Sidney Crosby - 2004, 2005
At the tender age of 23, Sidney Crosby has more hockey trophies on his mantle than most NHL players will get in their entire careers. But before the Stanley Cup, before Olympic gold, before the Rocket Richard, the Art Ross, the Lester B. Pearson, the Mark Messier Leadership award, the Hart Trophy and the All-Star appearances, there was World Junior gold.
Only 16 at the time of his first appearance at the WJHC, Crosby was already well-known in Canada and it was widely understood that he was on his way to the National Hockey League as a top prospect.
"Sid the Kid", who actually was still a kid in his WJHC days, was one of many members of Team Canada who had to settle for silver the first time around (2004), only to bring home the gold in ever-satisying fashion a year later.
A forward with the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic for his day job, Crosby did not disappoint on the international stage, putting up 14 points in 12 games in his two World Junior tournament appearances.
In June of 2005, Crosby was selected No. 1 overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Just a few months later, he made his NHL debut alongside Mario Lemieux in the new post-lockout-era NHL, a more wide-open game perfectly suited to the skilled, agile style of #87. The result? He had 102 points in his first season. He had 120 the next year. And by 2009, Crosby was hoisting the Stanley Cup, giving the elated city of Pittsburgh its first championship since 1992, when a young gun named Jaromir Jagr had helped lead the way.
What's perhaps most frightening about Crosby's massive career output (211 goals and 353 assists/564 points in 406 games) is that he's still only six seasons in and could still be years away from hitting his prime. And most of Canada got its first glimpses at him when he put on the maple leaf at the World Juniors seven years ago.
Crosby's career World Junior stats: 12 GP, 8 G, 6 A, 14 PTS, silver medal ('04), gold medal ('05)
(Career NHL statistics as of December 22, 2010)
Video: Jamie Nicholson
Story: Matt Burt