World Junior Championship Preview

After a Bronze medal finish last year, Team USA will look to take gold. –Getty Images

Introduction

Not only does Christmastime bring joy and cheer, it also brings the World Junior Hockey Championships. This year, 10 different countries will compete in two separate divisions in Vancouver, BC. The preliminary round games will start today, December 26th, and the playoffs will start on January 2nd. You can find the full schedule and TV listings at this link: https://www.nhl.com/info/nhl-network-wjc-schedule. All games listed will be on NHL NETWORK.

Groups / Structure

The 10 different countries are being split into two groups: Group A and Group B.

Group A

Group B

Canada Finland
Czech Republic Kazakhstan
Denmark Slovakia
Russia Sweden
Switzerland United States

The top four teams in each group will advance to the playoffs, while the bottom team in each division will play in a best-of-three playoff determining who will be relegated. The structure of the playoffs is as followed:  the team with the most points in group A will face the team with the fourth amount of points in group B and so on and so forth. There will be three different medals given at the conclusion of the tournament: gold (1st place), silver (2nd place), and bronze (3rd place).

Players to Watch

Below are players from each country that’ll certainly be worth watching. Rosters in this tournament are made up of hockey players who are 20 or younger. Most have either already been drafted, or eligible for upcoming NHL-entry drafts. The players that are listed below are 2019 NHL-entry draft eligible or New Jersey Devils draftees.

* – data was drawn from preliminary rosters for some teams, meaning some players listed may not be on teams’ final rosters. These players are marked.

Canada:

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Leason Brett 20 6’4” / 200 Center Mid-2nd round WHL
Smith Ty 24 5’11”/ 174 Defense NJD ’18 (1,17) WHL Projected top-pair defenseman for Team Canada.

 

Denmark

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Mads Søgaard N/a 6’7” / 196 Goalie 4th round WHL Projected to be Denmark’s starter.

 

Russia

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Podkolzin Vasily N/a 6’1” / 190 Right Wing Top 10 MHL

 

Switzerland

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Schmid Akira N/a 6’5” / 205 Goalie NJD ’18 (5,136) USHL Projected to be Switzerland’s starter.

 

Finland

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Heinola Ville N/a 5’11” / 165 Defense Late 3rd round Liiga May not be on the final roster.
Honka Anttoni N/a 5’10” / 170 Defense Late 1st round Liiga May not be on the final roster. Brother to NHL-defenseman Julius Honka.
Kakko Kaapo 24 6’1” / 181 Right Wing 2nd overall Liiga
Kokkonen Mikko 35 5’11”/ 190 Defense 2nd round Liiga May not be on the final roster.
Talvitie Aarne 25 5’10” / 198 Center NJD ’17 (6,150) NCAA One of Penn State’s top scorers.
Thomson Lassi 33 6’0” / 187 Defense 2nd round WHL May not be on the final roster.

 

Kazakhstan

Last Name First   Name Number Height / Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Guseinov Dias N/a 6’0” / 146 Forward Undrafted MHL

 

Slovakia

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Cajkovic Maxim N/a 5’11” LW / RW 2nd round QMJHL

 

Sweden

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Broberg Phillip 25 6’3” / 198 Defense Top 15 AIK
Fagemo Samuel 11 5’11”/ 190 LW / RW Late Round SHL May not be on final roster.
Zetterlund Fabian 28 5’11” / 196 Right Wing NJD ’17 (3,63) SHL

 

United States

Last Name First   Name Number Height/ Weight Position Current Projection League Other Notes (if applicable):
Hughes Jack 6 5’10” / 168 Center 1st overall US U18 Team
Knight Spencer 29 6’3” / 200 Goalie Late-1st round / Early-2nd round WHL Projected to backup to Cayden Primeau.

Devils draftee Aarne Talvitie was just named captain of Team Finland. –Getty Images

The Devils have four prospects taking part in the tournament. The most intriguing may be Finnish-captain Aarne Talvitie. The Devils have created magic in the late rounds recently, with picks Jesper Bratt and Brett Seney already playing at the NHL level. Ty Smith and Fabian Zetterlund both are projected to play valuable roles for their respective countries, while goaltender Akira Schmid should get an extensive look between the pipes for Switzerland.

As you can see above, there are also plenty of 2019 NHL-entry draft eligible players in this tournament. If things do not change quickly for the New Jersey Devils, a lottery pick looks inevitable. Luckily for the club, they’ll get to start scouting in this tournament as Jack Hughes, Kakko Kaapo, Vasily Podkolzin, and Phillip Broberg are all currently lottery-projected selections.

Along with the lottery-projected selections are many more notable prospects. Slovakian winger Maxim Cajkovic is currently projected as an early-2nd round selection. However, many are predicting with a great showing he can sky-rocket up the draft rankings. More prospects worth keeping close eyes on are goaltenders Spencer Knight and Mads Søgaard. Being a backup, Knight may not get too much of a look, but 6’7” Søgaard is projected to get the majority of minutes for Denmark. With goaltending being such a question, these two are definitely worth following.

Team USA last won the gold medal in 2017. –The Inquistr

Prediction

Group A: Canada, Russia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark

Group B: USA, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Kazakhstan

Gold: USA / Silver: Canada / Bronze: Finland

Relegation Winner: Denmark

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