Top 10 underage WJC performances
by Lucas AYKROYD|29 DEC 2023
Canada's Connor Bedard (#16) led the 2023 World Juniors and set a new Canadian scoring record with a whopping 23 points at age 17.
Numbers can fire up your imagination.

With an impressive six points in two games (2+4=6), Macklin Celebrini is currently on pace for 21 points if Canada plays for a medal on 5 January at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.

It’s tempting to wonder if the Boston University ace could challenge fellow Vancouverite Connor Bedard’s single-tournament record for points by a 17-year-old. At the 2023 World Juniors, Bedard racked up 23 points (9+14=23) en route to his second straight gold medal.

Of course, there’s lots of hockey left to play in Gothenburg. And Celebrini won’t put up five points in just 13:34 of ice time every night, as he did in Wednesday’s 10-0 walloping of Latvia.

Yet Celebrini’s hot start does raise a larger question: as of right now, who delivered the top 10 underage performances in World Junior history? Let’s look back at the 16- and 17-year-olds who have truly rocked this tournament over the decades.

1) Connor Bedard (CAN, 17): 2023

When you’re named not only the 2023 World Junior MVP but also the inaugural IIHF Male Player of the Year, you’re doing something right. Bedard set the gold standard for underagers, and his Halifax exploits remain fresh in the minds of hockey fans as he now chases the Calder Memorial Trophy with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Regina Pats centre’s spectacular 4-3 quarter-final overtime winner against Slovakia and his “I don’t want to talk about myself right now” interview with TSN’s Kenzie Lalonde after the 3-2 gold-medal victory over Czechia are just two standout moments.

2) Jaromir Jagr (TCH, 17): 1990

Powered by the greatest hockey mullet of all time and a training regimen that included 1,000 squats a day, Jagr ran wild in his World Junior debut in Finland. His 18 points (5+13=18) remain the second-most ever for a 17-year-old after Bedard.

His brains-and-brawn line with the bronze-medal Czechoslovakian team, including tournament scoring leader Robert Reichel and Bobby Holik, ranks among the best in tournament history.

3) Wayne Gretzky (CAN, 16): 1978

Will we ever see another 16-year-old win the scoring title like “The Great One” did in Montreal? Dubious. Gretzky (8+9=17) showed why he’d soon rewrite the NHL record book, even though one-goal losses to the Soviet Union and Sweden – who finished 1-2 – made Canada settle for bronze.

4) Pavel Bure (URS, 17): 1989

The top Soviet line of Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov, and Pavel Bure dominated the ‘89 tournament in Anchorage, Alaska en route to gold. Bure’s electrifying speed and shoot-first mentality saw him rack up eight goals, tied for tops with 18-year-old American star Jeremy Roenick.

It paved the way for the future Hall of Famer to become the leading goal-scorer in World Junior history (27 goals in 21 games).

5) Eric Lindros (CAN, 17): 1991

The freight train-like dominance of Lindros (6+11=17) in this classic Saskatchewan tournament is perhaps best contextualized by the fact he was able to compete versus men in the 1991 Canada Cup that fall – despite never having played an NHL game.

“The Big E” enjoyed tremendous chemistry with linemate Mike Craig leading up to the 3-2 win over the USSR that clinched the gold medal.

6) Jesse Puljujarvi (FIN, 17): 2016

Puljujarvi has struggled to establish himself as an everyday NHLer. But in 2016, the big Karpat winger was a playmaking force (5+12=17) to be reckoned with.
Not only did “Pulju” lead the World Juniors in scoring on home ice in Helsinki, but he was also ultra-consistent alongside linemates Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine. He tallied two or more points in every game except the 2-1 semi-final win over Sweden.

7) Robert Reichel (TCH, 16): 1988

Making his debut as a World Junior assistant coach with the 2024 team, Reichel, now 52, has truly done and seen it all in international hockey.

The future Olympic and three-time world champion didn’t grab the spotlight in 1988 as Czechoslovakia came fourth. But the 11 points (3+8=11) he racked up as a 16-year-old still rank second only to Gretzky’s 17 and pointed to the IIHF greatness to come.

8) Connor McDavid (CAN, 17): 2015

After participating in Canada’s disappointing fourth-place outing in Malmo in 2014, McDavid truly hit his stride as a 17-year-old during the 2015 playoff round in Toronto.
The soon-to-be #1 overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers garnered seven of his 11 points (3+8=11) over the Danes (8-0), Slovaks (5-1), and Russians (3-2) respectively. McDavid’s unparalleled skating led to a breakaway goal to remember in the gold medal game.

9) Niklas Sundstrom (SWE, 17): 1993

With the 1970’s Montreal Canadiens, Steve Shutt was the forgotten man on the first line with Guy Lafleur and Jacques Lemaire. You could say Sundstrom fit the same description when his all-star linemates Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund set new scoring records at the 1993 World Juniors in Gavle, Sweden.

Nonetheless, Sundstrom – nearly two years younger than Forsberg and Naslund – deserves recognition. Nearly 31 years later, no 17-year-old has ever scored more goals than he did (10) at a World Juniors.

10) Dominik Hasek (TCH, 17): 1983

1983 would also be the year that Hasek was drafted by Chicago. Ludicrously, in retrospect, one of the greatest goalies in hockey history was a 10th-round pick.

The 17-year-old honed his human pretzel act at the World Juniors in Leningrad, posting four wins and one loss with a 3.33 GAA. Czechoslovakia claimed the bronze medal, 15 years before Hasek would backstop his nation to gold at the first “NHL Olympics” in Nagano.