Here's why various sports media outlets have been hyping Team Canada for the upcoming IIHF World U20 Championship as benefitting from the influx of National Hockey League players to the junior ranks: Simply speaking, Canada has lost out on so many good players to the NHL over the last few years.
We're not talking slouches, either. In 2009, for instance, Team Canada sent a defensive group that featured future NHL stars such as P.K. Subban, Alex Pietrangelo and Tyler Myers. Absent from that group was Drew Doughty, who played 81 games for the Los Angeles Kings and just under 24 minutes a contest.
That year, Canada had several other junior-eligible players who spent the year with their respective national league clubs, not in junior helping Canada to their fifth consecutive gold. 1989 born players who played the majority of the NHL season included Josh Bailey, Kyle Turris, Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn. The rest of the world? Czech Jakub Voracek and the Danish-born Mikkel Boedkker.
Over the last seven seasons, I looked at junior-eligible players in the NHL (using NHL.com's "bio" application), using a cut-off date of 60 games. As you can see by the chart, the overwhelming majority of players under the age of 20 in the NHL are Canadian:
another one of cam's chartsThat's 39 for Canada, and 25 for the rest of the world, broken down thus: 11 for the United States, 7 for Sweden, two each for Russia and the Czech Republic and a single player apiece for traditional hockey powerhouses Slovenia, Denmark and Switzerland.
Of course, Canada hasn't needed too much help. They won four gold medals coming off the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Over the last three seasons, however, Canada has missed out on 21 players, including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares in 2010, Matt Duchene and Taylor Hall in 2011, and Tyler Seguin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jeff Skinner last season.
Those are players of consequence,and they're disproportionately Canadian. An NHL shutdown in any of these years would affect Team Canada in a positive way more than any other team. Scroll down the Canadian roster and you could pick out seven Canadian players who would probably play in the NHL this season, and maybe three Americans and a Russian or so. That's not to say that Canada are developing the best junior hockey players, it's just that this is the team affected the most by the shutdown.