From streaks to seats: What to watch for at the world junior hockey championship

Some of the world’s best young hockey talents will go head-to-head in Victoria and Vancouver next week.

The 2019 world junior hockey championship kicks off on Tuesday, featuring dozens of athletes likely to carve out careers in the NHL.

Here are five storylines you’ll want to watch at this year’s tournament:

THE BROTHERS HUGHES

Hockey fans will get a peek at the teen who’s expected to go No. 1 at next year’s NHL draft — and he’ll be playing with his older brother.

Both Quinn and Jack Hughes will be key pieces for the U.S. team.

Seventeen-year-old Jack has already earned a reputation as a speedy, highly-skilled and high-scoring centre. Currently playing with the U.S. development team, he’s an early favourite to be the first overall draft pick in June.

Nineteen-year-old Quinn was taken seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks last year.

He’ll be one of three returning defencemen for the U.S. junior team, and has spent this season as a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Quinn already has three goals and 17 assists for the Wolverines this year, closing in on the 29 points he tallied in his rookie campaign.

The Hughes brothers shared the ice at the world junior showcase in Kamloops, B.C., last summer, connecting on some highlight-reel worthy goals.

U.S. junior team coach Mike Hastings said at the time that the pair have obvious chemistry, talent and passion for the game.

READ MORE: 6 more cuts made to Canada’s prospective world junior team, more await

SWEDEN’S STREAK

It’s been a long time since last year’s silver medallists lost a match up in the group stage — 11 tournaments (or 44 games) to be precise.

Though Sweden has dominated in round-robin play, they have captured just one gold medal in the same stretch, taking the championship title in 2012.

Keeping the streak alive may be difficult this year. The Swedes are in a group with the United States, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

They’ll also be without 18-year-old defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, who is busy tearing up the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.

Timothy Liljegren of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies won’t be in the lineup after he suffered a high-ankle sprain earlier this month.

But the Swedes will still get some solid defensive play from Liljegren’s Marlies teammate Rasmus Sandin, and Adam Boqvist, who’s with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.

CANUCKS IN THE CREASE

Mike DiPietro used the disappointment of being cut from last year’s junior squad as fuel as he evolved into one of the best netminders in the Canadian Hockey League.

After selection camp, he set an alarm on his phone that would periodically blast a stark message on to the screen: “Got cut from world juniors.” The message motivated the Vancouver Canucks prospect to push a little harder when he returned to the Windsor Spitfires.

It worked. DiPietro’s performance in net earned him goaltender of the year honours from the Ontario Hockey League last season.

His success has continued this year, first with the Spitfires and now the Ottawa 67s. He’s posted a 12-8-0 record with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

Now the 19-year-old Amherstburg, Ont., native will be one of Canada’s two goalies in this year’s tournament.

The other is Calgary’s Ian Scott, who has been a brick wall for the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. He boasts a 23-2-0 record this season with a 1.61 goals-against average and a stunning .943 save percentage.

Earlier this month, the 19-year-old signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

KAZAKHSTAN’S BACK

Yes, Kazakhstan has a junior hockey team.

While the athletes making up the squad aren’t necessarily household names, many play in the Kontinental Hockey League’s feeder league, known as the MHL.

Hockey fans may be surprised to see the Central Asian country listed among the tournament contenders, but this isn’t the first year the Kazakhstanis have participated. They were last in the tournament in 2009.

And they have played giant-killer before, upsetting Canada 6-3 in the 1998 world junior championship in Finland.

While Canada is a perennial world juniors powerhouse, some other countries come and go, depending on their performance the year before.

After round-robin play, the two last-placed teams play a best-of-three relegation series where the winner retains their spot in the tournament. The loser is sent down to play in Division I Group A.

Germany won the lower tournament earlier this month, earning a spot in 2020’s main event.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quesnel was hit with unseasonably October snowfall earlier this week. More is on the way on Sunday, Oct. 25 and Monday, Oct. 26, and Quesnel and North Cariboo are under a winter storm warning. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
UPDATE: Winter storm warning ends for Quesnel

10-20 cm of snow and freezing rain was expected to start Sunday night

The City of Quesnel is applying for grant funding to replace the Dragon Hill Reservoir, which staff says will improve overall water quality. (Photo courtesy of City of Quesnel)
City of Quesnel seeking grant to replace water reservoir

A new Dragon Hill Reservoir will improve overall water quality, according to City staff

Kelly and Mila Bradley attended a drive-by volunteer event for Coralee Oakes. The incumbent B.C. Liberal is the preliminary leader for the Cariboo North. (Photo Submitted)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Coralee Oakes on track to reclaim Cariboo North seat

Mail-in ballots have not been counted, but the incumbent B.C. Liberal has 49.4 per cent of the vote

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Most Read