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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The most wonderful time of the year: the World Juniors

We are just over two weeks away from one of the best times of the year on the hockey calendar: the under 20 world hockey championships, aka the World Juniors. The combination of international hockey during a relatively quiet time of the year work wise, combined with the wide open playing style of young players who have had a maybe a month or so to work as a team, makes for great television experiences. The tournament itself has been around officially since 1977, but since the early 1990s, particularly in Canada with the games being broadcast nation-wide on TSN, the 10 day tourney becomes a national obsession.

The tournament also exposes to the world the next generation of hockey talent. One of those talents was Vladimir Ruzicka, a player who is featured in this week's post. He currently sits second all-time for total goals scored in the World Juniors; while he did not go on to a lengthy NHL career, many of the other players in the top 10 list have become household names in North America:

  1. Pavel Bure (Soviet Union) - 27 goals in 21 games (89, 90, 91)

  2. Vladimir Ruzicka (Czechoslovakia) - 25 goals in 19 games (81, 82, 83)

  3. Markus Naslund (Sweden) - 21 goals in 14 games (92, 93)

  4. Alexander Mogilny (Soviet Union) - 19 goals in 20 games (87, 88, 89)

  5. Alex Ovechkin (Russia) - 18 goals in 18 games (03, 04, 05)

  6. Robert Reichel (Czechoslovakia) - 18 goals in 21 games (88, 89, 90)

  7. Niklas Sundstrom (Sweden) - 18 goals in 21 games (93, 94, 95)

  8. Petr Rosol (Czechoslovakia) - 18 goals in 21 games (82, 83, 84)

  9. Esa Tikkanen (Finland) - 17 goals in 21 games (83, 84, 85)

  10. Vladimir Krutov (Soviet Union) - 15 goals in 11 games (79, 80)

Absent from the list are representatives from Canada and the United States. The leader for Canada is Jordan Eberle (14 goals in 12 games in 09 & 10) and for the US it is Jeremy Roenick (13 in 14 games in 88 and 89). The most unlikely name in the list is Dieter Hegen who sits tied for 10th with15 goals in 12 games for West Germany at the 81 and 82 tournaments. Hegen was drafted 46th overall by Montreal in 1981 but never played in North America.

Card 284 - Craig MacTavish

A centre, MacTavish was drafted 153rd overall by Boston in the 1978 amateur draft. He played a second season of college hockey at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell before turning pro in 1979-80, scoring 11 goals and 28 points in 46 games with the Bruins.

MacTavish’s next two seasons saw him spend the majority of his time in the AHL, playing in 26 games with the Bruins. 1982-83 brought MacTavish back to the NHL for his first full season, which would be followed up his first 20 goal season in 83-84. That would turn out to be MacTavish’s last season in Boston, as he would be suspended for the entirety of the 1984-85 season following his May 1984 conviction for vehicular manslaughter; MacTavish served one year in prison following his conviction.

Following his release he signed with Edmonton in February 1985, and in his first full season scored a career-high 23 goals and 47 points. Over the following seven seasons (1986-1993), MacTavish scored 20+ goals three times and 40+ points twice, winning three Stanley Cups. During this time he finished top 10 in Selke Trophy voting three times and was team captain from 1992 to 1994.

Late in the 1993-94 season MacTavish was traded to the New York Rangers for prospect Todd Marchant. That season he would win his fourth Cup, reuniting with several former Oilers’ teammates on Broadway. In summer of 1994 MacTavish signed with Philadelphia, playing 100 games with the Flyers over two seasons before a trade to St. Louis in March 1996 for Dale Hawerchuk. He played his final 63 games with the Blues. When he retired following the 1996-97 season he became the last NHLer to ever play a game without wearing a helmet, almost 20 years after the NHL first mandated that all new players wear helmets during games (June 1,1979).

In 17 helmetless seasons, MacTavish played in 1093 games, scoring 213 goals and 480 points. He played in one all-star game in 1996. From 1997 to 1999 he was an assistant coach with the Rangers before joining his former team Edmonton as head coach in 2000. MacTavish held that title until he was fired in 2009, having led the Oilers to the 2005 Cup Finals. In 2012 he returned to the team as the senior vice-president of hockey operations, was promoted to general manager from 2013 to 2015 and then returned to hockey operations from 2015 to 2019. Most recently he has coached in Russia and is currently head coach with Lausanne in Switzerland. MacTavish has also coached Canada internationally, winning the Spengler Cup in 2020.

