Russia’s Ilya Kovalchuk became a certified legend with his sudden-death marker in the 5-4 victory over the Canadians at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Quebec City. Canada’s Sidney Crosby gained IIHF immortality when he got the 3-2 overtime winner on the U.S.’s Ryan Miller at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The spotlight doesn’t shine quite as brightly at the U18 Worlds, of course, but as we’ve seen over and over since this tournament debuted in 1999, it can be a launching pad for a great future. Right now, all eyes are on the Canada-Russia final.
Will this year’s hero be an underaged sensation like Connor Bedard or Matvei Michkov? A prospective 2021 NHL first-round pick like Dylan Guenther or Nikita Chibrikov? Or an unlikely role player who comes up big?
We can’t wait to see what happens in Thursday’s gold medal game. Meanwhile, as a refresher, here are the last 5 players to score a U18 golden goal.
2015: Colin White (USA)In Zug, Switzerland, the powerful Americans were seeking their second straight U18 Worlds gold medal. Coach Don Granato’s squad was well-stocked with stars like tournament scoring leader Auston Matthews (15 points), Matthew Tkachuk (12 points), and Clayton Keller (9 points).
However, in the gold medal game against Finland, goalie Veini Vehvilainen nearly dashed America’s dreams with his best brick wall impression. On a night where final shots favoured the U.S. 62-20, the game went to overtime tied 1-1.
That June, the Boston College centre was drafted 21st overall by the Ottawa Senators. Today, not only is White closing in on 200 career NHL games with the Sens, but his IIHF resume also includes World Junior bronze (2016) and gold (2017) medals and Worlds bronze (2018).
2016: Otto Somppi (FIN)In 2016, the Finns hadn’t won a U18 Worlds gold since back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000. When they shocked the host Americans 4-2 in the semi-finals in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the door to glory was wide open.
Jesse Puljujarvi got the lion’s share of attention when the big Karpat winger – fresh off leading the World Junior team to gold in Helsinki – was a late addition to coach Jussi Ahokas’s roster. And “Big Jess,” as Connor McDavid calls him today with the Edmonton Oilers, delivered a hat trick as Finland thrashed archrival Sweden 6-1 in the gold medal game.
Yet it was Otto Somppi who provided the go-ahead marker at 15:28 of the second period. Janne Kuokkanen, who became a full-time NHLer with the New Jersey Devils this season, came out of the corner and attempted to stuff the puck in, and Somppi banged in the rebound.
2017: Joel Farabee (USA)Timing is everything, and Joel Farabee had perfect timing against Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in the 2017 gold medal game in Poprad, Slovakia. First, the Syracuse-born product of the U.S. National Team Development program converted Jacob Tortora’s pass through Luukkonen’s five-hole to put the Americans up 2-0 late in the first period.
Then, just 1:03 into the second period, Farabee added a shorthanded goal on the backhand that proved to be the winner in a 4-2 decision. This was the last time the U.S. would triumph at the U18 Worlds, although its medal streak endured until 2021.
2018: Niklas Nordgren (FIN)At this tournament in Chelyabinsk, Russia, the crowds were big, loud, and proud, and the Finns thrived on that atmosphere. After going unbeaten in the preliminary round, they topped Belarus 5-2 in the quarter-final and blanked Sweden 2-0 in the semi-final. In the final, coach Tomi Niemela’s boys faced a talented U.S. team that seemed to be hitting its stride at the right time. Go-to offensive stars included Farabee (4+4=8), Oliver Wahlstrom (7+2=9), and, of course, tournament scoring champ Jack Hughes (5+7=12).
However, those big U.S. names were blanked in the tense final. After Rasmus Kupari and Kaapo Kakko staked Finland to a 2-0 first-period lead, Patrick Giles and Trevor Janicke replied for the Americans before the midway mark. That set the stage for Niklas Nordgren’s thrilling winner with under 10 minutes to play.
While injuries have hampered Nordgren’s progress since then, he just celebrated his 21st birthday on 4 May and still has time to fulfill the hopes of the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him in the third round (73rd overall) of the 2018 draft.
2019: Lucas Raymond (SWE)Steve Yzerman must have liked what he saw just nine days after being announced as the new general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. The Hockey Hall of Famer, who captained three Stanley Cup winners and scored 1,755 points in Motown, was in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden to watch the host team battle Russia in the U18 Worlds final.
Lucas Raymond – less than a month after turning 17 – came up with some magic. The Frolunda winger beat goalie Yaroslav Askarov to open the scoring at Fjallraven Arena on a great solo dash in the first period. Next, he converted Tobias Bjornfot’s centering pass to knot the score at 3-3 with under 10 minutes left in regulation. But Raymond saved his best for overtime.
After helping Sweden capture its first U18 Worlds title ever, Raymond played a big role on both the 2020 (bronze) and 2021 World Junior teams. The two-time Champions Hockey League winner was drafted fourth overall by Yzerman’s Wings last year.