We’re spending time on the show this week reviewing the top sports stories of the year both national and local. For me, one of the top local stories was one that had nothing to do with a Buffalo team. Some of the top young hockey players in the world came to Western New York as we played host to the World Junior Championships.
Seeing a number of games in person at that tournament has piqued my interest for the 2012 event going on in Calgary and Edmonton. Team USA is a favorite to medal for the 3rd straight year and they do have a local player on the roster. Adam Clendening played hockey here growing up and spent part of his high school time at Niagara Wheatfield.
You will probably remember a number of his teammates since they were here for last year’s event including Ducks prospect Emerson Etem who angered many with a negative comment about the area and was booed in the USA’s first game at the Arena. Nick Bjugstad, Charlie Coyle and goalie Jack Campbell are also returnees. Etem is property of Anaheim, Bjugstad belongs to Florida and Coyle is in San Jose’s organization. The U-S has some serious size on the blue line, led by 6 foot 7 Jarred Tinordi and 6 foot 5 Derek Forbort. The U-S blew out Denmark in its opener and has a big showdown game coming up on New Year’s Eve with the host team and heavy Gold Medal favorite, Canada.
Canada is coming off back to back heartbreaks in the gold medal game with last year’s third period collapse to Russia coming one year after an overtime loss to Team USA. The Canadians do have a Sabres prospect on the roster in defenseman Mark Pysyk, Buffalo first round choice in the 2010 draft. Their top players include Mark Scheifele who began the season with Winnipeg but was sent back to junior. Talented forward Brett Connolly is on loan from Tampa Bay. Team Canada is also said to be more of a finesse team as opposed to last year’s group that included Zack Kassian and Marcus Foligno and was more of a blue collar type of squad.
There is one other Sabres prospect in the tournament. The team’s first round pick in this year’s draft, Joel Armia, is playing for Finland. The games can be seen on the NHL Network.