Sunaya Sapurji

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Sunaya Sapurji is the junior hockey columnist for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Sunaya previously worked at the Toronto Star for 10 years as a copy editor and writer covering the Ontario Hockey League.

  • World Junior 2015 Preview: Denmark makes case to avoid relegation

    Denmark's Nikolaj Ehlers hopes to keep his home country in the top pool this year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)Denmark's Nikolaj Ehlers hopes to keep his home country in the top pool this year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

    GROUP B: DENMARK
    2014 finish: Promoted to top division
    2014 round-robin record Division I (Group A): 5-0-0-0, 20 GF/10 GA

    Yahoo! Canada Sports has asked North American-based players, some of whom are playing in the world junior championship, to break down their national teams.

    If ever there was a time for Denmark to make a splash at the world junior championship - this is it. This is the third time the Danes have made an appearance in the top-tier - the last time being the 2011 tournament in Edmonton and Calgary. This time, however, Denmark is looking to stay, and they have their best chance in years to do it.

    The Danes have six players who are currently playing their hockey in the CHL, including Portland Winterhawks star Oliver Bjorkstrand, Memorial Cup champion Mads Eller and Halifax Mooseheads forward Nikolaj Ehlers - arguably one of the best players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

    Denmark won the lower Group I A final last year in Sanok, Poland with a perfect record in

    Read More »from World Junior 2015 Preview: Denmark makes case to avoid relegation
  • World Junior 2015 Preview: Finland's prepped for title defence with Saros

    Finland's Rasmus Ristolainen (L) is gone, but goalie Juuse Saros returns for the defending champs.  REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk Finland's Rasmus Ristolainen (L) is gone, but goalie Juuse Saros returns for the defending champs. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk
    GROUP A: FINLAND
    2014 finish: Gold medal
    2014 round-robin record: 2-0-1-1, 14 GF/10 GA

    Yahoo! Canada Sports has asked North American-based players, some of whom are playing in the world junior championship, to break down their national teams.

    The Young Lions are going to have a tough time repeating their golden performance from the 2014 world juniors in Malmo, Sweden.

    There are seven returning players to the squad, but gone are defensive stalwart Rasmus Ristolainen (who scored the game winner a year ago), and top scorers Teuvo Teravainen (15 pts.) and Saku Maenalanen. Also new this year is head coach Hannu Jortikka, who takes over from Karri Kivi.

    Jortikka has coached Finland at the world juniors several times and was behind the bench for their first gold medal win in 1987 - the year of the punch-up in Piestany. As a result, he's is one of the more well-known coaches in Finland, where he stars in commercials.

    Goaltenders Juuse Saros and Ville Husso return after backstopping the Finns

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  • Team Canada maks final cuts in preparation for 2015 world juniors

    Michael Dal Colle was cut by Team Canada on Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Ghyslain BergeronMichael Dal Colle was cut by Team Canada on Friday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Ghyslain Bergeron

    Team Canada’s final cuts came late Friday night as four players – three forwards and one defenceman – were shuttled out of the team hotel and back home.

    Cut from the world junior team were forwards Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals, Rourke Chartier of the Kelowna Rockets and Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm. Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels was the single cut on the blueline to bring Canada down to 22 players for the start of the tournament on Dec. 26 against Slovakia.

    On Wednesday the Ottawa Senators released rookie forward Curtis Lazar, 19, to play for Canada meaning one less spot for the 25 players who had been in camp prior to his arrival.

    "We've been talking about this for the last couple of days," said Canada's head coach Benoit Groulx. "We came to the conclusion that it was time to get our team together with the addition of Curtis yesterday. We feel that we're all set to announce our team so that's why we decided to make our decision tonight."

    The cuts were made

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  • Senators loan Curtis Lazar to Team Canada for world juniors

    Curtis Lazar of the Ottawa Senators holds the puck from his first NHL goal scored against the Buffalo Sabres on December 15, 2014 (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)Curtis Lazar of the Ottawa Senators holds the puck from his first NHL goal scored against the Buffalo Sabres on December 15, 2014 (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

    It was the best gift Team Canada could have hoped for heading into the world junior championship. On Thursday the Ottawa Senators announced they would be releasing 19-year-old forward Curtis Lazar to play in the 10-day tournament.

    “We're excited about our group (of players) to begin with and when you can add another piece it just solidifies a few things for us," said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada. "A guy with his pedigree having won (a Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings) and a guy we see as a leader with his experience of being in the tournament last year - when you put all those things together you can't help but be excited." 

    As one of Canada’s most versatile and dependable forwards during the tournament last year in Malmo, Sweden, the loan is most welcome as Team Canada looks to win its first medal since 2012 and first gold since 2009.

    According to Salmond, Lazar will join the team tomorrow in Toronto, but will not play in Friday

    Read More »from Senators loan Curtis Lazar to Team Canada for world juniors
  • Team Canada remains 'optimistic' about getting Lazar on loan

    Ottawa Senators right wing Curtis Lazar (27) celebrates his third period goal with teammates against the Buffalo Sabres. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)Ottawa Senators right wing Curtis Lazar (27) celebrates his third period goal with teammates against the Buffalo Sabres. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Until Hockey Canada hears the word no from the Ottawa Senators they’ll continue to hold out hope for Curtis Lazar.

