The 2020 edition of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship starts on Boxing Day in the Czech Republic.Here is a preview of two must see games on the Dec.26.
Canada VS USA
The greatest rivalry in international ice hockey is once again about to be played in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Team Canada will be taking on Team USA. Both of these teams are favourites to contend for a gold medal.
Team USA’s roster is headlined by Cole Caufield (MTL ‘19), Oliver Wahlstrom (NYI ‘18) and Alex Turcotte (LAK ‘19). In between the pipes for the Americans will most likely be Spencer Knight (FLA ‘19).
Team Canada is just as star studded as their neighbours to the south. The top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft Alexis Lafreniere will be returning for his second World Juniors. Joe Veleno (DET ‘18), Barret Hayton (ARI ‘18), Ty Smith (NJD ‘18) and Jared McIsaac (DET ‘18) are also returnees from the 2019 tournament.
The two sides did not meet in last year's tournament. Canada was eliminated by Finland in the Quarter Finals in overtime.
Canada has a very deep roster once again this year. Look out for 2020 draft eligible Quinton Byfield, Bowen Byram (COL ‘19) and Dylan Cozens (BUF ‘19) who will all be important players for the Canadiens in their first World Juniors.
Team USA went to the gold medal game where they also lost to Finland in overtime.
With elite goaltending from Knight, a strong defensive core with K’Andre Miller (NYR ‘18) and Cam York (PHI ‘19) and a deep forward core with players like Arthur Kaliyev (LAK ‘19) Nick Robertson (TOR ‘19) and Trevor Zegras (ANA ‘19).
These two rivals love playing against each other and every time they come up against one another, there is a great chance for that game to be a classic.
Sweden VS Finland
One of Europe’s top hockey rivalries will also be taking place on Boxing Day. The two scandanavian neighbours have shown over the years that they are some of the best hockey nations in the world. Finland won the whole thing last year in Vancouver while the Swedes were knocked out in the Quarter Finals by Switzerland.
This year Finland will be without some of their star players from 2019. Kaapo Kakko is eligible for this years tournament, but the second overall pick in the 2019 draft is busy playing with the New York Rangers. Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA), Eeli Tolvanen (NSH) and Henri Jokiharju (BUF) will also not be back. Top rated prospect for the 2020 draft Anton Lundell won’t play in the tournament due to injury.
The Fins will look to returning defenseman Ville Heinola (WPG ‘19) for strength on the backend. Rasmus Kupari was loaned to Finland by the LA Kings for the tournament. He is the only returning forward on the team. The projected top pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Centre Aatu Räty will be playing for the Finnish team as a 17-year-old.
Sweden will be looking for redemption after their early exit from last year's tournament. This year’s team features another deep blue line. Philip Broberg (EDM ‘19), Tobias Björnfot (LAK 2019), Rasmus Sandin (TOR ‘18) and Victor Söderström (ARI ‘19) headline the list.
The offence is very solid as well. Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz are both projected to go in the top 10 of the 2020 draft. David Gustafsson was loaned to Sweden by the Winnipeg Jets for the tournament.
Finland will try to come out victorious in their first game as defending champions, while Sweden will want to show the world that they aren’t going to let what happened last year repeat, by defeating one of their biggest rivals.