There are 10 teams competing at this year’s world junior tournament.
On paper, only five have a realistic chance of taking home the gold, those countries being Canada, the USA, Sweden, defending champion Finland and Russia. This is not to say that upsets don’t happen, but these five are solid favorites.
That leaves the teams who, while boasting some serious talent, rarely crack the top three. Those countries are Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Latvia and Denmark. The only team from this quintet to win a medal in the last 10 years was Slovakia, in 2015. The last time any of these squads won gold was the Czech Republic, back-to-back in 2000-2001.
Therefore, it’s not difficult to surmise that these clubs are usually warm-up fodder for the medal round.
But, it would be foolhardy for any of the “Big Five” to take them lightly, as these teams have game-breakers in their ranks. Here are 15 potential players (camps just opened) who might be worth keeping track of.
The Boston Bruins may have caught lightning in a bottle with their first round (13th overall) pick in the 2015 draft. They selected Czech defender Jakub Zboril, said to be one of the most complete defencemen available that year. He was also the first of three picks in a row that Boston had in that first round (along with Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn). The Saint John Sea Dogs veteran defenceman does all the little things right, while not shying away from the corners or backing up his teammates in a scrum. He has 71 points in 112 games, as well as an overall plus-minus rating of +24. It is expected he’ll need more seasoning before he is ready for a Bruins’ roster with many young d-men ahead of him, but suffice to say he’ll fit in nicely when the time comes.