Though Team Canada won last year’s World Junior Hockey tournament in Buffalo, they’re sure to have 2017’s result on their mind. That was when the annual tourney was in Toronto and Montreal, and the hosts lost to the USA in a Gold Medal game shootout. While they returned the favour to the Americans 12 months later, they’ll want nothing more than to repeat as Gold Medal Champions in Vancouver and Victoria this year.
The Canucks have 4 drafted players in this year’s event. Michael DiPietro (G Team Canada), Quinn Hughes (D Team USA), Tyler Madden (C Team USA) and Toni Utunen (D Team Finland). DiPietro is going to be one of the most watched players of the tournament, not just from a Canucks standpoint, but nation-wide as he battles with Leafs draft pick Ian Scott for the #1 starters role. Neither goaltender was particularly strong in the pre-tournament games, and although Canada is favoured to win the tournament, goaltending is likely the biggest area of concern.
Another thing to watch is a rule change from the IIHF for this tournament. It’s a fundamental re-interpretation of the late hit rule. They put out a video that explains it all a few days ago.
This is a rule change that could have a massive impact on the tournament, and most notably against the Canadian and American teams. One of the first things you learn is finishing your check. Under this new rule, even if the player gets rid of the puck with less than a second before impact, the hitter can be assessed a penalty, and even get a match penalty (which would mean a potential suspension).
In their first test, they’ll take on Denmark. With all due respect, this should be a win for Canada, and a chance to work out some of the kinks before the tougher opponents on their schedule. They’ll play Switzerland tomorrow, then the Czech Republic Saturday, and then wrap up the preliminary round against Russia on New Years Eve.
Hughes, who will play alongside his brother Jack (you know, he of all the attention of any team out of a playoff spot right now in the NHL) and Madden for Team USA kick off their tournament in Victoria this afternoon against the Slovakians. Then it’s Kazakhstan Friday, a tough game against Sweden Saturday and Finland on Monday.
Meanwhile over in Davos, Switzerland another holiday tradition kicks off today with the annual Spengler Cup tournament. This year’s Team Canada squad has a decidedly Canucks flavour to it, as the roster includes former Canucks Andrew Ebbett, Adam Cracknell, Patrick Wiercioch, Zac Dalpe and two huge parts of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finalists: Kevin Bieksa and Maxim Lapierre. Ebbett, who along with Lapierre helped lead Canada to a Bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea earlier this year will be part of the leadership group (along with Bieksa). There’s some other familiar names from the NHL on this year’s squad, including Daniel Winnik, Torrey Mitchell, Dominic Moore, and Kyle Quincey. G Zach Fucale, who has WJC experience for Team Canada will be the starter, backed up by Jared Coreau.
They start today with a match against the hosts HC Davos and if they lose, play the Nurnberg Ice Tigers tomorrow while a win will have them play the Ice Tigers on Friday.
Here’s the Team Canada lineup for today’s game: