The 2014 edition of the World Junior Hockey Championship is rapidly approaching, and there are some exciting young stars to watch in Malmo, Sweden this year.
Ten different countries’ teams will square off in this tournament, as the United States’ squad tries to defend their 2013 title and win their third overall championship.
Canada will also be a team to watch in this one, as they try to rebound from last year’s disastrous outing; the Canadian juniors left the tournament without a medal for the first time since 1988.
Below you can find the complete schedule for the tournament. All times are ET.
|Date and Time||Round||Matchup||TV|
|Dec. 26, 7:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Germany vs. Canada||NHL Network|
|Dec. 26, 9 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Norway vs. Russia||N/A|
|Dec. 26, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Czech Republic vs. United States||NHL Network|
|Dec. 26, 1:30 p.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Switzerland vs. Sweden||N/A|
|Dec. 27, 9 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Slovakia vs. Germany||NHL Network|
|Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Finland vs. Norway||N/A|
|Dec. 28, 7:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||United States vs. Slovakia||NHL Network|
|Dec. 28, 9 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Sweden vs. Finland||N/A|
|Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Canada vs. Czech Republic||NHL Network|
|Dec. 28, 1 p.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Russia vs. Switzerland||N/A|
|Dec. 29, 9 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Germany vs. United States||NHL Network|
|Dec. 29, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Norway vs. Sweden||N/A|
|Dec. 30, 7:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Czech Republic vs. Germany||NHL Network|
|Dec. 30, 9 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Russia vs. Finland||N/A|
|Dec. 30, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Canada vs. Slovakia||NHL Network|
|Dec. 30, 1 p.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Switzerland vs. Norway||N/A|
|Dec. 31, 7:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||Slovakia vs. Czech Republic||NHL Network|
|Dec. 31, 8 a.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Sweden vs. Russia||N/A|
|Dec. 31, 11:30 a.m.||Preliminary, Group A||United States vs. Canada||NHL Network|
|Dec. 31, 12 p.m.||Preliminary, Group B||Finland vs. Switzerland||N/A|
|Jan. 2, 6 a.m.||Quarterfinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 2, 8:30 a.m.||Quarterfinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 2, 11 a.m.||Quarterfinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 2, 1:30 p.m.||Quarterfinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 4, 9 a.m.||Semifinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 4, 1 p.m.||Semifinals||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 5, 9 a.m.||Bronze Medal Game||TBD||NHL Network|
|Jan. 5, 1 p.m.||Gold Medal Game||TBD||NHL Network|
While there may be a variety of teams vying for the junior championship title, three different squads tend to stand out from the rest.
The United States can’t be ignored, largely because of their stellar performance in last year’s tournament and the depth of their returning squad.
The team features three different players who earned first-round selections in past NHL drafts.
Defenseman Brady Skjei was the No. 28 overall pick by the New York Rangers in 2012, immediately followed by forward Stefan Matteau at 29 by the New Jersey Devils. In 2013, the Chicago Blackhawks took forward Ryan Hartman 30th overall.
The squad should also be strong in net thanks to the Calgary Flames’ third-round pick in 2012, Jon Gillies.
Gillies backed up last year’s starting goalie, John Gibson, and his impressive performances in exhibitions have likely earned him the starting spot in Sweden. He notched 38 big saves in the team’s 3-2 win against Finland on Dec. 22, as the video shows.
However, in any discussion of hockey, Canada cannot be ignored. The squad might’ve disappointed last year, but there’s no doubt they’ll be competitive again this time around.
The Canadians have the benefit of returning two players from last year’s team, goalie Jake Paterson and forward Jonathan Drouin, in addition to boasting the presence of Curtis Lazar, the forward the Ottawa Senators took with the 17th overall pick in 2013.
Lazar has been busy lighting up the minor leagues and has played well in international competition before, as Yahoo Sports’ Sunaya Sapurji explains.
When it comes to production on the ice, the first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators (17th overall), is a serious threat.
In the Western Hockey League with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he’s one of the league’s top goal scorers with 21 goals and 37 points in 27 games. He won a WHL championship in 2012 and has a gold medal from the under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament – Reinhart was one of his teammates.
And, even more impressively, at the 2011 Canada Winter Games he broke two records previously set by future NHL stars – one for most goals scored set by Steven Stamkos (12) and one for most points scored (17) set by Sidney Crosby.
However, for all of Canada’s talent, they’ve struggled in the exhibitions leading up to the tournament.
The squad looked particularly bad against Sweden, falling 3-0 and getting dominated on defense.
Paterson was able to notch 31 saves, but it wasn’t enough, as the Washington Capitals’ first-rounder Andre Burakovsky had his way with the Canadian defense.
He scored on this beautiful behind-the-back pass from Jacob De La Rose, demonstrating the talent this Swedish team has offensively.
It would seem that Burakovsky is acutely aware of his team’s skill, as evidenced by some of the comments he made about Canada’s team before the game.
"I know what kind of team Canada will be showing up with and if I take a look at what they have and compare them to what we have, I would have to say on paper, we have a much better team," Burakovsky told CBC.
The Swedes also beat up the U.S. team, winning 4-2 in the Dec. 20 scrimmage between the squads.
There’s no doubt that the Swedish team is very well-coached and very skilled offensively, and they’ll prove to be quite the challenge in the tournament.
But it’s impossible to discount the pedigree of the American and Canadian teams as well.
No matter what, the tournament should be a fascinating showcase of players who will soon be lighting up the NHL.