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Caps prospects do well at World Juniors

Saturday morning’s gold medal game between USA and Sweden featured three Washington Capitals prospects: Riley Barber for the United States, and defenseman Christian Djoos and team captain forward Filip Forsberg for Sweden. (USA won, 3-1!)

But this isn’t the first time Washington has had prospects in the gold medal finale. In fact, going all the way back to 2007, the Capitals have had a prospect return home with a gold medal around his neck. And there have been a couple years where there’s been a Caps prospect on all three medal-winning teams.

This little walk down memory lane begins in 2007. Team Canada was in the middle of its dominant surge over the World Juniors and ended up winning the Gold that year. It was also current Caps defenseman Karl Alzner‘s first time playing in the tournament.

In 2008′s tournament, things got a bit more interesting.

Alzner was named captain for Canada, who ended up winning Gold again, but joining him was then-prospect Josh Godfrey (never thought you’d see his name again, eh?). Also making his first appearance in the tournament was future star netminder Michal Neuvirth, whose Czech Republic team ended up in fifth place. However, even at a young age Neuvirth was almost unbeatable. His save percentage over the tournament was a high 90.99 and he averaged 2.50 goals against. Not bad.

2009 is a bit of a cheat. It can now be called the year of the former-Caps prospect domination. Stefan Della Rovere represented Canada, winning the last Gold medal our neighbors to the North have seen since, and Dmitry Kugryshev was on the bronze medal-winning Team Russia. The only worthwhile note from that season is that Della Rovere managed to rack up 26 penalty minutes. He always was spunky. Remember that time he fought during development camp?

Now with the end of Canada’s dominance, we’re welcomed into the “Canada Killers” time period. It was at the tail end of the 2010 tournament when current defenseman John Carlson earned the nickname Captain America. In the gold medal game, against Canada, Carlson scored the game-winning goal, in overtime, that earned the Americans the win. With his three other goals and three assists, in addition to an overall +/- plus-8 in the tournament, he was named to the All-Star team. This was also the first year Caps prospects swept the podium. Della Rovere was on the Canadian team and Marcus Johansson represented bronze-winning Sweden. Also, while they finished sixth, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov represented Russia.

In 2011, the “Canadian Killer” Caps prospects continued to kill. Orlov and Kuznetsov returned to the tournament and helped lead Russia to Gold. Both were named to the All-Star team and Kuznetsov finished the tournament second in scoring, with four goals and seven assists, and Orlov finished ninth in scoring with one goal and eight assists and a plus-10 rating. Also representing Washington prospects that year were silver medal-winning then-prospect Cody Eakin with the Canadians, bronze-winning Patrick Wey with the United States, ninth place finishing Steffen Soberg with Norway, and 10th place finishing Philipp Grubauer with Germany. Grubauer had an 88.79 save percentage and averaged 4.44 goals against.

Last year’s tournament, in 2012, was Kuznetsov’s best for silver medal-winning Russia. He lead the tournament in scoring with six goals and seven assists, was named the tournament MVP, was named to the All-Star team, and the International Ice Hockey Federation awarded him the best player award for a forward. But not to be looked over was the Caps prospect on the gold medal-winning Swedish team, Forsberg.

Now that brings up back to this year. No matter which team wins early Saturday morning, Washington prospects will once again walk away with medals. So for the general managers and coaches putting together next year’s world juniors teams, you may want to consider having a couple Caps prospects on your roster. Apparently it pays off.

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