8 years after winning the MVP award for his phenomenal performance in the World Junior Hockey Championship, Patrice Bergeron once again led Team Canada to a championship, this time in the Spengler Cup. Bergeron scored the opening goal in the final and added 3 assists as Canada went on to win 7-2 over the tournament’s hosts, HC Davos.
Meanwhile, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is looking to duplicate Bergeron’s success from 2004-05: leading the World Juniors in scoring while leading Team Canada to the gold medal.
The parallels are clear: both players entered the NHL immediately after being drafted and played the full season with their NHL club as 18-year-olds. Both then made Team Canada for the World Juniors for the first time when the subsequent season faced a lockout.
That’s about where the parallels end, however. Bergeron was a good, but not spectacular player in Junior, topping out at 73 points in 70 games in the high-scoring QMJHL in his draft year. He made his mark instead with solid two-way player, which continued in the NHL. Nugent-Hopkins, on the other hand, had 106 points in 69 games in the relatively low-scoring WHL in his draft year.
Bergeron was a mid-second round pick who surprised everyone by making the Bruins out of his first training camp. Nugent-Hopkins was the obvious first overall pick, with very little chance that he wouldn’t make the Oilers’ roster, even though it might have served the Oilers better to keep in Junior rather than waste a year on his contract.
Bergeron played a key role on a team that won their division and finished second in the Eastern Conference. Nugent-Hopkins played a key role on a team that finished just short of dead last in the NHL, winning the draft lottery for the third straight season.
Bergeron finished fifth among rookies with 39 points in 71 games. Nugent-Hopkins finished tied with Gabriel Landeskog for first in rookie scoring with 52 points, but he did it in 62 games compared to Landeskog’s 82. One thing they do have in common: neither player won the Calder Trophy, though the argument could certainly be made that Nugent-Hopkins deserved it.
In short, Bergeron and Nugent-Hopkins are two very different players. This small portion of their careers, however, appears to be on the same path thanks to two NHL lockouts in less than a decade.
Both players did go on to play for Team Canada at the World Championships after their rookie season, as Boston was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2004. Dany Heatley led Team Canada to the gold medal with 8 goals in 9 games in 2004, giving Bergeron his first taste of a major championship. Canada fell short in 2011, however, finishing out of the medals for the second straight year. Bergeron went on to win World Junior gold, Olympic gold, and the Stanley Cup. Nugent-Hopkins can only hope that the disappointment of the 2011 World Championships wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.
So far, at least, Nugent-Hopkins is following right in Bergeron’s footsteps at the 2013 World Juniors. He currently has 3 goals and 8 assists through his first 4 games, leading Canada and the tournament in points. While the victories haven’t been as dominating as those in 2005, Team Canada is still off to a 4-0 start and have booked their spot in the semi-finals.
Nugent-Hopkins needs just 2 more points in Canada’s 2 remaining games to match Bergeron’s output in 2005. Whether that will be enough for him to lead the tournament in scoring, win the MVP, and lead Canada to gold is another matter. Canada has faltered defensively at times. For instance, they allowed Germany to score 3 goals; no other team in their group gave up more than 1 goal to Germany. Slovakia gave Canada a major scare, going up 2-0, then 3-1, before Canada could rally for the win. They looked better against the high-calibre talent of the US and Russia, but needed Malcolm Subban to frequently stand tall against the US, while Russia seemed uncharacteristically out of sorts.
It seems likely that more than 2 points will be required out of Nugent-Hopkins in the semi-final and, if all goes well, the final, to ensure a gold medal for Canada. The team has relied on his line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele to provide most of their scoring, with Ryan Strome and Jonathan Drouin in support.
Bergeron had Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Andred Ladd, Corey Perry, and Dion Phaneuf contributing offensively, with Nigel Dawes also scoring 6 points in 6 games. The offensive support for Nugent-Hopkins seems thin out after the four players I mentioned, though there is still time for others to step up.
If all goes well, Nugent-Hopkins will echo Bergeron’s more recent success: four points in a tournament final to seal the victory for Team Canada.