International Ice Hockey Federation

Ten years after

Ten years after

Which ‘06 World Junior stars panned out best?

Published 27.12.2015 13:21 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Ten years after
If teams could have just one alumnus of the 2006 World Juniors, many would pick Canada's Jonathan Toews, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time Stanley Cup winner. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
If you’re an artist, politician, or surgeon between the ages of 27 and 29, your best days may still lie ahead. But if you play hockey, your peak is likely now.

That’s not to be cruel. That’s just reality in this sport. So it’s interesting to look back over the last 10 years and see which participant from each team at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship has done the most with his talent.

Of course, there are exceptions to the “27 to 29” rule. Take Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. The top goal-scorer at the 2000 World Juniors (six goals) won the NHL scoring title with 104 points in 2010-11 at age 30. Ray Whitney, another longtime NHLer and four-time World Championship participant, peaked at age 34 with 83 points for the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006-07. And let’s not even get into Gordie Howe.

Regardless, on balance, we have a good idea of who turned out to be the biggest stars after the ‘06 tournament in the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Kamloops, and Kelowna. Let’s take a closer look at these premier pros in their prime.

Canada: Jonathan Toews

Pound for pound, it’s hard to argue Toews isn’t the best leader in the entire hockey world. He’s come a long way since being Canada’s 13th forward in Vancouver. “Captain Serious” has led the Chicago Blackhawks to three Stanley Cups, but his IIHF accomplishments are arguably even more impressive.

He scored three times to help oust the Americans in the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship semi-final, won IIHF World Championship gold in Moscow that year before even entering the NHL, and – almost miraculously – notched the opening goal in Canada’s last two Olympic gold medal victories, at 12:50 versus the U.S. in 2010, and at 12:55 versus Sweden in 2014.

Czech Republic: David Krejci

Not many players lead the NHL playoffs in scoring. Krejci has done it twice (2011, 2013) with the Boston Bruins, winning the Stanley Cup the first time. Never the flashiest but certainly one of the smartest players of his generation, the Czech centre had six points in six games in his final World Juniors in British Columbia. The 29-year-old has emerged as the class of a team that also included the likes of Vladimir Sobotka, Martin Hanzal, and Jiri Tlusty.

Finland: Tuukka Rask

Few NHL goalies boast faster feet or glove hands or finish with a save percentage over 92.0 more regularly than Tuukka Rask. The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner with Boston provided a glimpse of what was to come in Vancouver when he backstopped an utterly pedestrian Finnish team to third place.

The Savonlinna product’s 53-save performance lifted them to a 1-0 quarter-final win over Sweden, and he added another 45 stops in a 4-2 win over the Americans in the bronze medal game. He’d bring Suomi another bronze with another victory (5-0) over the U.S. at the Sochi Olympics last year.

Latvia: Kaspars Daugavins

Daugavins captained Latvia to 13th place at the 2015 Worlds in Prague, leading his team with five goals. And the former Ottawa Senators prospect (91 NHL games) has shown leadership for his native land for years. A two-time Olympian and seven-time World Championship participant, the 27-year-old Riga native has come a long way since posting two assists in his lone World Juniors.

Norway: Mats Zuccarello

Though small in stature, Zuccarello is making a big impact with the New York Rangers as their leading scorer this season. The all-time points leader among the eight Norwegians who have worn NHL jerseys, he got just two assists as an 18-year-old as Norway finished 10th and last overall in Vancouver in 2006.

Nifty and creative, “The Hobbit” has also shown great character by bouncing back from a serious head injury in last year’s playoffs. The two-time Olympian also has three Worlds under his belt.

Russia: Yevgeni Malkin

Even though the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fortunes have waned since their 2009 Stanley Cup, and injuries have limited Malkin in recent seasons, the 2006 World Junior MVP and Best Forward remains the single biggest offensive force to emerge from that tournament. Malkin had nine points as Russia took the silver medal.

Since then, he’s won two NHL scoring titles (2009, 2012), along with the Calder, Conn Smythe and Hart Trophies. The towering center who takes heat off Sidney Crosby with the Pens also owns two World Championship golds (2012, 2014), silvers (2010, 2015), and bronzes (2005, 2007). From the 2006 class, he and Toews are the only two surefire future members of both the IIHF Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame.

Slovakia: Andrej Sekera

Currently in the first year of a six-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers, this underrated puck-moving defenceman managed five points in Slovakia’s eighth-place finish at the 2006 World Juniors. Other notable players from the ‘06 team include Marek Zagrapan, Juraj Mikus, and Boris Valabik. On the IIHF stage, Sekera’s biggest accomplishment remains his silver medal at the 2012 Worlds in Helsinki.

Sweden: Nicklas Backstrom

When all is said and done, Backstrom may go down as one of the best NHL playmakers of time. With close to 0.74 assists per game, only Peter Forsberg (0.898) and Kent Nilsson (0.763) top him among Swedes, and he’s in the top 20 of NHLers all-time.

Quiet and defensively underrated, he’s had many of his finest moments centering Alexander Ovechkin with the Washington Capitals. A former Swedish league Rookie of the Year (2006), he had seven points at the World Juniors that year, and now owns an Olympic gold (2006) and silver (2014).

Switzerland: Yannick Weber

Switzerland’s future contributions to the NHL from the ‘06 World Juniors were mostly defensive, from Weber to fellow blueliner Raphael Diaz to goalie Reto Berra. Although Weber is sometimes maligned for his shortcomings in his own end with the Vancouver Canucks these days, his big shot on the power play has helped him establish himself as more of an NHL regular than his two aforementioned colleagues. A three-time World Junior participant, he’s since appeared at a pair of both Worlds and Olympics.

United States: Phil Kessel

The ‘06 American World Junior team oozed talent, making their fourth-place finish all the more disappointing in retrospect. Look at goalie Cory Schneider, defencemen Jack Johnson, Erik Johnson, and Matt Niskanen, and forwards T.J. Oshie, Bobby Ryan, and Blake Wheeler, just to name a few. And with all that said, Kessel – who led the World Juniors in points (11) that year – remains the most accomplished of the bunch.

Even if his conditioning and attitude have sometimes made him a lightning rod for criticism, even if he was once traded for what turned out to be Tyler Seguin, and even if his Toronto teams never went anywhere, he’s scored more than 30 goals five times, a prodigious feat in today’s NHL. Twice an Olympian, the current Pittsburgh Penguin was named Best Forward in Sochi.


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