Over the years, many future Washington Capitals players have participated in the IIHF Under 20 Championships, popularly known as the World Junior Games. The games begin on Christmas Day, with the preliminary rounds taking place between Christmas and New Years’ Day and the championship games starting after the New Year. This is a history of World Juniors from 2003 through the present, with special emphasis on the performance of future Capitals players.
2003 (Halifax and Sydney, NovaScotia) – Russia edged Canada 3-2 for the Gold Medal. Finland won the Bronze Medal, beating the United States 3-2.
While 17 year old Alex Ovechkin of Russia was held off the scoresheet in the Gold Medal game, he had six goals in the tournament, including two hat tricks, and seven points overall.
Other future Capitals included Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon, and Steven Eminger on Silver Medalist Team Canada, Milan Jurcina on Team Slovakia, and Tomas Fleischmann on Team Czech. Laich scored two goals and four assists for Canada. Fleischmann scored three goals for the Czechs. At that time, Laich, Jurcina, and Fleischmann were not yet in the Capitals’ organization. More details on this series can be found here.
2004 (Helsinki and Hämeenlinna, Finland) – The United States beat Canada 4-3 to earn the Gold Medal. Finland beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to win the Bronze Medal.
For Capitals fans who remember this tournament, this was the year where the Caps management allowed Alexander Semin, who was actually on their NHL roster, to participate in the tournament. These days, most NHL teams do not commonly release players from their NHL roster to play in the World Juniors.
In addition to Semin, Team Russia also had 18-year-old phenom and future Capital Alexander Ovechkin. Russia did not fare well that year and were eliminated in the quarter final round when they lost 4-3 to Finland.
For individual statistics, Ovechkin had five goals and two assists while Semin had two goals and two assists. Sami Lepisto, later drafted by the Caps, was part of the Finland Team and had four goals and four assists.
The Czech Republic, who lost in the Bronze Medal game, had Tomas Fleischmann and Jakub Klepis. Fleischmann and Klepis each had two goals and two assists. Mike Richards, who played for the Caps in 2015-16, but is more famous for his play as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings, was part of Team Canada and had 2 goals and 3 assists.
2005 (Grand Forks, North Dakota) — Canada cruised to a 6-1 win over Russia in the Gold Medal Game. In this game, Alex Ovechkin was subjected to constant pounding from Canada and left the game in second period with a shoulder injury.
Ovechkin ultimately missed the next two months of the season, as a result. Ovechkin scored seven goals and had dour assists.
Other future Caps participating were Mike Richards (Canada) and Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia) who both played briefly with the Caps, but are more well-known for their exploits with other teams.
2006 (Vancouver, British Columbia) – Canada once again cruised to a win over Russia in the Gold Medal Game, this time winning 5-0. Caps’ first round draft pick, Sasha Pokulok, who never made it to the NHL, was part of Canada’s Gold Medal squad.
Future Capitals T.J. Oshie, Matt Niskanen, Taylor Chorney, and Chris Bourque were part of Team USA, who fell to Russia 5-1 in the Semi-Final Round and lost to Finland 4-2 in the Bronze Medal game.
Oshie contributed one goal for Team USA while Bourque had seven goals and one assist. Nicklas Backstrom was on Team Sweden and had four goals and three assists for them. Sweden finished fifth in the tournament.
2007 (Leksand, Sweden) – Once again, Canada beat Russia in the Gold Medal Game, this time winning 4-2. Team USA beat Team Sweden 2-1 in the Bronze medal game.
Future Caps participating in this tournament included Karl Alzner (Canada), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) who had seven assists, Taylor Chorney (USA) who had one goal and five assists, Ryan Stoa (USA) and Semyon Varlamov (Russia).
2008 (Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic) – Canada beat Sweden in the Gold Medal Game with a 3-2 score in overtime. Future Caps participating in this tournament included Karl Alzner (Canada), Carl Hagelin (Sweden), Michal Neuvirth (Czech), and Lars Eller (Denmark). Karl Alzner was the Captain for Team Canada.
2009 (Ottawa, Ontario) – Once again, Canada beat Sweden in the Gold Medal Game, this time winning 5-1. Future Caps participating in this tournament included Kevin Shattenkirk (USA) although he is more well known for his accomplishments on other teams, Marcus Johansson (Sweden), and Tomas Kundratek (Czech). Johansson scored two goals for Sweden.
2010 (Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) – The United States broke Canada’s Gold Medal streak at five wins in a row. The United States won a 6-5 overtime game when future Capitals defenseman, John Carlson scored the game winner.
Carlson scored one other goal in the Gold Medal game and had four goals and three assists for the tournament. Ironically, Canada had beaten the US in overtime in the preliminary rounds to earn top seed and a bye at the beginning of the Final round.
The United States had advanced to the Gold Medal Finals after beating Sweden 5-2. Future Capital Marcus Johansson was Sweden’s team Captain and scored one goal and seven assists in the tournament. He had earned a game misconduct during the Semi-finals game against the USA for an elbowing infraction and was suspended for the Bronze Medal game where Sweden played Switzerland.
Another future Cap, Richard Panik, represented Slovakia and scored six goals and had two assists. Three future Caps defensemen: Michal Kempny, Radko Gudas and Jakub Jerebek, represented the Czech Republic.
Two more future Caps, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov, represented Russia. Orlov had 4 assists while Kuznetsov scored 2 goals. Carlson was selected to the Media All Star team for defense.
