockey, and of course the future looks bright but while the Oilers are falling towards the bottom of the NHL, the Barons are sitting on top of the AHL, and the Oil Kings’ strung together 11 wins before their Christmas break.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have very quietly been stringing together a great 11 game winning streak this season. The reason I say quietly is because from my perspective, the Oil Kings have been receiving very little media attention and I cannot figure out why.
This year the Calgary Hitmen and the Edmonton Oil Kings will be co-hosting the IIHF World Juniors Tournament. That alone should be enough to pique the interest in the teams, especially since both cities are hockey crazy. For whatever reason however, the Oil Kings continue to see low attendance numbers and little to no coverage in either newspaper.
This Sunday was the annual Calgary Hitmen Teddy Bear Toss and although I was not able to attend, I wanted to take a look at the event. The Teddy Bear toss is exactly what it sounds like; a toy drive for the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and it is quite successful. Last year, fans threw 23, 096 stuffed toys onto the ice following the Hitmen’s first goal of the night. This year, the 17th running, that total was 25, 303.
The Team Canada World Juniors camp invitations have been announced and only 3 players from last year’s silver medal winning team will be returning. This group of players features no real surprises, but definitely a large number of talented players.
Edmonton Oilers’ prospect goaltender Tyler Bunz is on the list as is Edmonton Oil Kings defencemen Mark Pysyk. Both are Edmonton natives who are hoping to represent their country in their home town.
Aaron Vickers of NHL.com has some comments from Team Canada head of scouting Kevin Prendergast:
I think the skill factor overall (is higher),” Prendergast said. “We have a lot of skilled defensemen. Not near as big as we were last year, but we have good players back there. We’re young up front compared to where we were last year, but you look at these kids, you look at their stats, where they were drafted in the (NHL) draft, they were in NHL camps for a while. They understand what they have to bring when they get here.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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