Five of the Montreal Canadiens top prospects will play for medals today, on the final day of competition at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
In the Bronze Medal Game, Canada will face Russia in a rematch of last year’s third place game. Representing Canada are two Canadians prospects from Quebec, Charles Hudon and goaltender Zach Fucale. Russia won that game in overtime when Valeri Nichuskin scored to send Canada home empty handed. Nichuskin is still eligible for the World Jr Tournament, but is playing in the NHL with the Dallas Stars and was not made available to represent his country this year.
Hudon began the tournament as the “extra” or thirteenth forward for Team Canada but quickly made a home for himself as the defensive conscience on the team’s top offensive line with Anthony Mantha and Jonathan Drouin.
Zach Fucale took over as the number one goaltender after Jake Paterson started the first two games in the preliminary round. Fucale was excellent against Slovakia and the United States which led to Canada winning their division. Zach was great again in a surprisingly close Quarterfinal game against Switzerland, making big saves when he was called upon, before the team added some insurance in the third to take the game 4-1.
There will be three Habs prospects playing prominent roles in the Gold Medal Game this afternoon. Sebastien Collberg and Jacob de la Rose will suit up for the host nation Sweden, and they will face Artturi Lehkonen who plays for the underdog Finland.
Collberg is known for his offense, especially his impressive shot and scoring abilities. The second round pick has just one goal in the tournament, but has contributed five points in six games playing a second line role behind Elias Lindholm and Filip Forsberg who began the season in the NHL.
De la Rose was labeled a strong two way player when the Canadiens used a second round pick to take him in the 2013 NHL Draft and he has not disappointed. He has chipped in an impressive six points in six games, while playing a shutdown role and killing penalties. He has been earning high praise from the twitterverse throughout the tournament.
RDS says Bergevin joined the #Habs in Dallas after attending the WJC in Sweden. Noted he was particularly impressed with Jacob de la Rose.
— HabsLinks (@HabsLinks) January 3, 2014
Mikael Renberg has done some commentary for Swedish TV during the WJC, and has said that Jacob de la Rose is 1-2 years away from the NHL.
— Marc Dumont (@Dr_Habs) January 4, 2014
De la Rose will likely be given the responsibility of shutting down Finland’s top line which includes Arttturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen scored the game winning goal in the semi-final, helping his team pull off a major upset against Canada. The second round pick of the Canadiens has been playing alongside Teuvo Teravainen and Saku Maenalanen, and if Finland is going to take home gold, it will be Lehkonen’s line that will have to lead the way.
The World Jr Tournament is a fundamental development ground for the best teenaged hockey players in the world. If Canada can beat Russia for bronze, their will be five Montreal Canadien draft picks taking home a medal from the World Jrs today.