Now that the first decade of the new millennium has been consigned to the history books, it's a great time to reflect on which hockey stars made the biggest impact at the IIHF World Championships during that span.
In order to acknowledge as many worthy names as possible, it seems fair to pick a First All-Star Team and a Second All-Star Team for 2000-09.
What goes into cracking these teams? A combination of actual selections to past tournament all-star teams or Best Player/MVP status, individual feats, team accomplishments, and some longevity. One marvelous tournament, as a rule, is not enough to justify a all-star team selection for a decade. And performances in the NHL, Olympics, and other leagues and competitions don't count here. Forwards have been selected without regard to position.
Note that the following selections reflect the judgement of one writer, and are not officially recognized by the IIHF.
FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Forward: Dany Heatley, CAN
Probably the easiest selection on this list. Team Canada's all-time leading scorer was named tournament MVP and Best Forward in 2004 and 2008, scoring a whopping 12 goals and 20 points in the latter case. During the decade, Heatley won two gold medals and three silver medals, and while he hasn't always endeared himself to NHL fans, he's been the King of the Worlds.
Forward: Rick Nash, CAN
The franchise player of the Columbus Blue Jackets takes his game to new heights at the Worlds. He was virtually unstoppable alongside Joe Thornton in 2005, scored an unforgettable near-breakaway clincher against Finland in the 2007 final, and formed the best line in Canada 2008 with Heatley and Ryan Getzlaf. The Brampton-born left wing has 21 goals in 27 career World Championship games, and at the tender age of 25, he could easily jack up that total.
Forward: Miroslav Satan, SVK
In the heyday of Slovakian hockey, there was no better go-to guy than Number 81. In the Central European nation's two best years, Satan led the Worlds in scoring. The crafty left wing potted 10 goals en route to 2000's silver and added 13 points in support of 2002's gold. He also won bronze in 2003, racking up 10 points.
Defence: Niklas Kronwall, SWE
Kronwall is the hardest-hitting blueliner to suit up for the Detroit Red Wings since Vladimir Konstantinov, and he's also excelled on the international stage. Most memorably, he was named Best Defenceman and tournament MVP with his bravura 10-point performance as Sweden made history by winning gold in Riga 2006, becoming the first country to earn titles in the Olympics and Worlds in the same year. In addition, Kronwall made the 2005 all-star team.
Defence: Petteri Nummelin, FIN
Nummelin has appeared in more World Championship tournaments than any other player (15 as of 2010), but the shifty power play quarterback hasn't just been filling a blue-and-white Suomi jersey. The longtime Swiss league ace was named a tournament all-star four times in the first decade of the 2000's (2000, 2001, 2006, 2007), an unmatched accomplishment.
Goalie: Roberto Luongo, CAN
It would have been a lot easier to pick a First All-Star Team goalie back in the 1970's and early 80's when you could usually pencil in Vladislav Tretiak. That said, Luongo stepped up in enough key situations at World Championships to justify choosing him over the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Tomas Vokoun, and Milan Hnilicka. A four-time participant, the Montreal native was part of two golden squads and one silver team. In 2003, he mostly backed up Sean Burke, but a semi-final injury to the older veteran forced Luongo to step in. The future 2010 Olympic champion outduelled Mikael Tellqvist in the gold medal game, decided by Anson Carter's dramatic, video-reviewed OT goal. Luongo carried Canada to gold again in 2004 as the starter, and did his duty as a backup to Martin Brodeur in 2005, posting a 1.50 GAA in two games.
SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Forward: Alexander Ovechkin, RUS
The world's most dominant left winger made a significant impact at three out of the five Worlds he played between 2002 and 2008. At age 19, Ovechkin racked up five goals and eight points as Russia claimed the bronze in Austria 2005. Even though the Russians only made it to the quarter-finals the following year in Latvia, Ovechkin shone with six goals and nine points. But so far, his best outing has been Quebec City 2008, where he won gold and chipped in 12 points. He was named an all-star in both 2006 and 2008.
Forward: Ilya Kovalchuk, RUS
Kovalchuk will probably be remembered most for his tying goal and dramatic OT winner against Canada in the 2008 gold medal game during the IIHF's centennial celebrations in Quebec City. But he was even better last year in Switzerland, playing more than 30 minutes in the final as Russia claimed top spot over the Canadians again. Overcoming a reputation for individualistic play and selfish penalties, he set a personal Worlds high with 14 points, including nine assists, and was chosen as MVP, Best Forward, and an all-star.
Forward: Jaromir Jagr, CZE
At the four World Championships the superstar Czech played between 2000 and 2009, he accumulated more than a point per game. That pretty much says it all for Jagr, a two-time tournament all-star team selection. His happiest moment came in 2005 when he won his first Worlds gold medal and joined the Triple Gold Club.
Defence: Lubomir Visnovsky, SVK
Always an offensive threat in the NHL, Visnovsky has been equally dangerous at the Worlds. The savvy puck-moving blueliner had the privilege of suiting up for all three medal-winning Slovakian teams thus far in the new millennium (2000, 2002, 2003). In Finland 2003, he exploded for 12 points in just nine games.
Defence: Kenny Jönsson, SWE
Frankly, it feels like Kenny Jönsson retired too soon. At age 34 last year, he was named a tournament all-star in Sweden's bronze medal run. The former New York Islanders captain also came through big-time in 2006 when Sweden completed its quest for “double gold” in Latvia. It's amazing Jönsson accomplished these feats at a time when he was playing for a second-division club, Rogle BK Angleholm, in his native country.
Goalie: Andrei Mezin, BLR
Mezin is best-known internationally for his show-stopping performance against Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarter-finals. There, Belarus pulled off the second-biggest international upset of all time (after the 1980 "Miracle on Ice") by eliminating Tre Kronor in Salt Lake City. Putting that aside, it's a huge tribute to this DEL and KHL veteran's ability to rise to the occasion that he has been named Best Goalie at the Worlds twice in recent years (2006, 2009), while playing for a nation that has never finished higher than sixth in this tournament.