Over the next two weeks here at TLN, I’m going to be looking back at the different Leafs to suit up at the World U20 Hockey Championship, more commonly referred to as the World Juniors.
As I’m sure you know, Toronto and Montreal will be hosting the tournament this year (as well as 2017), resulting in road trips for both the Leafs and the Canadiens during the duration of the tournament to allow for their arenas to be used.
We’ll start off right at the start: Joffrey Lupul was a member of Canada’s lineup in 2003, while a member of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. Of the 14 current Leafs to suit up at the WJC, Lupul was the first to do so, in a tournament held at home in Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia.
Lupul had an alright tournament, scoring twice and adding an assist in six games. He also managed 27 penalty minutes, which is uncharacteristic for Lupul, to say the least. Individual game summaries aren’t available, (blame the IIHF website for that), but it’s likely Lupul got upset a few times throughout the tournament. Lupul finished sixth among Canadian forwards in scoring, so it’s likely he was getting second/third line minutes, which is pretty much in line to what he’d see over the course of his career.
Canada lost in the gold medal game, decided by a late third period goal in a 3-2 result to Russia that could’ve gone either way. There weren’t a whole lot of notable players on the Russian side, but many were mesmerized by a young Alex Ovechkin, who scored six goals in six games at a 17-year old.
Marc-Andre Fleury, PA Parenteau, Brooks Laich, and Derek Roy are the most recognizable names that played alongside Lupul, with a few others managing solid NHL careers. 2003 wasn’t exactly a star-studded roster, as you can tell.
However, there was a weird collection of future Leafs players on this team. Carlo Colaiacovo was recognized as one of the top defencemen on the team (and led the team in scoring with 10 points in 6 games!), with Jay McClement, Brendan Bell, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood all in the lineup as well.
As is an unwritten Hockey Canada tradition, there is a tendency to shy away from undrafted players, looking more at 18- and 19-year old prospects taken in years prior. However, the team overlooked Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Shea Weber, and Patrice Bergeron, who would all be drafted in the upcoming 2003 draft. Perhaps a roster change would’ve provided a more favourable outcome to Canada, but there’s no way of knowing that now.
The scouts’ take:
There isn’t much available online to see how Lupul was being viewed by the hockey community at this time, but it was likely mostly positive based on the little info that was available. Lupul was drafted 7th overall in the 2002 draft by the Anaheim Ducks, six months before his time at the WJC. In his 2001-2002 draft year (prior to the WJC), Lupul potted 56 goals and 106 points, which was good enough for second in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in scoring in 72 games played. The following year, Lupul’s points-per-game rose from 1.47 up to 1.56, amassing a total of 78 points in just 50 games played, including 41 goals.
In a 2012 redraft of the 2003 draft via Sportsnet, Lupul was ranked as 6th. A mock draft from hockeysfuture.com at the time rated him as 10th. It appears that anywhere in the 5-10 ranking would be a suitable placing for Lupul, and likely where he was projected going in.
Ultimately, the 2003 WJC wasn’t anything special for Lupul, and likely didn’t change much about Anaheim’s opinion of him either way, as he would make his NHL debut later that fall, playing in 75 games for the team in his rookie year.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at David Booth, a member of the 2004 American gold medal winning squad.