Carey Price. Ryan Johansen. Jamie Benn.
All current stars in the National Hockey League and all former BC Hockey League players. However, another common thread between these three is that each of them played at the World Junior Hockey Championship during their career.
But did they play at the biggest under-20 tournament in the world during their respective BCHL careers? The answer is no.
Price was in his fourth season with the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans when he represented Canada at the 2007 World Juniors. He even made his pro debut that season with Hamilton of the American Hockey League. It was a far cry from playing 18 games in the BCHL with the Quesnel Millionaires as a 15-year-old in 2002-03.
Johansen was two years removed from his 16-year-old season with the Penticton Vees when he played for Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship. A star with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL at the time, the following season he was in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Benn, who’s the captain of the Dallas Stars, was drafted from the Victoria Grizzlies in 2007. However, he didn’t play for Canada at the World Juniors until he was lighting it up as a 19-year-old with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets in 2008-09.
All told, a total of 73 BCHL alumni have played in the World Junior Hockey Championship, but not many left their BCHL teams mid-season to represent their country like those in major junior and the U20 European leagues do.
Adding the qualifier that a player had to be on a BCHL team when they skated in the World Juniors dwindles the numbers significantly.
In fact, only seven players in the tournament’s history joined their U20 national team during the midst of a BCHL season. And only one of those players skated for Canada.
The World Junior Championship is a tournament usually dominated by 18 and 19-year-old players. It’s rare for a 17-year-old to make Team Canada – and even more rare for that player to come from the BCHL. In fact, it’s only happened once ever.
Kariya was already a dominant force in the BCHL for the Penticton Panthers as a 16-year-old in 1990-91. He finished seventh overall in league scoring with 112 points in 54 games, more than double the next highest scorer on the Panthers. Kariya also earned the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy as BCHL rookie of the year.
In 1991-92, the Vancouver product cranked it up another level. He averaged 3.22 points-per-game in Penticton on the strength of 45 goals and 87 assists.
The numbers were impossible for Hockey Canada to ignore and Kariya was selected to represent his country at the 1992 World Junior Hockey Championship in Germany.
It helped that he had torched teams to the tune of 12 points in five games with Canada’s U18 team during the previous season.
However, on a team loaded with future NHL players like Eric Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Lapointe, and Darryl Sydor, Kariya played a minor role at the 1992 World Juniors and finished with a goal and an assist in six games.
Canada ended the tourney in a disappointing sixth place with a record of 2-3-2.
But Kariya and Canada tasted gold the following year in Sweden. He was a freshman at the University of Maine that season and had two goals and six assists in seven games at the 1993 tournament.
Kariya was also named to the 1993 World Junior Hockey Championship All-Star Team, as selected by the media in attendance covering the event.
Dylla split the 1993-94 season between his hometown EV Landshut U20 team in Germany and as an import with the BCHL’s Penticton Panthers.
In 16 games with Penticton as a 17-year-old, he posted seven goals and seven assists. Dylla was also on the radar of the German Ice Hockey Federation as he played five games for Germany at the European Under-18 championship and posted seven points.
He returned to Penticton full-time in 1994-95 as an 18-year-old and lit it up with 10 goals and 24 assists in 27 games. Dylla was then traded to Nanaimo, where he posted 13 goals and 17 assists in 29 games to round out the season.
That season, he played for Germany at the 1995 World Junior Hockey Championship in Red Deer, Alberta to become the second active BCHL player to participate. Germany went 1-6 at the tournament while Dylla played every game without scoring any points.
Although Dylla was playing well for the Penticton Panthers when he went to represent his country at the 1995 World Juniors, his teammate in the Peach City, Kudrna, was playing out of his mind.
As a 19-year-old rookie, Kudrna was in the midst of a BCHL season that saw him notch 60 goals and 55 assists to lead the Panthers in scoring and finish seventh overall in the league. He left Penticton to go to Red Deer for the tournament and showed very well with the Czech Republic team.
In a tournament loaded with players who would likely have been in the National Hockey League if not for the 1994-95 lockout, the Hradec Kralove native had four goals and four assists in seven games. His totals placed him ahead of future NHLers Milan Hejduk, Marek Malik, Jan Hlavac, and Marek Zidlicky, among others.
The Czechs went 3-4 at the tournament and finished in sixth place. The team was loaded with firepower though as Vaclav Varada and Josef Marha both finished in the top 10 in scoring and only Canada scored more goals overall.
Kudrna’s lights out season in Penticton and solid play at the World Juniors opened the eyes of scouts as well and he was picked in the 6th round, 142nd overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 1995 NHL Draft.
It was 14 years after Dylla and Kudrna played at the World Juniors that a BCHL player represented his country at the tournament.
