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Barratt, Talvitie’s World Junior Selections Mark Another Significant Accolade For Penn State Hockey

Penn State men’s hockey forwards Evan Barratt and Aarne Talvitie will each travel to Western Canada to attend their country’s pre-tournament training camp for the 2019 U-20 World Junior Championship.

Simply put, the World Junior Championship is the biggest hockey tournament you’ve never heard of. It’s the premier international competition in amateur hockey, and perhaps the most widely-followed hockey competition in the world outside of the Winter Olympics and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It definitely doesn’t inspire much fervor amongst American fans, but the same can’t be said for those North of the border. Canada falls into a World Junior-induced frenzy when the tournament is held at the end of every calendar year. As crazy as this sounds, the hopes of more than 35 million people rest on the performance of 23 junior hockey players during a week-long hockey tournament.

“The World Junior tournament is a big, big deal,” head coach Guy Gadowsky, an Edmonton native, said. “Where I’m from, it’s a 24/7 soap opera around who makes [Canada’s roster]. It’s ridiculous.”

It may not be as big of a deal in terms of fan interest in the United States, but the amount of quality and talent found throughout the tournament means that it’ll attract plenty of attention from executives and scouts from each of the NHL’s 31 franchises.

This may be the biggest stage that Barratt and Talvitie will experience as Nittany Lions. Even if the team wins another Big Ten title or makes a run to the Frozen Four, there are very few hockey tournaments in the world that match the importance of the World Junior Championship.

If they make their respective rosters, the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils will get to truly see how well their prospects perform under pressure. Not every player who succeeds at the World Juniors goes on to thrive at the next level, but players like Troy Terry and Will Butcher showed their talent and potential despite being drafted later on in the NHL Draft.

For the NHL’s top players — stars like Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Alex Ovechkin — the tournament simply reinforced their status as future superstars. However, Barratt and Talvitie have been presented with the opportunity to increase their own stock as future impact players on a huge stage.

As far as Penn State is concerned, this is an opportunity for the hockey world to learn about a program capable of recruiting and, more importantly, developing top-tier talent. The Nittany Lions have never had a representative at this tournament in their short history, so seeing one or both of the two players make their respective final roster would be a milestone in itself.

“It would be great for our program and everyone associated with it,” Gadowsky said. “Whether it’s administrators, coaches, staff, or fans, we’d be really excited to see that, and because of their association with our program, we’d be very proud.”

Neither player is unfamiliar to the concept of representing his country on the ice. Talvitie captained Finland’s U-20 team at the World Junior Summer Showcase and won silver at the 2017 U-18 World Junior tournament. Meanwhile, Barratt played for the United States’ National Team Development Program for two years and was on the United States’ team that beat Talvitie and the Finns in the 2017 U-18 World Juniors.

The sophomore has worked his way through the ranks within USA Hockey’s junior system, but cracking the final roster at this year’s U-20 tournament in Vancouver will be different.

“[Making the team] would obviously mean the world to me,” Barratt said. “It’s definitely really special — I grew up watching the World Juniors every year as a kid, so I hope I get that opportunity.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a junior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. He likes to play golf, but he isn't very good at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail/death threats to [email protected]

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