The quality of athletes taking part in the world junior ball hockey championships, which conclude this weekend in Mount Pearl, has been routinely judged — especially locally — by the fact the two Canadian entries include five Newfoundland players who normally play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
You could also point to the fact Canada’s under-18 roster features Edmonton’s Eric Florchuk, a forward with the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades. Florchuk was selected by the Stanley Cup champions Washington Capitals in last month’s National Hockey League Entry Draft — and actually was the very last player who was drafted.
But here’s something else. The Czech Republic’s under-20 entry in Mount Pearl includes a forward who played in a European professional ice hockey league last year, scoring 15 goals in 47 games, with a couple of those markers being set up by a guaranteed future Hockey Hall of Famer.
That player is 19-year-old Adam Kubik, who skated with his hometown Kladno team in the Czech second division last season. In five of the games Kubik played, his linemate was Kladno’s most famous hockey product, Jaromir Jagr, the 46-year-old former National Hockey League star who is second all-time in NHL scoring behind only Wayne Gretzky.
One of those games was especially noteworthy, with another former Czech NHL star — Petr Nedved — coming out of retirement for one game in order to face Jagr and his Kladno teammates. Kubik had two goals — both set up by Jagr — and two assists as Kladno won 7-2.
Kubik has also been scoring at the Mount Pearl Glacier this week, with seven points in four games for the playoff-bound Czechs (3-1).
Also headed for the playoffs, which start at the Glacier today, are both the Canadian U18 and U20 teams.
The Canadian U18s, the defending champions in their division, won their first four games, led by Brent Broaders of Tilting, who had eight goals and three assists entering a game against the Czechs Friday evening.
The Canadian team, which finishes its preliminary round-robin schedule against Great Britain this afternoon (4 p.m.), also includes Dawson Mercer of Bay Roberts, one of the QMJHL players from Newfoundland, as well as Adam Mouland of Gander and Jack Keough of Mount Pearl.
As or Canada’s U20 team, it was 3-0 heading into a marquee matchup against defending champion Slovakia Friday night.
Leading into that matchup, Jesse Sutton of Mount Pearl was first for Canada in scoring with seven points (1G, 6A), while Joel Bishop of St. John’s (3G, 3A) and Jordan Maher of Gander (5G), were also among the team’s top point-getters.
All three play in the QMJHL, as does Kyle McGrath of St. John’s, a late addition to Canada’s roster. James O’Brien of Mount Pearl is a fifth Newfoundlander on the host side,
Maher had a hat trick as Canada blanked Great Britain 10-0 Friday morning, with Sutton contributing four assists, Bishop kicking in a goal and two helpers and McGrath also scoring.
Determination of playoff matchups comes at the conclusion of the preliminary round.