It would be easy to understand if Ducks General Manager Bob Murray has divided loyalties during Saturday’s World Junior Championships gold-medal game between the United States and defending champion Sweden.
The Ducks have the draft rights to three prospects who are expected to play in the game, which will be aired Saturday at 5 a.m. PST on the NHL Network and live-streamed on nhl.com. They chose all three in the 2011 entry draft, but one — standout goaltender John Gibson — will play for the U.S., while right wing Rickard Rakell and center William Karlsson will represent Sweden in the game at Ufa, Russia.
Another Ducks prospect, 2012 first-round pick Hampus Lindholm, was considered a sure choice for Sweden’s defense corps but was held out of the tournament as a precaution after he suffered a concussion.
Gibson, chosen in the second round by the Ducks and 39th overall, has become the talk of the tournament while leading his steadily improving team into the final.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Pittsburgh native leads the tournament in goals-against average (1.42) and save percentage (.954) and is tied for first with four wins. He plays for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Gibson is playing very well. We aren’t surprised, but we are obviously happy to see him do so well,” Murray said. “This is a big stage and he’s obviously performing.”
Murray was effusive in praising the Swedish team, which has lost four players to injuries but still defeated host Russia in the semifinals. Rakell has contributed five assists to the effort and Karlsson has recorded two assists.
"Rakell and Karlsson are playing so well at both ends of the ice," Murray said. "They both contributed last year when they won the tournament, so it says a lot about them that they are back in the gold-medal game without four injured defenseman, including Hampus Lindholm. It shows what great team players they are."