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World Junior Championship Viewer Guid: WJC Is Must See TV!

By Scott Lowe – MyHockeyRankings.com

It seems fitting that Voorhees, NJ-native Mattias Samuelsson was named captain of the United States 2020 World Junior Championship team just days before this year’s tournament. But not because the Western Michigan University defenseman served as Team USA’s captain for the 2018 Under-18 World Championship.

Ten years ago to the day on which this year’s WJC championship game is scheduled – Jan. 5, 2010 – it was another 19-year-old defenseman from New Jersey who earned the nickname “Captain America” by scoring one of the most memorable goals in U.S. hockey history.

That night, as overtime unfolded and after Canada’s Jordan Eberle had scored twice in the waning minutes of regulation to forge a 5-all tie and force the extra period, current Washington Capitals’ Norris Trophy-candidate John Carlson streaked down the left wing carrying the puck on a 2-on-1. Carlson looked off defenseman Colton Teubert and snapped a missile short-side past the blocker of goaltender Martin Jones and into the U.S. hockey history books.

That goal gave the Americans a thrilling 6-5 victory and set off a wild Team USA celebration on the Saskatoon ice in front of a stunned Canadian crowd, but it proved to be memorable as more than just a gold medal-winning overtime tally. It marked the beginning of a new era for the WJC.

Team USA first reared its head as a legitimate WJC contender in 2004 as a squad comprised of future NHL stars Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Suter – along with Al Montoya, named the tournament’s top goaltender – went 6-0 to shock the hockey world and earn the Americans’ first-ever gold medal. It was just Team USA’s fourth medal of any kind since the IIHF started sponsoring the tournament in 1977.

That gold medal proved to more of an upset than anything, however, as the U.S. only could muster a single bronze medal between that tournament and the night of Carlson’s heroics. Between Team USA’s two gold-medal showings in 2004 and 2010, Canada captured five straight golds to bring its total of first-place finishes since 1977 to 15.

In 34 tournaments contested between 1977 and 2010, Canada and the Soviet Union dominated the WJC, combining for 23 gold medals 35 total medals, with Russia also earning three golds and 12 total medals after the Soviet Union competed for the final time in 1991. The first year after the fall of the Soviet Union, the team representing those countries known as the Commonwealth of Independent States also won gold.

Carlson’s goal turned out to be the shot heard round the world, however, as it announced the United States as a perennial WJC contender and seemingly opened the door for other nations to step to the forefront.

Over the past decade, Team USA has won three gold medals –  tied with Finland for the most, one more than Canada and two more than Russia – and seven medals overall. Russia leads the way with eight medals during that span, while Canada has medaled six times. Sweden has four medals, including one gold, since 2010 and oddly Finland has only the three gold medals on its resume in that time frame – including one in last year’s tournament in Vancouver. The United States is the only country to earn a medal in each of the last four championships, and the 2010s is the only decade in which five different countries earned WJC gold.

That 2010 tournament also introduced the WJC experience to relatively new viewers in the United States. Followed closely and passionately throughout Canada for years, the WJC was not even a blip on the sports radar in America until the advent of the NHL Network. That 2010 tournament was the eighth championship hosted by Canada. More than 300,000 spectators attended games that year, an average of nearly 10,000 per contest.  

Still in its relative infancy in 2010, the NHL Network brought all the passion, excitement and an unexpected high-level of play into the living rooms of American hockey fans. And it didn’t hurt that Team USA played two heart-stopping games against the hosts on Canadian soil and took home the gold in dramatic fashion.

It would an overstatement to say that a nation was hooked, but certainly the hockey fans of a nation became enthralled with a tournament they hadn’t heard much about. And the timing of the event – played mostly during most American kids’ holiday breaks from school and hockey – makes it must-see TV for many families of youth hockey players.

Also, with the demographics of top NHL players shifting younger and younger, fans of professional hockey flock to their TV sets to see the next wave of young NHL stars and track how their favorite teams’ draft picks are progressing.

Where else can you watch the 18- or 19-year-old versions of future superstar-caliber players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Jack Eichel and so many more compete for their countries?

This year’s WJC, which is being held in the Czech Republic, starts with a bang on Dec. 26 as rivals from the Czech Republic and Russia open the tournament at 9 a.m. EST in a contest televised live in both Canada and the United States by TSN and NHL Network, respectively. We jump from the frying pan right into the fire at 1 p.m. the same day as two of the tournament’s favorites, the United States and Canada, face off in a contest also televised by both networks.

On paper, Canada brings its youngest team ever into the 2020 WJC, but there are five players returning from last year’s disappointing sixth-place team who want nothing more than to make up for their showing a year ago on home soil in Vancouver. In addition, seven of the team’s top-nine forwards and five of its six defensemen are in their final year of junior eligibility.

