For the eleventh straight year, a Buffalo Sabres prospect has won a medal in the IIHF World Junior Championships. This year, it was Boston College's Casey Fitzgerald, who won a goal medal with Team USA.
Fitzgerald was a third-round pick of the Sabres in the 2016 NHL Draft. He finished this year's tournament with three assists and six shots in seven games, averaging 19:20 ice time per game.
Fellow Sabres prospects Alexander Nylander and Rasmus Asplund, also both 2016 picks, finished fourth with Team Sweden. Sweden fell to Russia in the bronze medal game. Regrettably, Nylander was responsible for Russia's medal-clinching goal in overtime, as he gave up the puck and allowed Denis Guryanov to snag the game-winning goal.
Nylander, however, had an incredible World Juniors tournament. He finished as the leading scorer, with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and was named one of three forwards on the media-selected All-Star Team.
Asplund registered seven points (1g, 6a) in as many games, finishing the tournament a plus-5. He averaged 16:14 ice time per game.
Finally, Sabres defensive prospect Vojtech Budik was a late addition to the Czech Republic roster. He appeared in two games, registered no points and played a total of 11:32.
Fitzgerald's medal continues an eleven-year run in which at least one Sabres prospect has medaled at the World Juniors. In 2016, it was Will Borgen, earning a bronze medal with Team USA. Sam Reinhart snagged gold with Canada in 2015.
The 2014 tournament was a good one for Sabres prospects, in which Rasmus Ristolainen earned gold with Finland; Jonas Johansson got silver with Sweden, and both Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko snagged bronze with Russia.
In 2013, Jake McCabe captained the United States to a gold medal, while Andrey Makarov and Grigorenko won bronze with the Russian squad. That same pair also won silver in 2012, when Mark Pysyk won bronze with Canada.
Looking back to 2011, when the tournament was held in Buffalo, Marcus Foligno won a silver medal as Canada fell to Russia at the building now known as KeyBank Center. Luke Adam won silver in 2010, while Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis both won gold in 2009 - all with Canada. Jhonas Enroth won silver with Sweden in 2008, while Nathan Gerbe won bronze with USA in 2007.
That list doesn't include Johan Larsson, who won gold in 2012 when he was a prospect of the Minnesota Wild.
With the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships in the books, it is time to look ahead to the 2018 tournament, which will be held here in Buffalo. Ticket packages are already on sale, with schedules and more information coming soon.