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)

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

Just Posted

Disturbing sexual, criminal trends with Greater Victoria youth on the rise

Family counsellors see unprecedented rise in youth sexual assaults and exploitation of children

Sooke Mounties continue probe into high school hold and secure

No charges yet from last week’s incident

Petition calls on province to cover transfer fees after Island adoption centre closes – again

‘Choices clients weren’t told the ship was sinking,’ says would-be parent

SD63 teachers take the strike to Lana Popham’s doorstep

Teachers rally outside the local MLA’s office to show support for support staff

Victoria police find fentanyl, cocaine, meth and cash during downtown arrest

VicPD arrested three people on Oct. 30 in a downtown parking lot

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

12 Sooke events to get you into the holiday spirit

From a Santa parade to classicial music, Sooke has it all

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Most Read