The World Junior Championships are here. It is one of the best hockey tournaments of the year. The kids bring so much excitement to the rinks – it’s infectious. Pile on a helping of national pride with that and we have ourselves a dandy.
Fitting in with the holidays, what a better time to reflect, and remember the all-time leading scorers in one of the most heralded tournaments the game of hockey has ever seen.
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The WJC has entertained us with great players over the years but with so much international parity, and games more closely contested than ever, we may never see another player flirt with some of the offensive outbursts of years past. This especially holds true to one man who holds himself near and dear to the host country’s heart.
World Junior Championship All-Time Leading Scorers
Honourable Mention – Eric Lindros, Team Canada 31 points
One of the most revered power forwards ever, Eric Lindros competed in three WJC tournaments from 1990-92. He led Team Canada to a gold medal in 1991 while leading Canada in scoring with 6 goals and 11 assists. The 17 points compiled by Lindros made him the second-leading scorer for that tournament. A year prior to the ’91 tournament, he also grabbed a gold medal. With 12 goals and 19 assists in 21 WJC games, Eric Lindros is one of the best Team Canada players to ever take part in the tournament.
10. Esa Keskinen, Team Finland, 32 points
While many of the players who shine at the WJC go on to play in the NHL, Keskinen never left Europe to pursue an NHL career. He played his entire pro-hockey career in the Swedish and Finnish Elite Leagues. In 1984, Keskinen led Team Finland to a silver medal. The year following,1985, Keskinen set a WJC tournament record with 14 helpers and led the tournament in scoring with 20 points. He finished his WJC career by playing in 14 games and scoring 10 goals and 22 assists.
9. Niklas Sundstrom, Team Sweden, 33 points
In 1993, Sundstrom was arguably on the greatest offensive line in WJC history. Sundstrom, along with his two linemates, Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg, are the three Swedish players who appear on this list. Sundstrom produced a whopping 18 goals in 21 career games. He led the tournament in scoring with 11 points in 1994. Sundstrom participated in three WJC tournaments from 1993 to ’95. He earned two silver medals and a bronze in that span.
7. (tie) Vladimir Ruzicka, Team Czechoslovakia, 34 points
Ruzicka competed in three tournaments (1981-83) and is the best WJC goal-scorer to ever suit up for the Czech’s. He tallied 25 goals in 19 career games and was the leading scorer of the tournament in 1983 with 20 points. That year, he tallied 12 goals in 7 games while earning a silver medal. In 1982, Ruzicka earned another silver medal for Team Czechoslovakia.
7. (tie) Markus Naslund, Team Sweden, 34 points
Markus Naslund was also on two silver medal-winning teams in 1992 and ’93. Naslund is one of the most decorated snipers in WJC history. He posted 21 goals in 14 career games. In 1993, he set a tournament record scoring 13 goals. He was also second in overall scoring that year behind Forsberg with 24 points. His 24 points would have been a tournament record had Forsberg not set the record with 31 points. Naslund is placed one spot higher than Ruzicka due to Naslund’s record-setting run with Team Sweden in ’93.
Naslund went on to be a star in the NHL and ruled the score sheets for many seasons, especially as part of the West Coast Express.
6. Alexander Mogilny, Team USSR, 35 points
Mogilny was one of the purest goal-scorers hockey fans have ever seen. His scoring ability first began to get noticed at the WJC in the late 1980s. Mogilny laced up the skates for Team USSR from 1987 to ’89. Mogilny was part of some of the most talented teams ever seen at the WJC. In 1988, he led his team and the tournament in scoring with 18 points while his team finished runner-up to Team Canada. Mogilny finished his WJC career averaging 1.75 points per game with 19 goals and 16 assists in 20 games.
4. (tie) Esa Tikkanen, Team Finland, 36 points
As the other “ESA” from Team Finland, Tikkanen was a fantastic junior player. He played from 1983 to ’85. Tikkanen and teammate Keskinen were the top two scorers in the 1985 tournament. Tikkanen tallied 14 points that year. He totalled 17 goals and 18 assists in 21 career games. Like Keskinen, Tikkanen was a key figure in Team Finland finishing with a silver medal in 1984.
4. (tie) Connor Bedard, Team Canada 36 points
It’s really hard to find a player that is able to constantly elevate his level of play with the whole hockey world watching him like Connor Bedard. There hasn’t been this much excitement for a prospect since Connor McDavid back in 2015. Like McDavid, Bedard is a generational talent, excelling in all aspects of the game, and scoring goals like few others can. Now in his third WHL season, Bedard continues to be two-steps ahead of everyone else with his play as everything he does seems like a cakewalk whenever he’s on the ice.
After putting up 13 points in 13 games during the broken up 2022 World Junior Championship, he has managed to tally 18 points in just 4 games through the preliminary round of the 2023 tournament and three more against Slovakia in the Quarterfinals. Bedard set three new records in the Quarterfinals with the most total career goals and points for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, passing Jordan Eberle and Eric Lindros for those respective records.
Bedard also managed to pass Jaromir Jagr’s record for the most points in a single World Juniors tournament by a U18 player which was 18 points. In six games, Bedard has accumulated a ridiculous 23 points which is the fourth most points in a single tournament by a player of any age. With one final game, the Gold medal match against Czechia on Thursday night, Bedard has a chance to climb the record books once again.
Stay tuned to see where Bedard ends up on this list once the World Juniors end this year.
3. Pavel Bure, Team USSR, 39 points
The Russian Rocket was the most prolific goal-scorer to ever take part in the WJC tournament. With 27 goals, Bure holds the all-time record for the most goals scored by a player in the tournament’s history. He won a gold medal in 1989 and followed that up with two silver medals in ’90 and ’91.
He played on one of the most offensively skilled lines in WJC history which consisted of Sergei Fedorov and Mogilny. In his last WJC run, he led the tournament in goal-scoring with 12 goals.
2. Robert Reichel, Team Czechoslovakia, 40 points
Many people of this era do not think of Reichel when thinking about Czech hockey. With names like Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek, Reichel hides in the shadows of these Czech legends. But Reichel is the second all-time leading scorer in WJC history. As a three-year WJC participant (1988-90), he nearly averaged two points per game during that span. He displayed a well-rounded game scoring 18 goals and 22 assists in 21 career games. With other countries filling rosters with future Hall-of-Famers at the time when Reichel played, he was only able to capture two bronze Medals.
1. Peter Forsberg, Team Sweden, 42 points
Peter Forsberg is the most prolific scorer in WJC history. Not only does he hold the record for the most points in WJC history, but Forsberg tallied his 42 points in only two tournaments. In 1992, his WJC debut, he finished second in tournament scoring while his team was awarded a silver medal.
In 1993, Forsberg made his name known to the rest of the hockey world. He set a single tournament record in points (31) and assists (24). He also holds the all-time WJC record for career assists with 32. The likelihood that any player ever matches Peter Forsberg’s numbers in a two-year span is slim to none.
** originally written in Dec 2012 (Bedard joining the list is the only change since)
Logan is the director of prospect coverage (including the World Junior Championship and NHL Draft) for The Hockey Writers, and he’s also a part of the Detroit Red Wings writing team. He loves reading about statistics and advanced analytics, and discovering how they can enrich his hockey analysis and writing.