With the 2006 U-20 World Junior Championships only a week away, the Montreal Canadiens will be keeping an eye on the U-20 World Junior tournament with five prospects taking part in the games with three different countries. For the first time in over five years the Canadiens will have two prospects playing for Team Canada as Guillaume Latendresse and Kyle Chipchura will be apart of the team and they almost had three as Carey Price was a surprise cut after a decent showing at the both camps for Team Canada. Chipchura has been named the teams captain, after strong comments from coach Sutter talking about his leadership qualities and attitude. Latendresse makes the team after a good showing for Canada last year at the U-18 tournament.
In addition to Latendresse and Chipchura, Alexi Yemelin will make a return trip for Team Russia and is expected to be wearing the A for his team and might even be rotated in as team captain. Yemelin has been enjoying a very strong season for Lada of the RSL with his aggressive style of play and has even shown off some offensive skills, leading the team in scoring for defensemen.
Also making the trip to Vancover will be Juraj Mikus, who is making his debut for Team Slovakia. Mikus has been playing in the Slovak Elite league for the past two seasons and has enjoyed a solid season so far. The 18 year old will likely be looked upon to carry some of the offense for Slovakia after leading the offense last year while with the U-18 team.
Siarhei Kostitsyn just completed his third trip to the World Juniors, helping Belarus win the Division 1 group B pool which has earned them a birth into next years WJC’s. After a very strong start to his CHL career, Kostitsyn left his London Knights team to go back home to Belarus where his team was hosting the tournament.
With the team playing with older brother Andrei Kostitsyn for the first time in five years, Siarhei would be looked upon to carry much of the offensive load for Belarus in the hopes they could get back to the wjc’s. The younger Kostitsyn did not disappoint as he stepped up his play in the final game of the tournament to help his team win the game 5-2. Belarus entered the game in second place, one point behind Team Kazakhstan who they would face off against in tournament final. Kostitsyn scored two goals and added an assist before being kicked out of the game for a major high sticking penalty.
Kostitsyn’s three point game put him in the tournament lead in scoring as he lead in points, assists, penalty minutes, while being tied for the lead in goals and was second in plus minus with a +6. He was only on the ice for one goal against even strength during the five game tournament. He finished the tournament with nine points and four goals while also getting 43 pims.
Of the five Canadiens prospects, three are from the 2005 NHL entry draft, and had Price made the team it would have been four. The bad news is that Team Canada doesn’t play Team Russia or Team Slovakia in the first round of games.