Morrison put up a 26 point season as a rookie in 2007-08 with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks but he exploded as a sophomore and posted 84 points in 50 games to finish fourth overall in BCHL scoring. His points-per-game of 1.68 was tied for third best in the league.
The 19-year-old with dual Canadian-German citizenship played for Germany at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge in Camrose, Alberta, and had a goal and an assist in four games. His play attracted the attention of the German Ice Hockey Federation putting together the country’s World Junior team.
He played for Germany at the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa and put up a goal and three assists in six games. The Germans went 1-3 in the preliminary round and 1-2 in the relegation round.
Morrison’s goal came in a 9-0 drubbing of Kazakhstan in Germany’s second game of the tournament. One of his assists came in a 5-1 loss to the high-powered Canadian team that went on to win the gold medal.
Once back in the BCHL, he and Mark Zengerle combined for 187 points as the Backs advanced to the Interior Conference final against Vernon. After the season, Morrison was named the Interior Conference’s most sportsmanlike player as voted upon by coaches and media from around the league.
— Surrey Eagles (@SurreyEagles) December 27, 2015
Born and raised in Denmark, Adamsen got his first taste of junior hockey on this side of the Atlantic in 2013-14 with the Breezy Point North Stars of the North American Tier III Hockey League.
The defenseman made the move to British Columbia the following season to play junior B with the Victoria Cougars of Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Adamsen was shipped to Comox Valley at the 2015 VIJHL trade deadline and finished the season with four assists in 25 games.
He caught the eye of the Surrey Eagles and made his BCHL debut in 2015-16 as a 19-year-old rookie. In 34 games with Surrey, he posted four assists and 17 penalty minutes. After representing Denmark at the U16 level four years earlier, Adamsen was called to represent the Danes at the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship in Helsinki, Finland.
Denmark was placed in Group A at the tourney, which included powerhouses from Sweden, the United States, and Canada. The Danish team went 1-3, with the lone victory coming against Switzerland.
The win was enough to vault Adamsen and Denmark to the quarterfinals where they pushed the eventual silver medallists from Russia to overtime but lost 4-3. Adamsen finished with no points, two penalty minutes, and a plus-minus rating of -2.
After finishing the season in Surrey, the Eagles traded Adamsen to the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League prior to 2016-17.
A dual citizen of Canada and Switzerland, Verboon represented the Swiss since he was 15 and had three points in six games in international competition at the U16 level.
Verboon, who also calls Richmond Hill, Ontario home, played for Switzerland at the 2018 World Under-18 Championship and had two assists in six games before joining the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for the 2018-19 season.
He made an immediate impact with the Backs as a rookie and was their scoring leader when the 18-year-old left Salmon Arm to join Switzerland at the 2019 World Juniors in Vancouver and Victoria.
The Swiss were situated in Group A with Russia, Canada, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. Switzerland went 1-2-1 in the preliminary round and made it through to the quarterfinals.
In a 2-0 upset win over Sweden in the quarters, Verboon had an assist on the insurance goal. Switzerland advanced to the semifinals against Finland but lost 6-1.
The Finns played the United States for gold while Verboon and the Swiss met Russia for the bronze medal. The Russians won 5-2. In total, Verboon finished the tournament with an assist and 14 penalty minutes in seven games.
He was a freshman playing NCAA hockey at Colgate University in 2019-20 and once again played for Switzerland at the World Junior tournament, this time in the Czech Republic.
It was a coming out party for Verboon as he notched six points in five games and his 1.2 points-per-game in the tournament was 13th best overall. The Swiss finished second in Group A but lost 3-1 to Russia in the quarterfinals.
The Cents have plenty of players who represented their country at the World Junior A Challenge, but prior to Tkac playing for the Slovakian team last year, no player from Merritt had skated at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Tkac, who is from Slovakia but played in the United States since his 15-year-old season, made his high-level international debut as a member of the Slovakian team at the World Under-18 Championship in 2018 and put up three points in five games.
He was a rookie for the Centennials as an 18-year-old in 2018-19 and posted a modest 14 points in 46 games. Additionally, Tkac added an assist in five playoff games.
In the 2019-20 season, the 19-year-old was an offensive weapon for Merritt en route to scoring 32 points in 45 games. Tkac’s previous appearance for Slovakia combined with his impactful season for the Cents solidified his spot on the national team for the 2020 World Juniors.
The Slovakians wound up with a 1-3 record in the tournament hosted by the Czech Republic, their lone victory coming against Kazakhstan in which Tkac scored the game winner. He also added an assist in an 8-1 preliminary round loss to Finland.
Slovakia advanced to the quarterfinals against a stacked Canadian team and lost 6-1.
He is playing his final year of junior hockey this season with the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League.