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5 things to know about the 2015 World Juniors

5 things to know about the 2015 World Juniors

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 26, 2014

With one day left until the puck drops, here are five things to know about the IIHF World Junior Championship, taking place in Canada this year:

The hosts: This year’s tournament will be co-hosted by Toronto and Montreal. Montreal will host one Team Canada pre-tournament game, 10 preliminary round games, and two quarter-finals at the Bell Centre.

Toronto’s Air Canada Centre will see more ice action: It’s the venue for one Team Canada pre-tournament game, 10 preliminary round games, two quarter-finals, both semifinals, relegation round games, as well as the bronze and gold medal games.

This will be Canada’s 11th time hosting the IIHF world juniors. The two cities are also set to host the world juniors in 2017.

Russian-Canadian rivalry

The IIHF World Junior Championship began in 1977 and has since grown in popularity and prestige to become of the most important events of the world hockey calendar.

Historically, Russia and Canada have dominated the tournament. Together they have won 28 of the 38 gold medals awarded at the championship. The two countries have also hosted a majority of the events.

Canada’s 5-year drought

This year, the pressure is on for host country Canada to end a five-year gold medal drought. Canada’s last gold medal came in 2009, after from a 5-1 win over Sweden in front of a packed arena in Ottawa. That year’s team featured now prominent NHL players such as New York Islanders captain John Tavares and Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban.

Canadian talent

Part of the pressure on Canada to deliver this year comes from a pool of talent it hasn’t seen since the days of Sidney Crosby, Dion Phaneuf and the 2005 super-team.

The Ottawa Senators have released 19-year-old Curtis Lazar, one of the team’s top prospects, to play for Canada at the world juniors. Lazar was named captain of the world juniors team Tuesday and is expected to play a prominent role in the tournament.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Zach Fucale secured his spot as a starter for Team Canada after his 14-save shutout in the team’s 6-0 win against Switzerland on Tuesday.

On defense, six-foot-seven Samuel Morin is expected to bring a combination of size, speed and strength that no one else on the team can provide. Morin, 19, was a first-round pick for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013. If his performance during this tournament reflects his draft pedigree, coach Benoit Groulx says Team Canada’s defense will have an advantage over other teams.

The top contenders

Canada: The roster features 11 first-round NHL draft picks and five more second-round picks, making the team a front runner for the championship despite its struggles for the past five years.

United States: The team is top contender for gold this year, despite a fifth place finish in 2014. From top to bottom, the team’s roster features an impressive balance of speed, size, and skill.

Russia: Although they haven’t won gold since 2011, Russia has left the world juniors with a medal for four years straight.

Sweden: Despite not having as many high-profile prospects as it has had in recent years, the Swedish team’s skill and discipline will likely be forces to be reckoned with on the ice.

Finland: Last year’s unlikely champion are undoubtedly looking for a repeat of last year’s success.

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