As the 2014 NHL playoffs get underway, players are equally as likely to find themselves lining up against former IIHF World Junior Championship teammates as they are to be sharing the puck with former IIHF World Junior Championship foes.
Here are some of the most interesting World Juniors connections in each of the eight first-round series.
Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 29 (Boston – 17; Detroit – 12)
Number of appearances: 40 (Boston – 22; Detroit – 18)
Gold medals: 8 (Boston – 6; Detroit – 2)
This is the first playoff meeting between these Original Six rivals since 1957. Fifty years after Boston won that series 4-1, current Red Wings forward Darren Helm and Bruins agitator Brad Marchand won gold together for Canada the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship. Two years earlier, Patrice Bergeron defeated a succession of future Boston teammates – Tuukka Rask (Finland), Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and David Krejci (Czech Republic) – on his way to winning gold.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 23 (Pittsburgh – 12; Columbus – 11)
Number of appearances: 37 (Pittsburgh – 19; Columbus – 18)
Gold medals: 9 (Pittsburgh – 5; Columbus – 4)
Players on these teams combined to win seven straight IIHF World Junior Championship gold medals between 2002 and 2008. In some cases, they beat either friend or foe to do so. Blue Jackets defencemen Fedor Tyutin (Russia, 2003) and James Wisniewski (United States, 2004) both got the better of Marc-Andre Fleury and Canada in the gold medal game. Evgeni Malkin (Russia) twice lost in the final to future NHL teammates, first in 2005 to Sidney Crosby and then the next year to Kris Letang.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 30 (Tampa Bay – 13; Montreal – 17)
Number of appearances: 44 (Tampa Bay – 22; Montreal – 22)
Gold medals: 12 (Tampa Bay – 6; Montreal – 6)
P.K. Subban and Victor Hedman have met on the big stage before. In both 2008 and 2009, Canada defeated Sweden in the gold medal game. Alex Galchenyuk (United States) of the Habs and Nikita Kucherov (Russia) of the Lightning also are no strangers to each other. In 2013, Russia won the preliminary round meeting between the teams, 2-1. But Galchenyuk got the last laugh, as the U.S. would go on to win gold that year. And at the 2012 tournament, Brendan Gallagher, Nathan Beaulieu and Michaël Bournival held off a third period charge from future teammate Jarred Tinordi and the U.S. to win the New Year’s Eve showdown, 3-2.
New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 27 (New York – 12; Philadelphia – 15)
Number of appearances: 37 (New York – 15; Philadelphia – 22)
Gold medals: 13 (New York – 5; Philadelphia – 8)
The Rangers-Flyers match-up has the most combined gold medals of any series, with each roster having a two-time winner for Canada (2006 and 2007 teammates Marc Staal and Steve Downie). Four Flyers – Steve Mason, Luke Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux – reached the top of the podium together in 2008, when Canada defeated Sweden – and Rangers forward Carl Hagelin – 3-2 in overtime. Fellow Flyer Brayden Schenn wouldn’t be as lucky in the gold medal game in 2010, as Canada lost to the U.S. – and Hagelin’s current teammates Derek Stefan and Chris Kreider – 6-5 in overtime.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 26 (Colorado – 9; Minnesota – 17)
Number of appearances: 36 (Colorado – 10; Minnesota – 26)
Gold medals: 7 (Colorado – 2; Minnesota – 5)
The Avalanche has medals of every colour from 2007: Marc-Andre Cliche (gold for Canada), Semyon Varlamov (silver for Russia) and Erik Johnson (bronze for the U.S.). Three members of the Wild are hoping to capture the Cup a decade after winning World Juniors gold together. In 2004, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jake Dowell and the United States beat Canada – and Minnesota teammate Josh Harding – in the final.
St. Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 34 (St. Louis – 20; Chicago – 14)
Number of appearances: 54 (St. Louis – 35; Chicago – 19)
Gold medals: 7 (St. Louis – 2; Chicago – 5)
Jay Bouwmeester made his first of three World Juniors appearances in 2000; he would play with fellow Blues defenceman Barret Jackman that year and the next, and with Steve Ott in 2001 and 2002. Jonathan Toews and Canada would win gold over Russia in 2007, but it was the Blackhawks captain’s shootout heroics over the U.S. – and Patrick Kane – that most people remember. Kane would end up winning bronze over a Swedish team that included current teammate Niklas Hjalmarsson and Blues forward Patrik Berglund.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars
Number of players to compete at an IIHF World Junior Championship: 20 (Anaheim – 14; Dallas – 6)
Number of appearances: 24 (Anaheim – 15; Dallas – 9)
Gold medals: 7 (Anaheim – 5; Dallas – 2)
Anaheim has five players who were at the 2010 event, including gold medalist Cam Fowler (United States) and bronze medalist Jakob Silfverberg (Sweden). The Ducks roster features three players who have represented Finland in three different decades: Teemu Selanne (1989); Saku Koivu (1993, 1994) and Sami Vatanen (2010, 2011). Only six members of the Stars roster ever played at an IIHF World Junior Championship, with Patrik Nemeth and Sweden defeating Cody Eakin and Canada, 6-5, in 2011.
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Number of players to compete at a World Junior Championship: 17 (San Jose – 6; Los Angeles – 11)
Number of appearances: 23 (San Jose – 7; Los Angeles – 16)
Gold medals: 4 (San Jose – 1; Los Angeles – 3)
The Kings roster features two pairs of former World Juniors teammates: Jeff Carter and Mike Richards (Canada, 2004 and 2005) and Matt Greene and Dustin Brown (United States, 2003). While there’s plenty of history between the teams – this is the third time in four seasons they meet in the playoffs – there’s little in the way of World Juniors history. The 1999 event, though, did see San Jose’s Marty Havlat and the Czech Republic defeat L.A.’s Marian Gaborik and Slovakia 3-2 in the preliminary round.