What to know for the world junior hockey championship

That is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports activities’ every day e mail publication. Keep up to the mark on what’s occurring in sports activities by subscribing right here.

Final yr’s world junior hockey championship was pretty much as good because it will get. A record-breaking Canadian celebrity placed on a present for the ages, the Halifax area that hosted the massive video games was packed to the gills with boisterous, joyful followers, and the gold-medal match led to an exhilarating extra time victory by the house staff.

Will probably be a tricky act to observe. This yr’s world juniors are occurring abroad, far-off from their core fanbase, the Canadian staff doesn’t look as sturdy and, after all, there is no Connor Bedard.

However there are nonetheless some attention-grabbing angles to observe when the match opens on Boxing Day in Gothenburg, Sweden, together with one other 17-year-old Canadian star who’s anticipated to go No. 1 within the NHL draft. This is what to know:

Canada goes for a uncommon threepeat.

Lately, even a repeat is uncommon. Earlier than Bedard helped Canada seize back-to-back titles, no nation had gained consecutive world juniors since Canada took 5 straight from 2005-09. To offer you an thought of how way back that was, the ’05 match featured Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, and Canada’s high two scorers had been Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Getzlaf, who at the moment are retired.

Like final yr, Canada’s highway to gold will probably be smoother than regular with Russia nonetheless banned from worldwide hockey as a result of invasion of Ukraine. However, with the Canadian roster nearly utterly turned over from the one we noticed in Halifax, the title seems very a lot up for grabs. The betting markets see it as basically a three-way tossup between Canada, the US and host Sweden, whereas additionally giving Finland a good shot.

It is a new-look Canadian staff.

Probably the most conspicuous absence is Bedard, who lit up the previous two world juniors. As a uncommon 16-year-old choice for the Canadian staff two years in the past in Edmonton, Bedard grew to become the youngest participant in match historical past to attain 4 targets in a recreation. Final yr in Halifax, he potted 9 targets in seven video games and racked up a Canadian-record 23 factors. Bedard has since taken his skills to Chicago, the place he is operating away with the NHL’s rookie-of-the-year race with 28 factors (together with 12 targets) in 31 video games.

Bedard was removed from Canada’s solely loss, although. The one participant getting back from final yr’s gold-medal staff is ahead Owen Beck, a 2022 second-round choose of the Montreal Canadiens’ who dressed for less than three video games in Halifax and recorded one help.

NHL followers could know a number of extra Canadian gamers, together with 19-year-old Boston Bruins rookie ahead Matthew Poitras, who joined Workforce Canada on Monday as a last-minute mortgage. The 2022 second-round draft choose, who didn’t play for Canada final yr, has 5 targets and eight assists in 27 video games for the Bruins.

The overwhelming majority of Canada’s gamers have already been drafted, however solely three have performed in a significant NHL recreation. Defenceman Tristan Luneau was loaned by Anaheim after enjoying seven video games for the Geese this season; ahead Fraser Minten appeared in 4 video games for Toronto earlier than being despatched again to the Western Hockey League; and ahead Matthew Savoie was shipped again to the WHL after one recreation with Buffalo.

Oliver Bonk’s final title would possibly ring a bell. His Czech dad, Radek Bonk, performed 14 seasons within the NHL — principally with Ottawa, the place Oliver was born.

Macklin Celebrini is that this yr’s Connor Bedard.

That is an unfair comparability for Celebrini as a result of, by all accounts, he is not fairly the generational expertise that Bedard proved to be. However they do share some similarities, beginning with the truth that they’re each forwards from the Vancouver space.

Like Bedard, Celebrini is the uncommon 17-year-old on a Canadian junior staff made up principally of fellows who’re 19. And he is anticipated to observe Bedard as the subsequent No. 1 choose within the NHL draft.

Echoes of Bedard will also be seen in Celebrini’s precocious scoring skill. Because the youngest participant in NCAA males’s hockey this season, the Boston College freshman has 10 targets and 25 factors in simply 15 video games for the Terriers, who’re ranked No. 2 within the nation.

Teammates and coaches at Canada’s coaching camp in Oakville, Ont., raved about Celebrini’s mature recreation. His skating, playmaking, puck expertise and competitiveness at each ends of the rink are thought of distinctive and, like Bedard, he is received an excellent shot. Learn extra about Celebrini right here.

Canada’s schedule:

The defending champs open in opposition to Finland on Boxing Day at 8:30 a.m. ET earlier than dealing with Latvia (Dec. 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET), Sweden (Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m. ET) and Germany (Dec. 31 at 1:30 p.m. ET) to shut out the group stage. The opposite group has the U.S., the Czech Republic (who Canada beat within the closing final yr), Slovakia, Switzerland and Norway. 

The highest 4 in every group advance to the quarterfinals on Jan. 2. In that spherical, every group’s No. 1 staff faces the alternative group’s No. 4 staff whereas No. 2 crosses over to play No. 3. The winners are then re-seeded for the semifinals on Jan. 4. The medal video games are on Friday, Jan. 5.

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