Welcome back hockey: a look at the World Juniors

(Graphic by Adele Palmquist).

(Graphic by Adele Palmquist).

Oh, those Russians.

After countless months being disappointed by the abandoned NHL season, Canada can finally turn on their television sets and enter the hockey world once more.

This boxing day, Canada kicks off the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior’s tournament against Germany.

And in light of the NHL lockout, Canada’s roster is packed with would-be professionals who are eligible to play in the tournament.

Boasting a roster with roughly six players who were drafted to the big show last year, Canada has earned a number one ranking in the tournament.

However despite the favourable odds, the alleged dream-team will be facing some challenges.

First on that list: those Russians.

Canada unexpectedly lost to the Russians one year ago in a heart-breaking 6-5 semi-final match. In what could have been the greatest comeback of World Junior history, the red and white had a remarkable four-goal burst late the third, but still came up short.

The loss marked the first time Canada hasn’t qualified for the gold medal championship in 11 years.

With that disheartening fact still ringing in their ears, Canada’s 2013 roster is hoping to right last year’s wrong — starting with promising young centers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Strome, and Boone Jenner.

In fact, Canada is so “deep up the middle,” that Mark Scheifele of Kitchener, ON and the Barrie Colts is being bumped to right wing on Canada’s starting line.

Canada’s goaltending will also have a hint of the NHL as either Malcolm Subban or Jordan Binnington will be starting in net. Subban and Binnington were both drafted by Boston and St. Louis, respectively.

Canada’s defence will be lacking some serious shine as Ryan Murray is out for the tournament due to a season-ending shoulder injury. Murray would have been a key defencemen on the squad and has left Canada’s blue line in the hands of Dougie Hamilton and Scott Harrington.

However, Canada’s biggest challenge when travelling to UFA is arguably the time zone change.

Eleven hours ahead of most Canadians, many of the World Juniors will be playing their games at ungodly times like 4:00 am EST.

Additionally, the Russian squad has invested in talents that will certainly challenge the red and white.

With goaltenders such as Andrei Makarov and Andrew Vasilevski returning in the 2013 tournament, Canada’s powerhouse forwards are going to have to reface a familiar foe.

The upcoming tournament will prove to be an interesting showcase of the world’s up-and-coming hockey talent. With Canada’s roster showing roughly six would-be NHL players, our nation’s outcome in this tournament will give an idea of where Canadian players stand on the world scale.

The World Juniors will be a spectacle of hockey that Canada has been craving since the summer. Not only will our nation’s most prospective players be fighting to put Canada back up on that podium, but they will also be fighting for Canada’s reputation.

Hockey, after all, is Canada’s game.

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