Bjugstad, Haula to play in World Juniors

As the World Junior Championships roll around each year, it is seemingly inevitable that a number of Gophers will be picked to represent their countries in the international tournament. This season is no different with freshmen Nick Bjugstad and Erik Haula picked to skate in the Championships, with Bjugstad playing for the United States and Haula playing for his native country of Finland.

The World Junior Championships is a tournament that features the top ten hockey countries in the world playing each other for puck supremacy. Skaters must be under 20 years of age, eliminating many current college players but still showcasing the best young stars from each country.

Freshman Nick Bjugstad will be the lone Gopher playing for the United States. A highly touted freshman, Bjugstad has underperformed statistically this season with just two goals and two assists in 13 games.

Despite the mundane numbers, Bjugstad has played well in Minnesota, spending time on both the penalty kill and the power play. At 6-foot-4, he is a big strong kid who is a terror when he gets up to full speed and will certainly benefit from having the best players in the country as his linemates.

Erik Haula played his high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota but is originally from Pori, Finland. Haula will lead a talented Finnish squad to the World Juniors after an impressive start to his freshman campaign.

So far he has three goals and 12 assists, for 15 points, tied for third best on the Gophers. Haula is a very smart player who knows when and where to make a pass to set his teammates up for easy goals. Look for big things from Haula once the tournament gets underway.

Bjugstad and Haula will have to play against each other when the United States faces off against Finland on December, 26th. This game will be the first test of the tournament for each team.

This year's tournament features a stacked field of the United States, Switzerland, Finland, Slovakia, Germany, Canada, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway. Former Gopher Jordan Schroeder helped the United States win the gold medal last year, beating Canada in the finals by a score of 6-5 in overtime.

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