Just The Facts:
- What is it?: The International U-20 hockey tournament, as made popular in North America by TSN, and has been a good place for fans interested in the upcoming draft to see the best of the best of the best...while they’re still teenagers.
- Where is it: The Czech Republic! The cities of Ostrava and Trinec will be tag teaming to bring you this tourney.
- Defending Champions: Finland
- Places to Watch: NHLN in the USA, TSN in Canada, TSN GO will have livestreams
- Why did this primer come out a few days before the tournament starts?: Monday is a game day...and we will be pre-occupied.
- Czech Republic
- United States
Bruins Prospects at the World Juniors:
One of the lighter attended World Juniors for the B’s.
USA: Curtis Hall (maybe), John Beecher
CZE: Jakub Lauko
Group A - Playing in Trinec:
- Finland has seen a major turnaround since getting Jussi Ahokas into the Coach’s chair, combined with an absolutely lethal number of fantastic players coming up through their ranks who turned them into world champs last year. Regrettably, a lot of those young guys that made last year possible aged out or are currently in their first year in the NHL/AHL, so while Finland is likely to make it to the quarters, I don’t think this is gonna be a repeat gold medal year.
- Sweden is as always, a defensive juggernaut, but speed has become a priority of their younger sides, and the players they’re bringing are all real good at getting the puck up-ice, and with making things difficult; guys like Rasmus Sandin, Nils Hoglander, Tobias Bjornfot, and soon to be drafted Linus Oberg will ensure Tre Kronor ends up back in the medal conversation.
- Slovakia is kinda...there. One of their big strengths is goaltending and being young, and returner Samuel Hlavaj could end up being a pretty good X-factor for a team extremely light on offense and carrying some unique talents like Sam Knazko. They do have a nasty tendency to play spoiler and love dragging teams down to their level, so don’t you dare go sleeping on them.
- I love watching Switzerland because they have such a well defined and extremely possession heavy system that makes them a real tough team to play, but as per usual their biggest issue is that they simply don’t have the firepower to make up for the loss of Nando Eggenberger and Philipp Kurashev once the knockout round begins. They do on the other hand, have the defense and goaltending to make any of the traditional powers miserable, and young guns like Valentin Nussbaumer and (in all likelyhood), 2020-eligible draftee Simon Knak who can hopefully begin picking up the slack.
- Playing the role of Denmark this year is Kazakhstan, who will likely be fighting for their lives and failing all tournament. Unlike Denmark, they are a plucky, fun team that brings a bunch of fans with them just happy to see their kids, so even if they lose (and they will. Often.), I’m sure the five goals they score all tournament will be wildly celebrated. Go on, you crazy Kazakhs.
Group B - Playing in Ostrava:
- Canada apparently knew who they needed for this tourney, as they had a complete roster in under a week. Thankfully it appears they’ve brought the best shot they can reasonably say they have, with such luminaries as Alexis Lafreniere leading the team. Unlike recent years where surging programs could catch the Canadians unaware, the Red and white (and black?) are probably medaling this year...But are they gold medalists? It’s up to their forwards to step up.
- The “Good” Ol’ USA is in a prime position to end up being a major contender for a gold medal this year. There is a ton of talent on their (currently uncut) roster that could make things very interesting, as they’re only going to have a completed, pared down roster about a day before the tournament. Guys like John Beecher, Arthur Kaliyev, Cole Caufield, K’Andre Miller, Alex Turcotte, and the historically pretty good Spencer Knight mean that the States have a great chance to make things interesting for the medal rounds. Where the US tends to falter is in their legendarily poor first 40 minutes over the past two or three tournaments, and their tendency to come back in the final 20. It’s worked out pretty well given the level of player going out for them, but it has got them caught because teams that can hold on for dear life can trip them up. Still, it’s the US’s tournament to lose.
- Russia as a federation is in deep shit athletically thanks to the doping scandals. That does not extend to the U-20 guys, so they’re free to bring as many roided out 18 year olds as they want under their banner. Of course, the thing is that they really dont need chemical assistance to do well, as they have a lethal group with Grigori Denisenko, Vasili Podkolzin, and Alexander Romanov. Where they’ve had trouble on the other hand...is in the knockout round. Further, this will be North America’s first look at one of the better guys in net available for drafting in 2020 in Yaroslav Aksarov. How he does will go a long way in figuring how the Rooskies do.
- The Home team Czechs are a team on a razor’s edge. They ended up in a murderer’s row of a group, they have help coming for next year’s tourney, and while they do have some guys who can cause damage (Jakub Lauko says hi!), they are in serious danger of being possibly relegated for the first time in their history. Yeah. They have some offense in Jan Jenik, Lauko, Matej Blumel, and Michal Teply, and their goaltending is pretty strong with Lukas Dostal, nearly every single one of them has to show up and play like champions in order to stay above water, and their exhibition match against Sweden didn’t exactly inspire confidence. It’s pretty likely that they could beat Germany, but they still gotta show it.
- Willkommen zu den tanze, Germany! You have the possibility of sending the Czech Republic to the relegation round, isn’t that fun? Germany’s pretty toast otherwise. Do they care? No, they’re more interested in putting on a show, and that’s what matters. They’ve got some crazily skilled young guns in Tim Stützle, Dominik Bokk, Simon Gnyp and Moritz Sieder helping Die Mannschaft in their first World Juniors since 2015. Where they will be lagging...is in goaltending. While down in Division 1A, Hendrik Hane was a monster, there’s concern his dimunitive frame will be able to handle the big leagues.
2020 World Junior Championship Schedule:
Russia vs. Czech Republic
Switzerland vs. Kazakhstan
Finland vs. Sweden
Canada vs. United States
Slovak vs. Kazakhstan
Germany vs. USA
Finland vs. Slovakia
Czech Republic vs. Germany
Switzerland vs. Sweden
Russia vs. Canada
Kazakhstan vs. Finland
USA vs. Russia
Kazakhstan vs. Sweden
Germany vs. Canada
Slovakia vs. Switzerland
USA vs. Czech Republic
Sweden vs. Slovakia
Russia vs. Germany
Finland vs. Switzerland
Canada vs. Czech Republic.
Quarters, Semis, Relegation, and Finals get their own post.