The IIHF World Junior Championships are the antithesis of junior-aged hockey.
Every year nations who’ve qualified send their best players under 20 years of age to the greatest stage to compete for a gold medal.
The Red Deer Rebels have sent 36 players and goaltenders to compete for their nation over the course of the franchise’s history. Six nations have been represented by Rebels playing in these tournaments.
There have been some remarkable performances over the years from a variety of different players. We’ll explore those below.
10. Adam Musil (Czech Republic, 2017)
Musil headed to Montreal to join a roster that included teammate Michael Spacek. The Czech team did not have a great tournament, finishing the round-robin portion with one win, two overtime losses, and a regulation loss. This qualified the team for a quarterfinal match-up with Canada, a game they lost 5-3. Musil finished his only tournament with three assists in five games.
9. BJ Young (USA, 1997)
Team USA and Young were headed to Switzerland for the 1997 edition of the IIHF World Junior Championships. The Americans skated to a record of three wins and one tie, the tie came against Team Canada. A first-round bye in the medal round pitted the Americans against the Czech Republic and they won 5-2, setting up a date with the Canadians. Team USA was shutout in the final game, falling 2-0. Young received a silver medal following a two-goal and two-assist effort in six games.
8. Roman Wick (Switzerland, 2005)
Playing in North Dakota, Wick and the team from Switzerland were not expected to fare well in the tightly contested Group A with the Russian and American teams. Switzerland’s only win in the round-robin came at the expense of Belarus. Switzerland did enough in the relegation round to return for the 2006 edition of the World Junior Championship. Wick scored one goal and added three assists over six games to keep Switzerland in the top group.
7. Michael Spacek (Czech Republic, 2014-17)
Spacek is one of only two Rebels that played in three tournaments. His combined 15 games are second-most by a Rebel (Tommi Kivisto played 18). He is also third overall by a Rebel in total points with nine. His best performance came at the 2016 World Junior Championship when he had two goals and three assists in five games. He scored the only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to Russia. He also had a goal and an assist in a 5-4 loss to Finland in the round-robin. The Czechs were eliminated in the quarterfinals after a 7-0 loss to the Americans, placing them fifth overall.
6. Patrik Bartosak (Czech Republic, 2013)
Bartosak has the best performance by a player from the Czech Republic and the second-best performance by a non-Canadian player. Bartosak started every game after the team’s other goalie lost the opening game to Sweden. In those three games, the Czechs came away with three wins, including an overtime thriller against the Swiss team. Bartosak stopped 73 of 79 (.924sv%) in the round-robin stage. The team met a powerful American roster in the quarterfinals and lost 7-0.
5. Colin Fraser (Canada, 2005)
The first of two Rebels on the 2005 Canadian team, Fraser scored a gold medal as Team Canada cruised to a 6-0 record including a 6-1 rout of Russia in the gold medal game. Fraser played in just one World Junior Championship where he scored once and added four assists over six games.
4. Dion Phaneuf (Canada, 04-05)
Two medals, one gold, and one silver hang in Phaneuf’s home following back to back trips to the World Juniors. The second trip to the World Junior Championships for Phaneuf edges out his first trip for this list. Phaneuf scored once and added five assists in six games as Team Canada won gold in 2005 in the United States. With the NHL locked out, all teams benefitted from having potential stars on their respective teams. Phaneuf and Team Canada went undefeated through six games and won the gold medal in a 6-1 victory over Russia.
3. Alexander Alexeyev (Russia, 2019)
Russia fielded a strong team for the 2019 edition of the IIHF World Junior tournament and Alexeyev was one of the strongest defensemen. His six points were good for second among all defensemen. He had two goals and four assists for the Russian team on their way to a bronze medal. Russia’s only stumble came in the semi-finals against the Americans, where the team fell 2-1, sending them to the bronze medal game against Switzerland. The team took the medal with a 5-2 win.
2. Brad Leeb (Canada, 1999)
Leeb and Team Canada got to play on home ice, as the tournament was played in Manitoba, with the gold medal game slated for the old Winnipeg Arena. The Canadians did not get off to a good start as they tied Slovakia 0-0 in their opening game. The Canadians finished the round-robin with a 2-1-1 record and faced Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. They took the game 12-2. The team then moved on to a 6-1 win over Sweden. This set up a gold medal game with Russia. The Russian team proved too much for Canada and handed them a 3-2 loss. Leeb finished the tournament with a then-record for Red Deer Rebels with eight points in seven games.
1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Canada, 2013)
Possibly the best player to have ever worn a Rebels jersey so it is no surprise he tops the list of Rebels having the best World Junior Championship. The 2013 edition of Team Canada did not have the tournament that they had hoped for, finishing fourth following a loss to Russia in the bronze medal game. “Nuge” had a monster tournament scoring four goals and adding 11 assists to lead all scorers. This led to him being named to the tournament all-star team and being named best forward of the tournament. His 15 points rank in the Top 5 all-time for Canada’s team.