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

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

Team USA’s Jack Quinn, left, along with his brother Quinn Hughes, 24, take part in the during pre-game skate at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C. on Tuesday July 31, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett)

Team USA’s Jack Quinn, left, along with his brother Quinn Hughes, 24, take part in the during pre-game skate at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C. on Tuesday July 31, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett)

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

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Veteran Henry Kriwokon has his photo taken by the Western as he celebrates his 99th birthday with friends at the Cellar in Downtown Penticton. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)
Turning 101, Penticton veteran looks back on life

Henry Kriwokon was one of the soldiers in the famous ‘Wait for me, Daddy’ photo

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

Lake Country firefighters helped deliver a healthy newborn baby Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Pixabay)
Lake Country firefighters help deliver baby boy

Firefighters from the Winfield hall assisted with the birth of a healthy newborn Thursday morning

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Skaha Middle School
Arrest made in indecent acts near South Okanagan schools

A 32-year-old man was arrested and released on strict conditions, say police

Most Read