Instead of finding Easter Eggs this morning, the top players under the age of 18 for the top four hockey nations of the world will be trying to earn some medals today in Germany. The action starts early in Crimmitschau, as the gold medal game runs at 2:30 PM local time, or 8:30 AM EST.
Bronze Medal Game: Russia (3-1-0-2) vs. Canada (4-0-1-1)
These two nations met in the U20 final just under four months ago, but none of these players were a part of that classic final. The forever rivals start new here, with Russia offering up an awfully young team led by Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nail Yakupov, goaltender Andrei Vasilievsky, Albert Yarullin and Nikita Nesterov. Some of these players are bound to be household names, but due to NHL scouts' scare of Russia trained players at the NHL draft, it might take longer to remember these names for North American fans. Grigorenko and Yakupov could very well go 1-2 in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and Vasilievsky is making a case to be a top goaltender selection that year as well. For Kucherov, he has done nothing but guarantee he will be taken in the NHL Entry Draft, even though most scouting agencies had him as a bit of an afterthought. Kucherov leads all players with eighteen points in the tournament so far.
Canada, meanwhile, counters with the best roster they could come up with out of players who had been knocked out of the CHL playoffs by the end of the first round. It's still a highly skilled group, led by the All-World defense tandem of Ryan Murphy and Ryan Murray. Murphy is expected to be a top 10 selection in this year's Entry Draft, while Ryan Murray should be right up there with the two Russian forwards mentioned above for a top 3-5 selection. Murray's ability to shut down those skilled players could be an interesting story to watch today. Meanwhile, up front Canada is led by Ryan Schiefele, Mark McNeill, and lately Brett Ritchie has been coming along quite nicely. Late 1993 birthdate Malcolm Subban (not eligible until the 2012 Draft) starts in goal for Canada.
The game will be on TSN in Canada, and should be available through FASTHockey.com. Puck drop is at 8:30 AM EST (2:30 PM local).
Gold Medal Game: Sweden (4-0-0-1) vs. USA (4-1-0-0)
While Canada and Russia were battling it out for gold in Buffalo at the U20s, these two nations met for the bronze. So it's another rematch of sorts, as Sweden will look to earn their first ever gold medal at this tournament. Sweden are led offensively by Mika Zibanejad, who is looking to vault himself into a top ten selection at this year's Entry Draft, though he will likely be taken a little later than that. Sweden's roster boasts solid depth in Viktor Rask, Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall, Gustav Bjorklund, and 2012 eligible Filip Forsberg. On the blueline, the team is led by likely 2011 first round draft pick Jonas Brodin, but the team has also gotten solid contributions from Rasmus Bengtsson and Mikael Vikstrand. In goal, Niklas Lundstrom has gone the distance so far for the team.
The Americans are looking for a three-peat at this tournament. The USNTDP in Ann Arbour, Michigan, has pretty much directly led to a domination of this tournament by the Americans since its inception in 1999. The Americans have won the tournament five times in that span, holding the overall lead in tournament wins over Russia who have three. This year's team has both star power and depth, led by J.T. Miller and Reid Boucher in pretty much every game to date, while getting solid offensive contributions from Rocco Gimraldi, Travis Boyd, and Zach Larraza so far. On the blueline, team captain Robbie Russo is the star, but young Seth Jones is the future, a young late 1994 birthdate who won't be eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until 2013. In goal, John Gibson has gone the distance in goal so far, and could be the first goaltender taken in the upcoming 2011 NHL Draft.
The game is on TSN in Canada and FASTHockey.com for American audiences. Puck drop will be at 6:30 PM local time, or 12:30 PM EST.