The World Junior Championship has become a measuring stick within the hockey world, which features the best of the best young hockey talent. This tournament is where NHL stars Carey Price, Evgeni Malkin, and John Tavares all put the entire hockey world on notice, shortly before they broke through.
This time around, from December 26 – January 5 in Malmo, Sweden, the Buffalo Sabres front office and coaching staff hope the same rings true for the franchise’s three promising top prospects.
Mikhail Grigorenko (Russia), Rasmus Ristolainen (Finland), and Nikita Zadorov (Russia) are the three representing the Buffalo Sabres.
Grigorenko, entering his 3rd consecutive year with Russia U20, has a strong track record in this tournament. Entering this year, Grigorenko has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 13 games with the U20 squad. He has also won a Silver Medal in 2012 and a Bronze Medal in 2013, both with Russia’s U20 squad.
Ristolainen, entering his 3rd consecutive year with Finland U20, has also seen success in this tournament. In 13 games, Ristolainen has amassed 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists). While he hasn’t placed with Finland in the tournament, Ristolainen is an anchor on Finland’s blueline.
Zadorov, entering his first tournament with Russia’s U20, has not seen much time in the World Junior Championship. He played 5 games with Russia U17 and 6 games with Russia U18, both coming in 2011.
All three players will be a must-watch in a worldwide tournament.
Unfortunately for two up-and-coming Sabres prospects, an appearance at the World Junior Championship will not be in the cards.
Forward J.T. Compher (USA) and forward Gustav Possler (Sweden), both seemingly locks for their respective team, suffered injuries recently and will not participate.
Compher, currently playing for the University of Michigan, broke his foot when blocking a shot during a US National Team practice. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks, which clearly puts him on the sidelines for the World Junior Championship.
Possler, currently playing for MODO in the SHL, originally injured his knee November 3rd. Possler attempted to rehab the knee and return to the lineup, but those attempts were scratched when it was determined he may have originally sustained ligament damage.
The future of the Sabres is on display at the World Junior Championship. Make sure you stay tuned to Sabres Hockey Central for the latest on Grigorenko, Ristolainen, and Zadorov.