Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby and Cory Perry all helped make up the best team to ever compete in the WJC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
We’ll have to wait until this year’s World Junior Championship ends to determine its place in hockey lore, but the previous two times that lockouts made the top under-20 players in the world available for the tournament, they were classics. And they produced Canada’s best two entries. With that in mind, here are THN’s choices as the top 10 teams in WJC history.
Thanks to the lockout, 17-year-old Sidney Crosby was complemented by the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dion Phaneuf (inset). Canada outscored opponents 32-5 in the round-robin before overpowering and dismantling Russia 6-1 in the final. Nine players from that team have won Stanley Cups.
If it hadn’t lost a game en route to the gold, this may have been the best team ever. Its plus-37 goal differential is the highest ever. Featuring a lineup with Pavel Bure, judged by THN to be the best player ever in this event, Alex Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov, the Soviets were an offensive juggernaut in Alaska.
Also aided by a lockout, Canada posted a perfect record for the first time in the tournament. Five players – Marty Murray, Jason Allison, Bryan McCabe, Eric Daze and Alexandre Daigle – hit double digits in points. Canada had six-plus goals in six of seven games.
In a tourney featuring a 16-year-old Wayne Gretzky, the Soviets stole the show in the first WJC played on Canadian soil. North America got its first glimpse of a 19-year-old Viacheslav Fetisov, who dominated on ‘D’, and Sergei Makarov, who had 15 points.
This team didn’t score much, but none played better defense. Canada allowed just six goals in six games and outscored Sweden and Russia 9-0 in the semifinal and final. Marc Staal and Ryan Parent emerged as the best shutdown pair in Canadian WJC history. How good was Canada defensively? Justin Pogge had three shutouts and wasn’t named the tourney’s top goalie.
2001 This was a very, very difficult team to watch if you liked anything approximating exciting, free-flowing hockey. The Czechs’ 1-0 win over Sweden in the semifinal was one of the most mind-numbing defensive performances ever.
2004 The Americans won their first gold with great goaltending, suffocating defense and timely scoring. The U.S. gave up just four goals in four games in the round-robin. Two goals by Patrick O’Sullivan and one by Ryan Kesler highlighted a third-period comeback against Canada.
1977 The Soviets won the first official WJC by simply steamrolling their opponents. They averaged seven-plus goals per game and won consecutive contests against the U.S. and Finland by football-like scores of 15-5 and 10-6. Fetisov was named the top defenseman in the tournament.
The Soviets finished 7-0-0 and outscored opponents 50-15. They handily defeated the Canadians – a team with Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Dave Andreychuk and Sylvain Turgeon – 7-3 in the game that turned out to be the difference maker in the tournament. The Soviets’ top scorer was the incomparable Herman Volgin.
This was not a particularly dominant team, but in winning just their second gold medal ever in this event, the Swedes may have turned in the best clutch performances in WJC history. They won in a shootout and in overtime in the round-robin before defeating Finland in a shootout in the semifinal and Russia 1-0 in overtime in the gold medal game.