2011 (Buffalo, New York) – In this game, Russia completed the greatest comeback in World Junior Championship history to win the Gold Medal against Canada, 5-3.
Canada led Russia 3-0 after two periods. But then early in the third period, the Russians scored two goals in just 13 seconds to pull the Russians to 3-2. Vladimir Tarasenko scored the tying goal just four minutes later.
With less than five minutes to go in the game, Russia scored the go ahead goal and then an insurance goal with just over a minute to go.
This was Russia’s first Gold Medal since the 2003 World Junior games. After the game, the Russians had celebrated so hard that they ended up getting kicked off the plane that was supposed to take them back home.
Future Capitals Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov were part of the Russian Team. Kuznetsov was second in overall scoring with four goals and seven assists. Orlov scored one goal and recorded seven assists. Cody Eakin and Brett Connolly, two future Capitals, were on Team Canada. Richard Panik scored seven goals and had two assists for Slovakia.
2012 (Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta) – Sweden defeated Russia in the Gold Medal game 1-0.
Russia had defeated Canada 6-5 in the Semi-final game. Canada was down 6-1 midway through the third period, but Canada made a comeback that fell short. This was the first time that Canada missed the Final game in 11 years.
Canada ultimately won the Bronze Medal as they beat Finland in the Bronze Medal game. Future Capital Evgeny Kuznetsov had six goals and seven assists and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Two future Capitals, Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly, were with Team Canada, with Connolly scoring five goals. An eventual first round pick of the Caps, who ultimately never played for them, Filip Forsberg, was part of Sweden’s team.
2013 (Ufa, Russia) – This tournament took place during an NHL lockout. The United States won the Gold Medal by beating Sweden 3-1.
The US advanced to the Gold Medal Round by beating Canada 5-1 in the Semi-Final round, despite the fact that Canada had a “Dream Team” of prospects, several of who would normally have been in the NHL already, if not for the lockout.
Caps prospect Riley Barber was on Team USA and scored three goals and had three assists. Team Sweden included Caps first round pick Filip Forsberg, who had three goals and two assists and future Caps defenseman, Christian Djoos.
The Czech team included two future Capitals, Dmitrij Jaskin, who had three goals and three assists, and 16-year-old Jakub Vrana, who had one assist.
2014 (Malmo, Sweden) – Finland beat Sweden 3-2 in Overtime. Once again Russia beat Canada in the Bronze medal game, this time 2-1.
Unlike the 2004 World Junior Games, when the Caps allowed one of their eligible roster players, Alexander Semin, to participate, the Caps would not allow Tom Wilson to participate, despite the fact he was a fourth liner who did not play a high number of minutes.
Two Caps’ prospects represented the USA: Riley Barber, who had four goals and two assists, and Connor Carrick.
Team Sweden included Caps first round pick Filip Forsberg, who had four goals and eight assists, future draft pick Andre Burakovsky, who had three goals and four assists, and future defenseman Christian Djoos.
Djoos scored the game tying goal for Sweden in the Gold Medal game, forcing Overtime. Filip Forsberg was chosen the Most Valuable Player that year.
2015 (Toronto, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec) – Canada beat Russia in the Gold Medal game, 5-4. Future Caps defenseman Madison Bowey was part of Team Canada.
Jakub Vrana and Vitek Vanacek represented the Czechs, with Vrana scoring two goals and one assist. Sweden and Finland each had a player named Sebastian Aho.
2016 (Helsinki, Finland) – Finland beat Russia in the Gold Medal Game by a 4-3 score in Overtime. United States won Bronze as they beat Sweden 8-2.
Ilya Samsonov was on Team Russia’s roster, although he was the backup to Alexander Georgiev. Vitek Vanacek was the Caps’ only representative for the Czechs as Jakub Vrana was out with a broken wrist. Jonas Siegenthaler and Damien Riat represented Switzerland among Caps prospects.
2017 (Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario) – The United States beat Canada in the Gold Medal Game, 5-4 in a shootout. Russia won Bronze after beating Sweden in a 2-1 game that went to Overtime.
The United States had advanced to the Gold Medal Game by beating Russia 2-1 in a shootout in the Semi-Final. Of Capitals’ prospects, Ilya Samsonov was the primary goaltender for Team Russia. Jonas Siegenthaler and Damien Riat represented Switzerland among Caps prospects, same as they did the prior year. 17-year-old Martin Fehervary represented Slovakia and scored a goal.
— 2020 IIHF #WorldJuniors (@iihf_wjc) January 5, 2017
— 2020 IIHF #WorldJuniors (@iihf_wjc) January 5, 2017
2018 – (Buffalo and Orchard Park, New York) – Canada beat Sweden in the Gold Medal game 3-1. United States won the Bronze Medal game by beating the Czech Republic 9-3. Martin Fehervary represented Slovakia and had a goal and an assist.
2018-19 – (Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia) – Finland beat the United States 3-2 in the Gold Medal Game. Russia won the Bronze Medal game by beating Switzerland 5-2.
Caps prospect Alex Alexeyev was part of the Russian Team and scored two goals and had four assists. Martin Fehervery represented Slovakia and had one goal and four assists.
2020 – (Ostrava and Třinec, Czech Republic) – Canada beat Russia in the Gold Medal game 4-3 in a game that Canada was behind 3-1 early in third period. Sweden won Bronze by beating Finland 3-2.
Caps prospect Connor McMichael scored the Canadians’ second goal in the Gold Medal game and had 5 goals and 2 assists throughout the tournament.
By Diane Doyle