YouTube clip: not known as offensive dynamo, scoring on an end-to-end rush against Chicago in 1990 Campbell Conference Finals.

Card 285 - Petr Svoboda

A defenceman, Svoboda was drafted fifth overall by Montreal in 1984, a relatively unknown player out of Czechoslovakia. In a rarity for European players at the time, Svoboda joined the Habs immediately as an 18-year old, playing in 73 games, scoring four goals and 13 points in the 1984-85 season.

Over eight seasons in Montreal, Svoboda played a consistent, defensive role, winning a Stanley Cup in 1986 and helping the team reach the 1989 Cup Finals with 12 points in 21 playoff games. In 1987-88 he finished second in the NHL with a +44 rating, and the following season set career-highs in goals (8) and points (45).

In March 1992 Svoboda was traded to Buffalo for prospect Kevin Haller. He played parts of three seasons with the Sabres before a trade to Philadelphia for defenceman Garry Galley. Over five seasons in Philly, Svoboda scored 20+ points twice and made his third Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1997. In December 1998 he was traded to Tampa Bay for Karl Dykhuis; with the Lightning he would serve as assistant captain and play in the 2000 all-star game. Svoboda retired in May 2002.

Over 17 NHL seasons, Svoboda played In 1028 NHL games, scoring 58 goals and 399 points. He was the first Czech defenceman to play in 1000 NHL games, and currently sits second all-time behind Roman Hamrlik. In 2019 he became the minority owner of Lausanne in the Swiss hockey league, and the following year he became director of hockey operations.

YouTube clip: getting absolutely cheap-shotted by Marc Bureau during a 1996 game with the Flyers. Later in the game teammate Craig MacTavish seeks retribution, fighting Bureau.

Card 286 - Craig Simpson

A left winger, Simpson was drafted second overall by Pittsburgh in 1985. A Hobey Baker finalist in his second season at Michigan, he began playing for the Spartans at age 16, having skipped Grade 3 and finished Grades 11 and 12 in one year. In his first NHL season at age 18, Simpson played in 76 games, scoring 11 goals and 28 points. His goal and point totals would increase over seasons two and three, but it wasn’t enough to keep him with the Pens, as Simpson was traded to Edmonton during the 1987-88 season in the seven player deal that landed Pittsburgh Paul Coffey.

During that 87-88 season Simpson finished second in the league with 56 goals (behind former teammate Mario Lemieux), leading the league with a 31.6% shooting percentage. He also recorded 90 points, and 22 power play goals, good for third in the league. Simpson’s scoring exploits continued into the playoffs, adding 13 goals and 19 points, leading the playoffs with an unheard of 40.6% shooting percentage as the Oilers won their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. His season was capped off by finishing third in all-star team voting for a right winger and fourth at left wing.

For the 1988-89 season Simpson played in only 66 games, scoring 35 goals. The following season that total dipped to 29, but he lit up the playoffs, leading the league in goals (16), points (31), shooting percentage (38.1%) and even strength goals (10). The Oilers also won their fifth Cup in franchise history.

While Simpson wouldn’t reach the 50 goal plateau again, over the next three seasons with the Oilers he scored 24+ each season, leading the league in shooting percentage a third time in 1992-93. It was during this time he began to experience back issues, and in summer 1993 he was signed to an offer sheet by the expansion San Jose Sharks. The contract was protested by the Oilers, as SImpson’s base salary was only $130,000, with the remaining $1.8 million coming in a reporting bonus for simply showing up to training camp. The NHL eventually ruled the contract illegal and Simpson was traded to Buffalo in September 1993 for a draft pick and prospect. In two seasons with the Sabres he appeared in only 46 games, eventually retiring due to his bad back.

In 10 NHL seasons Simpson played in 634 games, scoring 247 goals and 497 points. He is the NHL’s all-time leader in shooting percentage at 23.7%. In retirement he moved to the broadcast booth, starting with Fox and Sportsnet. From 2003-07 he was an assistant coach with Edmonton, resigning to return to broadcasting with Hockey Night in Canada, where he still works today alongside his sister Christine.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 5 of the 1990 Stanley Cup Finals against Boston.

