Adirondack Phantoms defenseman Oskars Bartulis will represent his home nation of Latvia in the 2012 IIHF World Championships. The annual competition of the International Ice Hockey Federation gets underway this weekend with preliminary round action in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.
Latvia opens their play on Saturday, May 5 in Stockholm with a giant challenge as they face the Russian squad led by Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) and Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit). The game is at 10:15am (Eastern Time). Live streams of all the IIHF games are available online at http://www.youtube.com/icehockey
This is not the first time Bartulis has played for Latvia. In 2010 he had the honor of representing his country at the Olympic Games in Vancouver. It was his first ever opportunity to play in the Olympics. Bartulis also played in the World Championships in 2005 and 2009 and has also played in the World Juniors Championships four different times. He also played in the World Under-18 Championships twice back in 2003 and 2004.
Latvia is not considered to be a medal contender but they are known for their stingy play and ability to upset higher ranked teams. Latvia is led by former NHL Coach of the Year Ted Nolan (Buffalo Sabres, 1996) who starred for the Adirondack Red Wings from 1979-84.
Bartulis played in 36 games with the Adirondack Phantoms this season while also being limited by a couple of injuries at different times. He scored one goal and 10 assists with 20 penalty minutes. The goal that Bartulis scored was actually the team's first of the season. In an October 8 game against Connecticut, he blasted home a one-timer from Brayden Schenn on Opening Night.
He has played in 66 games with the Philadelphia Flyers including 53 games in 2009-10 and 13 games in 2010-11. Bartulis has played in more Adirondack and Philadelphia Phantoms games (189) than any currently active Phantoms player. And he has been with the Phantoms for at least part of the last five seasons dating back to his pro debut in October, 2007. He was originally drafted by the Flyers in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft from the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Kaspars Daugavins of the Ottawa Senators, who excelled with the Binghamton Senators in 2009-10 and 2010-11, will be teammates with Bartulis on the Latvian squad.
Bartulis is one of a small number of players at the IIHF World Championships to have spent most of the 2011-12 regular season in the AHL. Others include Antoine Roussei (France) of the Chicago Wolves, Justin Krueger (Gremany) of the Charlotte Checkers and Thomas Tatar (Sweden) of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Former Philadelphia Phantom forward Rob Sirianni (2008-09) will also play at the IIHF World Championships representing Italy which is where he has been playing professionally in recent seasons.
Pictured below, Oskars Bartulis defends against Alexander Ovechkin of Russia in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.