    The Ottawa Senators rookie, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday night, is the last remaining pro player Team Canada has a shot at getting for the 2015 world junior championship. Lazar played on the team last year and was one of the team’s most dependable, versatile forwards.

    “The fact that they haven’t said no right now is at least encouraging,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada. “We remain optimistic. We think that Curtis could be a huge part of this team and obviously being here last year and being a proven winner with his club team. At the end of the day (the Senators) are no different than us – they’re in the business of winning hockey games.”

    Lazar, who won the Memorial Cup in May with his Edmonton Oil Kings, was one of the top scorers with his junior team finishing last season with 41 goals and 76

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  • Connor McDavid gets green light for contact in practice with Team Canada

     

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The yellow jersey is gone. Instead, on Monday afternoon, Connor McDavid wore a white practice sweater like his other teammates.

    The 17-year-old junior star has been cleared for contact which meant he was able to fully participate in drills at Team Canada’s selection camp.

    The change came some five weeks after he broke a small bone in his right hand during a fight in an OHL game on Nov. 11. Even though McDavid received the go-ahead for contact, his teammates looked like they were holding back slightly when it came to jostling with the star centre.

    “I think when they see him they want to make sure they don’t hit him on his glove,” said Team Canada coach Benoit Groulx after practice at the Meridian Centre. “They’ve got to be careful, but overall I thought the guys went pretty hard.”

    It’s no surprise Canada’s players sided with a little caution when it came to McDavid – he’s the projected top pick for the 2015 NHL draft and is considered by many to be a

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  • Showtime: Jake Virtanen brings his A game to Team Canada's selection camp

    Jake Virtanen has earned a new nickname in camp: Showtime.

    His teammates were razzing the first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks after Virtanen recorded six points in two exhibition games at Team Canada’s selection camp this weekend.

    “The guys were just giving it to each other in the room, ‘Oh, you’re showtime’ and stuff like that,” said Virtanen with a smile. “(Teammate Morgan) Klimchuk was giving it to me after the game today.”

    He’s making up for lost time after shoulder surgery sidelined him at Canada’s summer camp and caused him to miss the start of the Western Hockey League season with the Calgary Hitmen.

    “That definitely hurt me a little bit,” said Virtanen. “Not participating in (summer camp) was tough and a little frustrating, but coming into this I knew I really had to show my stuff and especially in the Subway Series. That was huge for me because I had to show the coaching staff and the whole staff that I definitely wanted to be on this team and that I would do anything to

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  • Canada, Fucale off to 'good start' in first game of selection camp

    Zach Fucale (Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)Zach Fucale (Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press)

    If Team Canada’s head coach Benoit Groulx was looking for a tight game to help weed out potential world junior cuts, he didn’t find it on Saturday night. Team Canada easily handled a team of local university players by way of a 10-3 blowout.

    The scoring was spread out though Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri scored twice. In total, Canada had 16 different players find their name on the final scoresheet. At the world juniors last year in Malmo, Sweden, getting consistent scoring was a problem for Canada – particularly from the top two lines – so players finding the back of the net bodes well.

    “We want to be a four line team obviously,” said Groulx. “It’s nice to see that everybody is contributing offensively tonight and it’s the kind of team we went to be. We want to go out there and establish our pace and the way we play. I was very happy with many, many guys tonight.”

    Hockey Canada’s management staff has said there is no hard timetable to trim the roster because they want to let the

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  • Canada's once wounded hope to shake off rust in world junior camp

    At Team Canada’s world junior summer camp in Brossard, Que., Jake Virtanen skated alone. He was still rehabbing after shoulder surgery and no chances were being taken with his health. There was a malaise in the way he put pucks in the net by himself after the rest of the team had left the ice.

    It’s a different story now that he’s healed and able to skate with full-contact in Canada’s final selection camp in Toronto.

    “It’s definitely a great feeling,” said Virtanen after his first practice with the team at the MasterCard Centre. “It’s good to get back because it was frustrating and depressing that I couldn’t be out there (in the summer) having fun with the guys on the ice. I’m just thankful to be back.”

    In the months that passed, Virtanen was finally healed enough to start playing for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. The 18-year-old forward was able to suit up for 20 WHL games before camp. He admits his return has been tough because he’s had to correct a few “bad habits” that

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  • Every year, when many Canadians are trying to find time for Christmas shopping and trying to forget the credit card bills that will accompany it, the coaches and support staff for the Canadian world junior hockey team come up with a mantra – or two. They then take those catch-phrases and foist them onto the media to disseminate to the country’s hockey faithful.

    In the past, we’ve had the hard-working lunch pail kids of Dave Cameron, Steve Spott’s team built for speed, and Brent Sutter droning over the elite group assembled to play the Canadian way last year in Malmo, Sweden.

    True to form, this is the year of head coach Benoit Groulx’s world-class player. According to Groulx, who coaches the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques, it’s no longer enough to be just a good player in the Canadian Hockey League to make this team.

    So what separates the world class from the run-of-the-mill star players in the CHL?

    “It’s also about their attitude,” Groulx said Thursday at the

    Read More »from Wanted: World-class players committed to ending the medal drought for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship

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