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Blackhawks Wed Jan 08 2014

Blackhawks' Future Shines Brightly at World Juniors

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png As the Winter Olympics approach next month with 10 Blackhawks making the trip to Sochi, it's time to reflect on a tournament that just ended in Sweden that featured the bright talents of the NHL's future in the 2104 World Junior Championship.

The main tournament features national players, all under the age of 20, from the top 10 hockey nations around the world. And what began in 1977 has blossomed into a must-see competition amongst the "who's who" of up-and-comers.

The annual tournament has featured the likes of future Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who used US goalie Jeff Frazee like a rented mule, scoring three shootout goals in the 2007 semis. It's a very entertaining tournament that features all the drama of international competition, mixed in with a glimpse of draft picks who one day will wear the iconic Blackhawks sweater.

This year's tournament featured a Final Four of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Canada, with the Finns taking the gold; Sweden walked away with the silver with Russia claiming bronze. As the tournament unfolded, the world watched four Blackhawks' prospects take to the ice in hopes to capture the gold and impress upon their fan base back in the states. Here's a look at how each performed throughout:

Ryan Hartman (USA): Hartman was drafted last year with the Blackhawks' first overall pick at number 30 (that's what happens when you win the Stanley Cup: you get to pick last. A sacrifice Blackhawks fans surely set aside for that day). The 5'11" winger from Hilton Head, SC, already has 13 goals and 13 assists in 25 games for the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. Hartman played in five games during the Juniors and scored two goals off 16 shots, two assists with a plus-2. The United States eventually was knocked out by Team Russia in the quarterfinals by a final of 5-3.

Vincent Hinostroza (USA): Hinostroza was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the Blackhawks, and currently is a Freshman center at Notre Dame. The Bartlett native scored three goals off five shots and two assists in the Juniors and also carried a plus-2. At times, Hinostroza was shifted to winger during the tournament and showed flashes of speed in Team USA's offensive zone. Hinostroza currently has 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) in just 13 games played for the Fighting Irish who currently sit at 10-8-1.

Robin Norell (SWE): Norell's defense helped secure the silver for Team Sweden, and the Blackhawks know all about defensemen from Sweden. Norell played in seven games, scored one goal and sported a plus-4 when all was said and done. Norell was selected in the third round (111th overall) of last year's draft. Blackhawks fans will remember this pick, which came off the heels of trading Dave Boland to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 117th and 151st overall picks, which they then used to then trade up for number 111 in Norell (the Blackhawks also received a fifth-round pick in 2014). Norell will continue play at the senior-club level for Djurgården.

Teuvo Teräväinen (FIN): Teräväinen was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, eighteenth overall, and was the star of the World Juniors tournament. He captained the gold-medal winning Finland squad and led all scorers in the tournament with 15 points (two goals, 13 assists). Three of his 13 assists came in the gold-medal game against Sweden, which accounted for all three of his team's goals. Teräväinen has Brandon Pirri working harder than ever in Rockford to claim that second-line center spot down the road and making Michal Handzuš' bones ache just from watching him. Oh yeah, he's also giving Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa visions of, at minimum, 40-goal seasons. He's currently playing in the Finnish league SM-liiga, and currently has 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 29 games played.

With all the excitement approaching in a handful of weeks for the Olympics to start, it's fun to watch the future of the Blackhawks' organization compete at such a high level. At present time, everything for the Blackhawks is going about as good as it can, coming off of the team's second Stanley Cup win in four seasons. But it's also good to see that the future remains as bright as ever, coming off a tournament in the "Land of the Midnight Sun."

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