Keep an eye on high-scoring Alexis Lafreniere, a WJC vet who averages more than two points a game in the QMJHL and is looking to become the first player to win back-to-back CHL Player of the Year awards since Sidney Crosby. The second-ranked Canadian prospect is Quinton Byfield, a good-sized, strong-skating center who has 57 points in 30 games to rank third in the OHL this season. Those two are expected to go one-two in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Buffalo Sabres’ first-round draft pick Dylan Cozens also brings size and depth to the center position for the Canadians, and the blue line will be anchored by Bowen Byram, picked fourth overall by Colorado in the 2019 NHL draft.

High-flying Cole Caufield is one of many U.S. players to watch, entering the tournament leading all NCAA Division I freshmen in scoring with 12 goals and 20 points for Wisconsin. He is a former Under-18 World Championship MVP and was named the tournament’s best forward in 2019 after tying Ovechkin’s record of 14 goals in one tournament.

Five members of last year’s Team USA silver medal-winning team return, including goaltender Spencer Knight of Boston College, defenseman K’Andre Miller of Wisconsin, Samuelsson, forward Jack Drury (Harvard) and forward Oliver Wahlstrom (Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL/New York Islanders).

Despite its showing last year, Canada and the United States will enter the tournament as favorites given their history, depth and talent. The Russians may have the most experienced team and possibly the tournament’s top goaltender in Yaroslav Askarov, who has a 2.38 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in the Russian pro league one notch below the KHL.

Those three teams, each of which is capable of winning gold, are grouped together in Pool B, which creates an interesting dynamic. The other two teams in Pool B are Germany, which returns to the championship after being relegated for 2019, and the Czech Republic.

Canada and Russia have met for the WJC gold medal a record eight times. Advancing to the quarterfinals shouldn’t be an issue for either of them or Team USA, but if those teams beat up on each other too much it might mean a tougher quarterfinal matchup and more difficult road to a medal. And it’s never easy taking on the hosts, which each team in Pool B will have to do when facing the Czechs.

Pool A consists of defending-champion Finland and its biggest-rival Sweden along with Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Slovakia. The Swedes and Fins should easily be the class of this group, but Switzerland usually brings enough speed, skill and goaltending to make things interesting. Finland has won two of the last four Under-18 world titles and three of the last six World Junior Championships.

A look at the 2020 WJC seedings based on how the teams finished last year:

World Junior Pre-Tournament Seedings

2019 record listed next to country name:

  1. Finland – 4W, 1OTW, 2L
  2. United States – 5 W, 1OTL, 1L
  3. Russia – 6W, 1L
  4. Switzerland – 2W, 1OTL, 4L
  5. Sweden – 3W, 1OTW, 1L
  6. Canada – 3W, 1OTW, 1L
  7. Czech Republic – 1W, 1OTW, 3L
  8. Slovakia – 1W, 1OTW, 3L
  9. Kazakhstan – 2W, 4L
  10. Germany (qualified after being relegated 2019)

 

2020 World Junior Championship Viewing Guide

Below is a list of what figure to be the most interesting matchups of the 2020 World Junior Championship each day along with broadcast information. The tournament’s full schedule can be found by CLICKING HERE.

www.mkoutletsonline.com

Thursday, December 26

9:00 a.m. EST – Russia vs. Czech Republic

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

1:00 p.m. EST – United States vs. Canada

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN4 & TSN 5

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Finland vs. Sweden

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: TSN 3 Live

 

 

Friday, December 27

2:00 a.m. EST – Finland vs. Sweden

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Tape Delayed

 

1:00 p.m. EST – United States vs. Germany

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live

 

 

Saturday, December 28

9:00 a.m. EST – Finland vs. Slovakia

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN 3 & TSN 4

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Canada vs. Russia

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Switzerland vs. Sweden

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: TSN 3 Live

 

3:30 p.m. EST – Switzerland vs. Sweden

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Tape Delayed

 

 

Sunday, December 29

1:00 p.m. EST – Russia vs. United States

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

 

Monday, December 30

9:00 a.m. EST – Canada vs. Germany

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

1:00 p.m. EST –Czech Republic vs. United States

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

 

Tuesday, December 31

9:00 a.m. EST – Slovokia vs. Sweden

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Finland vs Switzerland

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: TSN 3 Live

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Canada vs. Czech Republic

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

 

Wednesday, January 1

2:00 a.m. EST – Finland vs Switzerland

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Tape Delayed

 

 

Thursday, January 2

6:30 a.m. EST – Quarterfinal 1

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

9:00 a.m. EST – Quarterfinal 2

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

11:30 a.m. EST – Quarterfinal 3

Werk Arena – Trinec, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

2:00 p.m. EST – Quarterfinal 4

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

 

Saturday, Jan. 4

9:00 a.m. EST – Semifinal 1

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Semifinal 2

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN 1, TSN 4 & TSN 5

 

 

Sunday, Jan. 5

9:00 a.m. EST – Bronze Medal Game

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

 

1:00 p.m. EST – Gold Medal Game

Ostravar Arena – Ostrava, CZE

TV: NHL Network Live, TSN

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