It was a long time coming for Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championships in Toronto. On Monday, Canada defeated the Russians in the gold medal game 5-4 to win its first gold medal since 2009.
For Buffalo Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart, it was his first gold at the U-20 World Championships wearing his red and white. The second overall pick in the 2014 National Hockey League Draft had a tournament to remember for Canada, centering the top line of Canada’s fire-power offense. In between Arizona Coyotes prospect Max Domi and New York Rangers forward Anthony Duclair, Reinhart scored five goals and registered eleven points. His eleven points on the tournament was tied with teammates Nic Petan (second-round pick in 2013 for the Winnipeg Jets), and Connor McDavid (top prospect in the 2015 NHL Draft).
For Reinhart, this win was more than just a gold medal and a championship win.
“It is everything. That was the biggest win of my life so far,” Reinhart said. “No question that was the first adversity in the tournament we faced and that crowd helped us. They were unbelievable.”
Reinhart finished the 2015 World Juniors registering 20 shots, and led the tournament in the plus-minus category with a plus-13. Reinhart was also 57.94-percent on face-offs, and was arguably one of Canada’s best two-way forwards throughout the tournament.
Reinhart will now head back to the Western Hockey League to rejoin his Kootenay Ice team that will now push for a playoff spot. Reinhart has eight goals and 19 assists in 15 games with the Ice since being return to Kootenay in late October.
For the rest of the Sabres prospects in the World Junior Championships, things did not go so well.
Victor Olofsson and team Sweden were favorites to meet Canada in the gold medal game, but were defeated in the semifinals by Team Russia 4-1. Then on Monday, Sweden lost in the bronze medal game to the “Cinderella” Slovakians 4-2.
The Sabres seventh round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft was relatively quiet in the tournament, as he played mostly on the third or fourth line for Sweden. Olovsson did play in all seven games with Sweden, however he was held to just one assist in the tournament. Olofsson was also a plus-1, and finished with 10 shots on goal in Toronto.
Olofsson will now return to MODO of the Swedish Hockey League, where he has posted nine goals and seven assists in 30 games played. Olofsson is currently fourth on the roster in scoring for MODO.
For the United States and prospects Hudson Fasching and J.T. Compher, it was a disappointing end for them as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by, you guessed it, Russia.
Of the two prospects, Hudson Fasching had a more noticeable tournament for the United States. Fasching was tied for fourth on the team in scoring with three points (one goal and two assists), but was tied for the team lead in plus-minus with linemate Dylan Larkin with a plus-seven. Fasching also finished to World Juniors with nine shots and only took two penalties all tournament.
More importantly, Fasching with voted as one of the top three players for Team USA throughout the Would Juniors. Larkin, a first round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2014, and Colorado Avalanche defensive prospect Will Butcher were the other two players voted as top players for Team USA.
For Compher, it was a quiet tournament for him as he was mainly on the fourth line throughout competition. Compher was absent on the scoresheet and was less than 50-percent on his face-offs, but Compher did take 10 shots on goal.
For the USA teammates, Fasching will return to the University of Minnesota to finish his sophomore year with the Golden Gophers. Fasching currently has five goals and three assists in 15 games with Minnesota. Compher is going to go back to the University of Michigan to finish his sophomore year with the Wolverines. In 15 games in Michigan, Compher has three goals and 8 assists, and is an alternate captain for the Wolverines.
Buffalo was well represented at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships, and even though it did not go well for every prospect in the tournament, the Sabres can look ahead to a bright future with some potential talent. The 2016 World Junior Championships will be held in Helsinki, Finland beginning December 26.