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THN.com Blog: Finding favorites at the WJC

Oscar Moller has 13 points in 30 games for the Kings this season and will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Oscar Moller has 13 points in 30 games for the Kings this season and will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

One more day and we’re outta here; officially on Christmas break.

It’s time to go home, return to our roots and sit back and watch some great hockey in Ottawa.

Obviously, I don’t mean from the Senators…because they’re on the road. Ya, that’s why.

The best of the junior world descends on our nation’s capital this Boxing Day until Jan. 5 and while Canada is still considered the favorite by many, the tournament really is wide open this year.

What I enjoy most about the WJC, though, is watching the players I never get to see, which often leads me to adopt a new player to be among my favorites.

Last year it was a Swede who really caught my eye and – to my gleeful surprise – he’s back again for the Tre Kronor this year.

Oscar Moller - a second-rounder in 2007 who made the Los Angeles Kings out of camp this season - was freed up by his NHL team to try captaining the loaded Swedes to junior gold. He has the background of a European player, but the scrappy and fearless on-ice demeanor of a born-and-bred Albertan.

He even has a hockey player’s smile and the type of all-around game that brings fans to their feet. Just ask any follower of the Western League’s Chilliwack Bruins about Moller and you’ll hear nothing but rave reviews.

Even though not all of my past WJC favorites have gone on to make the NHL, it’s still fun following their careers after the Christmas tournament.

A few years ago, I thought Michael Blunden was incredible for Canada. In 2005-06, Blunden notched five points in six games on a gold medal-winning team that included Jonathan Toews, Andrew Cogliano, Guillaume Latendresse and David Bolland on offense.

While Blunden’s point totals were pretty good, what I really liked about his game was how he finished every check. You could see opposing defensemen starting to look over their shoulders as each game went on. That tournament made me a fan of the 6-foot-3 power forward, but unfortunately after a year or two of being on the brink of an NHL spot – stuck in a stacked Chicago system – Blunden has so far endured a slow season in Rockford of the American League, scoring a mere six points in 28 games.

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Who will it be this year? Well, I’ll tell ya, Dana Tyrell looked to be an early candidate before he was forced out of the tournament with a knee injury. I guess I’ll just have to stay tuned to find out who my new favorite is.

STAR TROUBLE
It’s been a weird week as far as the images of a few superstar players go and both instances left me scratching my head.

First, Sidney Crosby.

What was he thinking!?

OK, Sid. So you have a few naysayers constantly calling your toughness into question and good for you if you wanted to try and prove them wrong.

But, come on Golden Boy, if you’re going to take someone on, either pick on someone your own size or at least let the guy you’re trying to send a message to look you once in the eyes.

What a ridiculous scuffle that was and it’ll only add tinder to the fire.

And then there’s this quote by Patrick Kane in the Chicago Tribune: "You have to do things to just protect yourself. The rest of the game, no one really took a run at me so maybe it sent a message. I just got (my stick) up there to try to protect myself. I'd rather have him take a stick in the chops than me take a stick in the chops."

So, not only are guys intentionally turning their backs to draw a penalty, but now they’re intentionally raising their sticks to use as a deterrent to being hit? And they’re willing to take the two- or four-minute penalty?

Oh my, where has the respect in this game gone?

Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his feature, A Scout's Life, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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