wjac six player feature

The All-Decade Team

The first 10 years of the World Junior A Challenge have produced plenty of NHLers, but only six can be in the tournament’s all-time starting line-up

Jason La Rose
December 19, 2015

With the World Junior A Challenge celebrating its 10th year, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the players who have helped the tournament grow into an annual showcase of the future of the game, and single out a special few for what they’ve done.

Since the puck dropped Nov. 6, 2006 in Yorkton and Humboldt, Sask., to begin the first-ever World Junior A Challenge, a total of 1,068 players have represented their country (10 of them in all) at the event.

From those, 236 have been selected at the NHL Entry Draft, including 32 first-round picks.

But which six alumni have earned spots on the WJAC All-Decade Team?


Craig Smith – United States (2007/2008)

WJAC Statistics: 9 GP | 3G 5A 8P | Bronze Medal/Gold Medal

NHL Statistics: 300 GP | 70G 81A 151P | Nashville Predators

Memories of the WJAC: “It was a chance for me to play internationally. I had never a chance to play for the U.S. before so it was a good chance for me to experience that. You’re playing against some of the best competition at your age, and to get a chance to do that is pretty eye-opening. It definitely helps with confidence and just learning the game and experiencing different things.”

“I thought it was huge [for my development]. Any chance you get to play against really good players, you learn a little bit off of them and working with different players around the league was really cool. You can see how different players think and play. You learn to come together as a group – a group of guys that you don’t know really well – and try to put together some wins and you try to get a medal, so it was really cool.”

Vladimir Tarasenko – Russia (2008)

WJAC Statistics: 4 GP | 2G 7A 9P | 5th Place

NHL Statistics: 202 GP | 80G 79A 159P | St. Louis Blues

At the WJAC: Russia’s fifth-place finish in Camrose, Alta., was its worst ever at the World Junior A Challenge, but that was certainly no fault of Tarasenko, who put his name in the tournament record book with his play-making ability; the future St. Louis first-rounder set up seven of the 22 goals Russia scored, setting a record for assists in a single tournament that stood until 2012.

Tarasenko started strong, racking up four assists in a 10-4 rout of Belarus before scoring in a loss to Canada West. He added one helper in the quarter-finals as the Russians were the first medal round victims of the eventual gold medallists from the United States, and capped his team-leading nine-point performance with a goal and two assists in a fifth-place game win over Germany.

NOTE: Vladimir Tarasenko was unavailable to share his WJAC memories.

Kyle Turris – Canada West (2006)

WJAC Statistics: 4 GP | 5G 6A 11P | Gold Medal

NHL Statistics: 421 GP | 104G 142A 146P | Phoenix Coyotes/Ottawa Senators

At the WJAC: Easily the most highly-touted player on the ice at the inaugural World Junior A Challenge, Turris lived up to the hype in Yorkton, Sask., scoring Canada West’s first goal just 88 seconds after the puck dropped and finishing with four goals in an opening-game 6-2 win over Russia; as the tournament enters its 10th year, Turris’ performance remains the lone four-goal game in World Junior A Challenge history.

He wouldn’t stop there, though; Turris added at least two points in all four Canada West games, racking up 11 points in all, a single-tournament record that stood until 2013. He also staked his claim to all the hardware, earning MVP honours and a spot on the all-star team, in addition to the big prize, a gold medal thanks to a 4-3 victory over Canada East in the final.

NOTE: Kyle Turris was unavailable to share his WJAC memories.


Hampus Lindholm – Sweden (2011)

WJAC Statistics: 4 GP | 0G 0A 0P | 4th Place

NHL Statistics: 179 GP | 15G 56A 71P | Anaheim Ducks

Memories of the WJAC: “Like any other tournament in which you get to go and represent your country, it’s a big thing. Playing over there as a young kid, it was a great opportunity to show myself before the draft. Playing on the international scene, you play against kids your age and it’s a good way to push yourself as a player and show just how good you are.”

“Every kid that goes there is there to prove himself. It’s not the world juniors, but some players go there to show that they deserve a spot on the national junior team and deserve to be the guys that are talked about ahead of future drafts. Every player there is really hungry and looking to prove himself. You see it in most tournaments like this one; some guys start off and people are barely noticing them, but by the end they’re the ones everyone is talking about. It’s a great way to prove yourself.”

Brendan Smith – Canada East (2006)

WJAC Statistics: 4 GP | 0G 2A 2P | Silver Medal

NHL Statistics: 211 GP | 11G 39A 50P | Detroit Red Wings

Memories of the WJAC: “I really enjoyed being alongside some of the best guys I was playing against in Junior A at the time. You get a different feel for their skills and you get to take away a lot of things from practicing with somebody that you don’t necessarily see in a game. You get to see how good they actually are, and it was fun to share that [experience] with the boys.”

“I think it gives you a playing field of where you stand. I thought I did well and I knew I had to continue to get better. Just seeing some of these other players that were highly touted and that I could hang with them and make good plays, it was a good confidence booster for me. When making those teams, you know you’ll be playing in front of so many scouts, so it gives these players the chance to be seen and that’s obviously a huge thing to make it to the next level.”


Cam Talbot – Canada East (2006)

WJAC Statistics: 4 GP | 240MIN 3-1-0 7GA 1.75GAA 0SO | Silver Medal

NHL Statistics: 70 GP | 4045MIN 36-23-6 149GA 2.21GAA 8SO | New York Rangers/Edmonton Oilers

Memories of the WJAC: “It was the only time I got to wear my country’s crest on my chest, so it was a pretty special moment. Being able to compete in an international tournament for the first time; you never know if you’ll ever get the chance to do again so I tried to soak it all in. I was disappointed because we went all the way to the gold medal game and lost a heartbreaker. But anytime you’re able to walk away from an international tournament with a medal it’s pretty special and something that I really treasure.”

“I was able to see the talent level that was out there, not only in North America, but in Europe as well. Getting to play against those players was a great experience for me moving forward as a goaltender. I wasn’t a high prospect or anything, so to be able play in a tournament like that – with a bunch of first-round draft picks – was special and gave me confidence moving forward that I could play against players like that.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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