Today starts one of the more exciting and intriguing hockey tournaments that many have never even heard of. The World Junior Championships is an annual under-20 international hockey tournament involving many of the NHL’s top future prospects. With all of that talent comes a ton of skill and speed, resulting in a lot of scoring. It is not uncommon to see 6-5 games during this tournament.

The tournament is comprised of two groups. Group A, comprised of Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Switzerland will play a round robin in Montreal. Expect Finland or Sweden to be fighting to come out on top of Group A.  Group B is far more intriguing, involving the USA, Canada, Russia, Slovakia, and Latvia who will play their round robin in Toronto.

For the US this year, having to play Russia and Canada in the group stage is no easy task. The best chance the Americans have to win is by scoring and scoring some more. Their offensive attack is led by the captain, Wisconsin Badger Luke Kunin. Additionally, look out for Clayton Keller from BU and Colin White from Boston College to put up a lot of points this week. What the Americans have in scoring, they lack in defense and goaltending. With only two returning defensemen and no returning goalies, it will be interesting to see if the back end can keep the puck out of the net.

As for the American’s biggest rival, expect the Canadians to put up a big fight. There should be no surprises here; the Canadian hockey team is going to be pretty good. Their forwards are comparable if not better than the US, while their defense and goaltending may be the highest quality in the tournament. Last year the Canadians failed to get a medal, so expect them to play with an extra sense of purpose this time around.

The other concern in group B is the Russians. Russia typically builds their team similar to what the US has this year: lots of talent up front, but not a whole lot of defense. What is different is the Russian goalie, Ilya Samsonov, is a first round draft pick and will be tough to beat.

USA Schedule:

DATE

OPPONENT

LOCATION

TIME (CST)

BROADCAST

Mon., Dec. 26 Latvia Air Canada Centre 2:30 p.m. NHL Network
Wed., Dec. 28 Slovakia Air Canada Centre 6:30 p.m. NHL Network
Thur., Dec. 29 Russia Air Canada Centre 2:30 p.m. NHL Network
Sat., Dec. 31 Canada Air Canada Centre 2:30 p.m. NHL Network

Chart via usahockey.com

Predictions:

Gold: Canada; they don’t lose on home ice. 

Silver: Finland; the reigning gold medalists are looking to repeat. 

Bronze: USA; and expect Kunin to have a big tournament. 

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