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Sunday, December 25, 2011
Stars prospects go for gold at World Juniors

By Mark Stepneski

The NHL resumes play on Monday and Monday also marks the opening of the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

The tournament, which runs through January 5, features some of the top young players in the world suiting up for their countries.

Four Dallas Stars prospects will play in this year’s tournament: Goaltender Jack Campbell (USA); defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (Canada); defenseman Patrik Nemeth (Sweden); defenseman John Klingberg (Sweden).

All four Dallas prospects should be in the medal hunt with Canada, Sweden and the United States among the favorites at the tournament.

G Jack Campbell (1st round, 11th overall/2010)

Campbell will be playing in his third World Juniors. He helped Team USA win the gold medal in 2010. Last year he led the USA to a bronze medal and was named the tournament’s outstanding goaltender, posting a 1.70 goals against average and .941 save percentage. Campbell’s been a big time performer for the USA in international play.

“He's been phenomenal … his international record really speaks for itself,” Team USA coach Dean Blais told NHL.com. "He's had just one loss on the big international stage at the elite level. He brings confidence and continues to push himself to say he's the guy. His compete level is like a Mike Richter. He doesn't like a puck to get by him whether it's at practice or a game. His mental preparation is second to none.”

D Jamie Oleksiak (1st round, 14th overall/2011)

This will be Oleksiak’s first time suiting up for Canada at the World Juniors. Oleksiak, who has dual citizenship, could have played for either Canada or the United States, but chose to play for Team Canada.  At  6-7, 244 pounds, Oleksiak will be perhaps the biggest player at the tournament.

"With Jamie, we're just looking for a real solid defender, a guy that moves the puck up the ice and plays well in his own end,” Team Canada coach Don Hay told the Edmonton Journal. “Killing penalties, he's going to be tough to go against in the front of the net, can handle people.”

D Patrik Nemeth (2nd round, 41st overall/2010)

This will be Nemeth’s second World Juniors for Sweden. He had one assist and a plus-one rating in six games last year as the Swedes finished fourth. Nemeth is a defensive defenseman and should be a key player on the blue line for Sweden in this tournament.

D John Klingberg (5th round, 131st overall/2010)

Klingberg played for Sweden last season as well, picking up one goal, one assist and a plus-two rating in six games. He’s a skilled, offensive defenseman and that’s the role he should play for Sweden. Expect to see him a lot on the power play.

Tournament format

Group A: Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Latvia
Group B: Canada, United States, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark

The teams will play a round-robin series within each group after which the top three teams in each group will advance to the playoff round. The top-seeded team from each group automatically advances to the semifinals. The second and third placed teams from each group will play a cross-over quarterfinal game, and the two winners advance to the semifinals. The winners of the semifinal games play for the gold medal and the losers of the semis play for the bronze.

Monday’s games

Finland vs. Canada, 2:30 p.m. (NHL Network US)
Latvia vs. Sweden, 4:30
Denmark vs. USA, 7:00 p.m. (NHL Network US)
Switzerland vs. Russia, 9:00 p.m.

Links

International Ice Hockey Federation
USA Hockey
Hockey Canada
NHL.com World Junior Championship coverage