Card 287 - Ron Hoover

A centre, Hoover was drafted 158th overall by Hartford in 1986. He played four years at Western Michigan, scoring 59 points in 42 games in his senior year while serving as captain of the Broncos.

After signing as a free agent with Boston, Hoover turned pro in 1989-90 with Maine of the AHL; he would also play his first two NHL games that season with Boston. The following season Hoover played in 14 games with the Bruins, scoring four goals and recording 31 penalty minutes, also appearing in eight playoff games.

For the 1991-92 season he signed with St. Louis, playing one game with the Blues and the balance of the season in the minors. That would turn out to be the final game of his NHL career; from 1991-96 Hoover played with Peoria in the AHL, wrapping up his career with stops in the IHL and the United Hockey League before retiring after the 1997-98 season.

In 3 NHL seasons Hoover played in 18 games, scoring four goals. In retirement he has taken up work in the medical sales field. This card is the only NHL card produced during his short career.

YouTube clip: a one-side fight against Dean Kennedy, the only NHL fight of Hoover’s career

Card 288 - Vladimir Ruzicka

Ruzicka, a centre from Czechoslovakia, was drafted 73rd overall by Toronto in 1982. He played nine seasons of pro hockey in his home country, being named player of the year twice, before coming to the NHL at the age of 26 for the 1989-90 season following a trade to the Edmonton Oilers. Ruzicka played 25 games his first NHL season, scoring 11 goals and 17 points.

In October 1990 he was traded to Boston for defenceman Greg Hawgood. After appearing in only 29 regular season games, Ruzicka scored 13 points in 17 playoff games as the Bruins would make it to the Prince of Wales Conference Finals.

Carrying his play over from the 1991 playoffs, Ruzicka scored a career-high 39 goals and 75 points in 1991-92, good for the goal scoring lead on the Bruins that season. 1992-93 would be a down year, scoring 19 goals and 41 points before he signed as a free agent with Ottawa for the 1993-94 season. With the Senators Ruzicka scored 5 goals and 18 points in 42 games, games that would turn out to be the last of his NHL career. He returned to his native Czechoslovakia, playing six seasons with Slavia Praha before retiring from pro hockey in 2000.

In five NHL seasons Ruzicka played in 232 games, scoring 82 goals and 167 points. Although his NHL time was short, Ruzicka boasts a decorated international hockey career, having won eight medals, including golds at the 1985 World Championships and 1998 Olympics. Upon retiring he became head coach of Slavia Praha, adding general manager duties in 2002, and holding various front office roles until 2015. Ruzicka has coached other men’s teams in Czech Republic since 2015, most recently with HC Litvinov in 2021. He has coached Czech international men’s teams throughout his career, winning gold medals at the 2005 and 2010 World Championships.

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner in Game 2 of 1991 Prince of Wales Conference Finals against Pittsburgh.

Card 289 - Randy Wood

A forward, Wood signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders in 1986 after playing four seasons of college hockey with Yale. In his first pro season he played six games with the Islanders, scoring one goal, playing the majority of the season in the AHL with Springfield.

In 1987-88 Wood made the NHL full-time, scoring 22 goals and 38 points, finishing eighth in Calder Trophy voting. Over the next four seasons in Long Island he scored 18 or more goals each season, including two 24 goal seasons (a career-high).

Early in the 1991-92 season he was traded to Buffalo as part of the Pat LaFontaine/Pierre Turgeon trade. Wood continued his consistent goal scoring ways, chalking up another 20+ goal season in 1993-94. Prior to the start of the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, he was claimed off waivers by Toronto. He played a season-and-a-half with the Leafs before a trade to Dallas for Dave Gagner.

Wood played 30 games with the Stars before signing as a free agent with the Islanders for the 1996-97 season. This proved to be his last NHL season, playing in 65 games, scoring six goals and 11 points. In 11 NHL seasons Wood played in 741 games, scoring 175 goals and 334 points. His son Miles currently plays for the New Jersey Devils and Randy himself runs a contracting business out of his hometown in Massachusetts.

YouTube clip: scoring the overtime winner for the Leafs in Game 6 of 1996 Western Conference Quarter-Finals. This was Wood’s second goal of the game, as the Leafs had blown a 4-1 lead in the third period, proving that this was something the Leafs did long before the 2000s.

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