Jubilant on-ice celebrations only some ft away from the disenchanted and dejected. The joys of success and the agony of underachievement. Cinderella tales, overtimes heroics, last-minute suspense and unheralded youngsters going from hero to zero and again to hero — all in opposition to the backdrop of nationwide pleasure.
These have turn out to be the shared experiences for the thousands and thousands of viewers worldwide who take within the IIHF World Junior Championship that begins each Dec. 26. This yr’s event within the Czech Republic should not be any completely different as assist for junior-age hockey transitions from informal and tame to obsessive and fervent. Not solely will the cream of NHL prospect swimming pools be collaborating however the area is extra vast open than in yr’s previous.
With the 2020 version simply across the nook, Sporting Information provides you 5 good causes to concentrate to this yr’s video games.
Prime Storylines for 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship
1. Group B
On the floor, it seems just like the IIHF purposely stacked Group B with nothing however powerhouses; however keep in mind, the groupings are derived from the earlier yr’s standings and final yr the Canadians and Czechs had been bumped to sixth and seventh, respectively, after Switzerland’s upset of Sweden within the quarterfinals. Subsequently, the often lower-seeded Swiss squad has moved to Group A which provides an additional superpower to Group B. Moreover, by sheer coincidence, the Germans — the lowest-ranked staff on this yr’s event — will ice a lineup that includes three doubtlessly excessive 2020 draft picks and two former first rounders: Moritz Seider and Dominik Bokk.
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To place it bluntly, each matchup in Group B will probably be a bitter battle for supremacy, and there’s a important probability that in the long run, a conventional WJC energy will probably be pressured to the relegation spherical. It may also be fascinating to see how the anticipated excessive 2020 draft picks, and run-and-gun assaults, fare in opposition to the event’s three premier goalies — Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov, Crew USA’s Spencer Knight and Lukas Dostal of the host Czech Republic.
2. 2020 draft prospects aplenty
A great way to guage the power of a draft class is to see what number of prospects of their first yr of eligibility are invited by their respective nations to take part in a event the place they could possibly be as much as two years youthful than nearly all of contributors. This yr, it is best to anticipate to see 15 to 25 first-year eligibles suiting up for motion on the world juniors.
Crew USA has opted to exclude any late-2001 or 2002-born gamers whereas Canada is bringing 4: Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Dawson Mercer and Jamie Drysdale. That represents probably the most draft-year prospects to don the Maple Leaf on the world juniors since 2008 — when Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn and Zach Boychuk helped deliver residence a gold medal earlier than being drafted within the first spherical in June.
Sporting Information has Lafreniere and Byfield ranked because the prime two prospects for June, and Drysdale ought to be the highest defenseman to be referred to as, however there are a number of different draft hopefuls with star potential who’re anticipated to play key roles for his or her respective nations. Sweden has a pair of excellent prospects in wingers Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond, and explosive German ahead Tim Stutzle is so dynamic, some really feel he would possibly really leapfrog each of them into the highest three on draft evening.
Russia is banking its medal hopes on 17-year-old netminder Askarov, who steered them to gold on the Ivan Hlinka event and could possibly be the primary goalie drafted within the prime 5 since Carey Worth in 2005. Different potential first-round caliber contributors embrace excitable Czech ahead Jan Mysak and Finnish middle Anton Lundell, who just lately was injured however has not been dominated out to play preliminary-round motion.
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three. Is that this Russia’s yr?
Russia has at all times been thought-about a hockey superpower however the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 successfully ended its dominance on the world juniors. Since profitable eight gold medals and three silvers between 1977 and 1991, the Russians have gained solely 5 golds, with the final coming in 2011. To their credit score, the Russians often come away with a big comfort prize, capturing silver or bronze in seven of the final eight tourneys.
This Russian staff, made up of gamers born between the years 2000 and 2002, has been profitable in worldwide competitors; one thing that was evident of their suffocating model in opposition to all three Canadian main junior leagues — with out Askarov — in every of the final two U20 Tremendous Collection. Successful gold on the world juniors is rarely straightforward, however Russia’s power in web, together with a bodily and cellular protection and two deadly scoring traces, ought to make them slight favorites to win Group B and finally the event.
four. The Germans are Coming
The Germans earned the best to take part on this yr’s event by profitable the Division 1A World Championship a yr in the past; nonetheless, the reward is being positioned in one of many hardest teams in latest historical past.
Germany will arrive within the Czech Republic with among the best rosters they’ve ever assembled for a junior event. They’ll lean on Stutzle to hold the offense, together with Bokk and wingers J.J. Peterka and Lukas Reichel. Bokk, chosen 25th general by the St. Louis Blues and now a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, is extra of a objective scorer whereas Peterka and Reichel have been productive as teenage twin threats in Germany’s elite league. The German may also be stable defensively led by Seider, the Detroit Pink Wings 2019 sixth-overall choose.
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5. Canada’s Energy Play
It at all times looks as if a nationwide day of mourning in Canada when the nation fails to medal, which has been the case in 4 of the final seven tournaments. Whereas having a few of its greatest under-20 gamers locked in as NHL regulars looks as if a well-liked excuse, the reality is the failure of the ability play — particularly final yr — has had a profound impression on Canada’s capacity to medal with consistency. However the CHL is loaded with expert gamers able to delivering, so the NHL excuse can solely go up to now.
A fast look on the roster for this yr’s event, nonetheless, makes it clear that Hockey Canada has recognized power-play ineffectiveness as a severe concern. 5 of the seven defensemen — Ty Smith, Calen Addison, Bowen Byram, Drysdale and Jacob Bernard-Docker — are offensive-minded quarterbacks with playmaking capabilities whereas each ahead, together with neophytes like Lafreniere and Byfield, are able to working a deadly man benefit.
The up-tempo and aggressive model the Canadians make use of at all times results in a excessive variety of power-play alternatives of their favor, particularly with whistle-happy IIHF referees. Nonetheless, in the event that they wish to survive Group B, not to mention come residence with a medal, the ability play should succeed.