Zach Parise is doing it all for the U.S. team at the 2003 World Junior Hockey Championship. He leads the team in scoring with three goals and two assists through four games, including two game winners; he is solid on faceoffs, winning 64% of draws; and, he has stayed out of the penalty box so far on a team that leads the tournament in penalty minutes.
In short, Parise, who is eligible for the NHL’s 2003 Entry Draft, has been very impressive in the team’s preliminary-round games. When asked if his strong play thus far will help with scouts he responded, "I don’t think it can hurt in any way. When you are playing against the top players of this age in the world and show you can perform it helps. A lot of it has to do with how the rest of the season goes as well, but this will definitely help me."
The 18 year-old Parise, whose father Jean-Paul (J.P.) played 13 seasons in the NHL, felt it was very special to be wearing the red, white, and blue of the United States in the tournament. "It’s a feeling that you can’t describe, especially hearing the anthem after you win. You know there are thousands of other kids that are looking up to us right now wishing they could be here and some of them will be here in a few years time. You can’t replace this feeling that we have when putting on the U.S.A. jersey and playing for our country."
J.P. Parise also had a chance to represent his country when he played in the most memorable hockey series of all time, the 1972 Summit Series. Although Parise was not born until 12 years after the Summit Series was over, it has still had an impact on him.
"We have the 1972 DVD set at home and there was a month span where I watched one of his games before every one of our games. It’s really cool to see him play," said the younger Parise.
After this U-20 tournament is over, Parise will return to his team at the University of North Dakota. He is a freshman and both he and the team are doing well. Before leaving the team to attend the U.S. training camp, Parise was averaging more than two points a game with 11 goals and 18 assists in just 14 games. The team has also won 18 of 20 games.
Parise has also been impressed by the level of competition in his first World Junior Championship. "There are some great hockey players here. It’s unbelievable how well they pass the puck and do all the little things right. They pick very well and the things they can do with the puck are very impressive."
Parise’s team will return to action on Thursday in a playoff game against the Czech Republic. The winner of that match will go on to face Canada on Friday to determine who will play for the gold.