CONNECT WITH US:            

Canada Against the World: Who Could Stand in the Way of World Junior Gold

By Iain Colpitts on December 20, 2017

The defending champions aren’t expected to miss a beat in this year's event, with a strong returning core led by Kieffer Bellows (pictured) up front, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren on the blue line and Joseph Woll and Jake Oettinger in goal. (Portland Winterhawks)

The days where Canada can run away with the tournament are over. Most of us are old enough to remember Canada winning five straight golds on two separate occasions (1993-97 and 2005-09), but hockey is a much different game now and it’s clear that there are plenty of powerhouse nations who will put Canada to work. Here’s a look at this year’s competition. 

United States - gold in 2017
The defending champions aren’t expected to miss a beat in this year's event with a strong returning core led by Kieffer Bellows up front, Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren on the blue line and Joseph Woll and Jake Oettinger in goal.

They may be missing last year’s leading scorer Clayton Keller, but Kailer Yamamoto, who spent the beginning of the season with the Edmonton Oilers, brings a similar dynamic skill set.

Top NHL Draft prospects Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes will be watched with great interest while 2016/17 camp invites Logan Brown and Max Jones can be imposing on the physical end.

Russia - bronze in 2017
Russia’s mighty mouse hopes to come up big against the world’s best. Vitalii Abramov, standing in at 5-foot-9 and 172 pounds, has immense skill to compensate for his size and is excelling with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres after a mid-season trade from the Gatineau Olympiques. He’s also coming off a league MVP year in which he totaled 104 points.

He’s likely to be joined by a number of other Russians honing their craft in the CHL like German Rubtsov (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) and Dmitri Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves). New Jersey Devils prospect Mikhail Maltsev will be counted on as a leader.

Sweden - fourth place in 2017
You won’t find very many holes in Sweden’s lineup. Up front, they’ll have 2017 NHL Draft top-10 picks Elias Pettersson and Lias Andersson leading the charge while their defence could be incredibly mobile and tough to deal with as Timothy Liljegren and Erik Brannstrom and 2018 projected first overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin are capable of anchoring the blue line.

Returning forwards Tim Soderlund and Fredrik Karlstrom will be counted on while Filip Gustavsson seems favoured to get most of the workload in goal after serving in an apprenticeship role under Felix Sandstrom last year.

Czech Republic - quarterfinalists in 2017
Can the Czech’s shocking run to gold at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament translate to a longer run in this year’s World Juniors? Youngsters like Filip Zadina will look to show that it can. The star prospect with the Halifax Mooseheads is one of the top players to look out for ahead of the upcoming NHL Draft and at the World Juniors, he’ll be joined by teammates like Filip Chytil, Martin Necas and Ostap Safin who were part of that Hlinka championship core. The Czechs will get a big boost from Chytil, who was loaned to the team by the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Slovakia - quarterfinalists in 2017
The Slovaks aren’t far removed from their last World Juniors medal, a bronze in 2015, but another one will be hard to come by this year. There’s still the potential to be competitive, particularly with OHLers Adam Ruzicka and Marian Studenic poised to play big roles. Ruzicka has been particularly strong this year as one of the leading scorers on the powerful Sarnia Sting, while Studenic is contributing to a Hamilton Bulldogs team that has captured the lead atop the Eastern Conference standings. However, the Slovaks have lost a lot of talent, including rugged defenceman Erik Cernak to graduation.

Switzerland - quarterfinalists in 2017
The Swiss have been spoiled with top end talent lately, especially last year with Nico Hischier, the only player from his country ever to be drafted first overall into the NHL. He won’t be coming over from the New Jersey Devils, but another Nico will be patrolling the blue line. Seventeen-year-old Nico Gross will suit up in his second World Juniors midway through his NHL Draft year with the Oshawa Generals. 

Washington Capitals draftee Tobias Geisser will be counted on along the blue line and draft-eligible forward Philipp Kurashev is averaging almost a point per game with the Quebec Remparts.

Denmark - quarterfinalists in 2017
After being treated to NHL young guns like Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand in recent years, there doesn’t appear to be that same level of firepower with the Danes this year.

However, NHL prospects like Jonas Rondbjerg (Vegas), Nikolaj Krag (St. Louis) and Joachim Blichfield (San Jose) are capable of leading the way. 

Still, Denmark put on a surprising run through pool play last year with an upset win over Finland and an overtime victory over the Czechs to finish second in their division.

That run was quickly put to an end in a 4-0 quarter-final defeat at the hands of Russia.

Finland - Avoided relegation in 2017
No one had a more disappointing tournament last year than the Finns. World Junior champions in 2016, they fell way off the map last year and had to beat Latvia in a mini series to avoid relegation. This year’s group shouldn’t run into that issue. They’ll have a deep defence led by Miro Heiskanen, the third overall pick by Dallas in the 2017 NHL Draft, as well as Olli Juolevi, Jusso Valimaki and Henri Jokiharju. Offensively, the Finns could get big contributions from Eeli Tolvanen, Kistian Vesalainen, Joni Ikonen and others.

Belarus - Promoted in 2017
No one had a more disappointing tournament last year than the Finns. World Junior champions in 2016, they fell way off the map last year and had to beat Latvia in a mini series to avoid relegation. This year’s group shouldn’t run into that issue. They’ll have a deep defence led by Miro Heiskanen, the third overall pick by Dallas in the 2017 NHL Draft, as well as Olli Juolevi, Jusso Valimaki and Henri Jokiharju. Offensively, the Finns could get big contributions from Eeli Tolvanen, Kistian Vesalainen, Joni Ikonen and others.

See our full 2018 World Junior Preview in our Digital Edition or read each section online:

HockeyNow 2018 WJC Panel Predictions
Meet the 2018 World Junior Team Canada
Canada Shaking Things Up with Makar, Point, Fabbro
Mahura Joins WHL’s World Junior Heavy Hitters Led By Hart
Mete, McLeod, Raddysh Lead OHL Charge at 2018 World Juniors
Comtois and Batherson Come Through for Q at WJC
Cale Makar’s 2017 Just Keeps Getting Better

 

Back to Top

By Iain Colpitts| December 20, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior|Events
Keywords:  OHLQMJHLWHLWorld Juniors

Add A Comment

Comment

Allowed HTML: <b>, <i>, <u>, <a>

Comments


 

    

Most Read:
1) Team Canada’s Olympic Goalies Unveil Their Masks
2) Meet Matthew Savoie, the NAX Forward Taking the CSSHL by Storm
3) 2018 Olympic Preview: Team Canada Women's Hockey
4) Drake Batherson Taking Career Year One Highlight at a Time
5) Ty Ronning Hoping to Ride Career High to WHL Playoffs

Cumberland Grads netminder making the most of CCHL opportunity

- See more at: http://hockeynow.ca/junior/cumberland-grads-netminder-making-the-most-of-cchl-opportunity#sthash.Kp9vOuWN.dpu

Krebs and Byram making strong case for top-round consideration in 2016 WHL Draft

- See more at: http://hockeynow.ca/minor-hockey/krebs-and-byram-making-strong-case-for-top-round-consideration-in-2016-whl-draft#sthash.3aAd2mSy.dpu
 
 
 
 
 


 2018