The finish of the holiday season, year 2019 and junior international hockey calendar is set to begin on Boxing Day in Czechia, with the top ten hockey nations on Earth meeting to compete at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Group A will meet in Třinec, featuring defending champs Finland facing off against Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan. It will likely be the rivals Sweden and Finland topping the group, but who finishes first should be decided in their Boxing Day matchup, as Sweden brings in their 48-game preliminary round win streak in against Finland’s championship-caliber play. While the Swiss and Slovaks can certainly play spoilers, and tournament favourites Kazakhstan will look to play Cinderella in Czechia, look for Tre Kronor and the Leijonat to run the table in Třinec.
Group B, which will play out of Ostrava, features hosts Czechia welcoming the United States, Canada, Russia and Germany. The hosts will look to emerge towards the top of the group, but the three-headed monster of the Americans, Canadians and Russians will be tough to top, with Team USA looking to redeem their Gold Medal Game loss from 2019, Russia looking to avenge their Semifinal exit, and Canada looking to return to the Medal Round after their stunning exit in Vancouver. While the Czechs should be a lock over Germany to qualify for the elimination games, they will be in tough company to secure a top two finish.
Click here to see the full 2019 World Junior Championship schedule
From the perspective of the IHLC, a few interesting facts related to this year’s World Junior Championship:
– the United States enters as incumbent champions for the first time since 2018, and for the sixth time in history
– this is the sixth World Junior Championship to be hosted by Czechia, previously hosting in 1977, 1987, 1994, 2002 and 2008; Ostrava and Třinec are hosting for the first time each; Russia and Canada have each won twice, and Finland once
– the host nation has not won World Juniors Gold since 2001, while Finland is looking to repeat for the first time in team history
– the tournament marks the return of Germany to the Top Division for the first time since 2015
– returning tournament All-Stars to this year’s Worlds are top defender Alexander Romanov and forward Grigori Denisenko, both of Russia
After today’s exhibition victory over Germany, the United States will enter the tournament with the International Hockey Lineal Championship, ensuring that the title will run through Group B in Ostrava – who leaves Ostrava with the title, and ostensibly World Junior Championship Gold, remains to be seen!