The annual holiday tradition of watching tomorrow’s hockey stars (and a bunch of guys from Germany) duke it out for global supremacy gets underway once again this Boxing Day. This year’s tournament takes place in Finland, which might mean getting out of bed early some days: disappointing news for those of us with holidays during that week. But at least schedule-makers gave us a treat with an opening game that reignites the best rivalry in hockey right now when Team USA and Canada clash at the reasonable time of 1:00 PM Eastern on Dec. 26.
The Canadians ended a five-year gold medal drought (a lengthy one for them) last year by edging out Russia at home in a 5-4 final. Returning a handful of players from last year’s triumphant squad – including Brayden Point, Lawson Crouse, and Jake Virtanen – Canada enters this tournament as the favorite once again.
But while the Canucks might have the best odds, the best players to watch ahead of this year’s NHL Draft reside on Team USA. Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk (son of former NHLer Keith) are both projected to go in the top-three this year – with Matthews the consensus top-prospect at this point. They’ll lead a US team trying to reclaim some former glory: the Americans have failed to medal in three of the last four tournaments.
As usual, the United States, Russia, and the Nordic combo of Sweden and Finland make up the top contenders for medals. But the “lower-tier” teams have experienced some success in recent years: Slovakia won their first bronze medal in the new millennium last year, while Denmark had their best finish ever, coming in eighth. While they aren’t real threats to the crown, they aren’t the pushovers that they have been in the past. Well, except Belarus …
Here are the odds for each team to win this year’s World Junior Championship.
Odds to win 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship
(Photo Credit: mattgaries (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/].)
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