Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

World junior championship: Buzzing The Net’s preliminary round all-stars

Along with sausage and legislation, one does not want to know what goes into making the world junior championship all-star team.

The way it works at the WJC is that on championship day, Jan. 5, some functionary will scurry through the media centre passing out ballots to the media asking them to vote for the tournament all-star team. It's that far from scientific. The reporter has to fill out the form and return it before the end of the second period of the gold-medal game.

By that point, of course, the voter addled from nine days of sitting in a sense-inflaming arena atmosphere is hardly disposed to determine who was been the tourney's top three forwards, two defenceman and goaltender. Plus the decision also has to be made while the gold medal game is still up for grabs.

With the prelims in the book, here are the 'clubhouse leaders' for the six spots ahead of Quarter-Final Thursday from Malmo, which begins with the U.S.-Russia tilt at 6 a.m. ET/3 a.m. PT. Canada faces Switzerland later in the day (TSN/BTN livechat, 10:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m. PT).

Forwards: Anthony Mantha, Canada; Martin Reway, Slovakia; Alexander Wennberg, Sweden

Or as NHL beat writers might tag them in a few years, Tony, Marty and Alex.

Mantha and Reway, who play for division rivals in the Quebec League with the Val-d'Or Foreurs and Gatineau Olympiques, share the tourney scoring lead with 10 points, with Reway's linemate David Griger also in double digits.

There was every reason to think that Mantha might have a big tournament for Canada. Players of his dimensions — 6-foot-5, 204 pounds — and aptitude come along only every so often. The Detroit Red Wings first-rounder scored or assisted on each of Canada's first four goals vs. Slovakia and had a big primary assist on a tying goal against Team USA in the win that gave Canada top spot in Group A.

Slovakia might have only one more game ahead of it since it drew Sweden in a quarter-final, so it's apropos to hail the Milan Kolena-Griger-Reway line. The troika combined for 28 points in the first round; Reway factored into 10 of his team's 16 goals and his patience and playmaking repeatedly opened shooting lanes for his linemates. To think, he was a Plan B for the Montreal Canadiens at No. 116 overall in the draft after the Vancouver Canucks snapped up Jordan Subban, P.K.'s brother, with the prior selection.

Wennberg has a team-high seven points and is +5 for Sweden, the tourney's lone unbeaten team. The Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder came up large with a two-goal, one-helper effort in the win over Finland that ultimately decided Group B. Sweden has a varied attack, so by no means is Wennberg going to loom as its best forward by the tourney's end.

Forwards: Matt Grzelcyk, United States; Gustav Olofsson, Sweden

Two who were on the pre-tourney shortlist for top defenceman honours, Canada's Mathew Dumba and Finland's Rasmus Ristolainen, were each been limited by illness during the first round. Dumba's D partner, 19-year-old Edmonton Oil Kings star Griffin Reinhart, also played in only one game due to an IIHF suspension.

That threw the field for this imaginary accolade wide open. Team USA's defence corps had a decent preliminary round, with New York Rangers first-rounder Brady Skjei and New Jersey Devils second Steven Santini enjoying some strong moments. Grzelcyk, a Boston Bruins selection who hails from Charlestown, Mass., is first in defencemen scoring with six points and his work on the point has helped the Americans' power play go a tourney-best 50 per cent (11-for-22).

Sweden's defence isn't considered a team strength, but its high puck-possession time tends to override any such deficiency. The Swedes didn't allow more than two goals in any prelim game while playing in the tougher group. Olofsson, the Minnesota Wild second-rounder who plays for Colorado College, shares the tournament lead at plus-6 and has debited for only one even-strength goal against.

Bear in mind it's shaky pick. Canada's Aaron Ekblad and Derrick Pouliot are certainly in any discussion after picking up extra shifts through their team's first three games. Russia's Nikita Zadorov, the future Buffalo Sabres big man, has had a solid tourney as an 18-year-old.

Goalie: Juuse Saros, Finland

One could flip a coin between the diminative Saros (1.16 average, .959 save pct.) and the towering Andrei Vasilevski (1.61/.938), while leaving the door open for any starter on a superpower such as Sweden's Oscar Dansk (2.33, .910), the United States' Jon Gillies (2.35, .910) and Canada's Zach Fucale (2.50, .896 in only two games).

Listing Saros is a straight stat pick, but the 5-foot-10 Nashville Predators selection has furnishing the strong goaltending that's typically essential to any Finnish team's success at the international level. Vasilevski was also a reason Russia was a tough out vs. Sweden, making a breathtaking glove save on Montreal Canadiens pick Jacob de la Rose to keep his team in contention.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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