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  • Jordan Binnington and Malcolm Subban at Team Canada's Dec 24 practice in Ufa, Russia (CP)

    There isn't really a shortage of writers or TV analysts who suggest that, when it comes to selecting goaltenders at the IIHF U20 world championship, coaches are better off going with the 'hot hand.' The deployment of Canadian goaltenders at the world junior championship is always heavily scrutinized, particularly in the last few years when there hasn't been a clear-cut No. 1, and also several much better goalies playing for other nations.

    So how do you solve the riddle of whether to go with Malcolm Subban or Jordan Binnington? Which of the two should Spott start, on Boxing Day against Germany, and then farther along into the tournament? My suggestion would be that, rather than going by some illusory "hot hand," Spott ought to create a schedule and stick to it, barring injury. Subban has the higher save percentage in his OHL career and is used to the big ice surface and regardless of how he played in camp, he ought to be the No. 1. Play him in the opener against Germany, and then against the United States and Russia, as well as the semi-final and final. Binnington ought to see the start in the round robin against Slovakia, and then in the quarter-final, if necessary.

    Why not just go with the hot hand? Because the data doesn't show that either Subban or Binnington are better coming off of a win than coming off of a loss.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Why Steve Spott should not play the ‘hot hand’ when deciding on goaltenders
  • Team Canada's Nathan MacKinnon (left) Jonathan Drouin (The Canadian Press)

    The world junior championship is a prime opportunity to get a sneak peak at some of the top NHL draft prospects. This upcoming U20 tournament in Ufa, Russia is exceptional for how many of potential top-10 picks are wearing their country's colours.

    Ten of the first 22 players who heard their names called at the last NHL draft had world junior experience under their belts. Beyond the first two selections, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Murray, the bulk of that group was taken 10th or later. This time around, Halifax Mooseheads star Nathan MacKinnon, Portland Winterhawks defensive anchor Seth Jones, and Finnish sensation Alexsander Barkov lead the way among 2013 draft prospects. These three young guns are regarded as the cream of the crop by every scouting service.

    There are, however, draft prospects poised to be selected very high in New Jersey that aren’t taking part in the tourney. That is fairly typical with 17-year-old players.

    Medicine Hat Tigers sniper Hunter Shinkaruk and Ottawa 67’s centre Sean Monahan were cut by Team Canada. Edmonton Oil Kings centre Curtis Lazar, Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ryan Pulock and Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Josh Morrissey were not even handed an invite from Canada.

    Russia cut 6-foot-5 London Knights defender Nikita Zadorov, who is ranked seventh among OHL skaters by NHL’s Central Scouting Service.

    Without further ado, with the help of some scouts, here is a look at the top 10 NHL draft prospects playing in the IIHF U20 world championship.

    Read More »from World junior championship: MacKinnon, Jones, Barkov lead the draft-year dandies in Ufa
  • Devils prospect Stefan Matteau has been suspended twice in the QMJHL (Getty Images)Discipline has been established as a storyline for teams Canada and USA ahead of the first world junior championship outside North America in five seasons. Now it appears to have played into USA Hockey's final cuts, with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Stefan Matteau being pared from the Yanks' almost-finalized roster.

    The rugged Matteau, whom the New Jersey Devils drafted No. 29 overall in June, has had two one-game suspensions with the QMJHL's Armada. Team USA, much like its North American neighbour, had a penalty party in its two pre-competition games in Finland, taking eight minors during Saturday's loss to Finland. That means Matteau might have been too high-risk while not being high-reward.

    From Chris Peters (@chrismpeters)

    Seeing Matteau and Skjei sent home comes as little surprise after today. It appeared Skjei was on the outs after the Sweden game and Matteau may have played himself out of consideration over the two exhibition games. The good news for both is that they are eligible for next year’s tournament. Still, getting cut is a bitter pill to swallow this close to the tournament.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Stefan Matteau and Brady Skjei, NHL first-rounders, cut by Team USA
  • Team Canada's Mark Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (The Canadian Press)

    GROUP B: Canada

    Last year’s finish: Bronze
    Last year’s round-robin record: 4-0-0-0

    Team Canada received their world junior presents early, firstly, when the National Hockey League decided to continue with the lockout, and secondly when the Edmonton Oilers released star centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the team. As a result, the team has a number of players – Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome – who could have, at very least, started in the NHL and might not have been available to play for Canada.

    In all, there are six returning players from last year’s bronze medal winning side, plus Nugent-Hopkins – who has already represented Canada at the men’s world championship.

    “For me to have access to those guys, it’s second to none,” said head coach Steve Spott. “We’ve seen in the second year of this tournament the development of the guys like (former Canadian players) Jared Cowen and Brayden Schenn, they’ve been different in their second year of this tournament. To have seven

    Read More »from World junior championship: Canada can thank lockout for an embarrassment of riches
  • Coach Steve Spott and captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (The Canadian Press)

    Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele will have trouble scoring from their position on the bench while watching Canada's penalty kill work double time.

    Team Canada's second exhibition game ahead of the world junior championship, a 2-1 shootout win over Sweden on Saturday, was a slight improvement on its first. The club exhibited more energy, at least until the penalties (seven minors and Boone Jenner's likely suspension-inducing charging major/game misconduct) and being reduced to 10 forwards caught up with it. Goalie Jordan Binnington stopped 31-of-32 shots and 2-of-3 shootout attempts, including one on Sweden captain Filip Forsberg.

    There is only so much that can be made of a pre-competition game; the IIHF world U20 championship will be up for grabs on Jan. 2, 3 and 5 in the knockout rounds in Ufa, Russia, not in Helsinki. The performance should hardly make Canadians arrogant about the Maple Leaf's chances, but nor is it dire if their best players can be their best players when it counts. Talk amongst yourselves:

    Read More »from World junior championship: Team Canada coffee talk; so-so shootout win over Sweden
  • Jonathan Drouin (right) with Nathan MacKinnon (The Canadian Press)The play should have been whistled down due to a glove pass, but still, what a nice goal by 17-year-old Jonathan Drouin.

    Team Canada did not produce much offence in its final pre-competition game for the world junior championship, but the Montrealer replicated what he has done all season for the Halifax Mooseheads. The dangerous wing scored Canada's only goal in the 2-1 shootout decision over Team Sweden on Saturday with a sweet move to the backhand. That's a pro goalie, Joel Lassinantti of Lulea in the Swedish Elite League, whom he made humble on that play.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Team Canada’s Jonathan Drouin goes bar down vs. Sweden (VIDEO)
  • Jenner (left) was suspended from the 2012 bronze-medal game (The Canadian Press)

    An injury-causing late hit by rugged centre Boone Jenner, who was suspended during last season's world junior championship, might have further clouded Canada's decisions on its final roster.

    The 19-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets was probably Canada's best forward on the ice for much of the first two periods of the final pre-competition game against Team Sweden in Helsinki on Saturday. Midway through that second period, Jenner received a charging major/game misconduct for a late hit on Jesper Pettersson that put the Swedish defenceman out of the game (at least) with reportedly broken ribs. Pettersson had just made a first pass from the right-wing corner of his defensive zone when Jenner, a physical power forward, buried him into the boards.

    Bob McKenzie of TSN noted any late check "in excess of half a second is a penalty in any league ... this was 30 digital frames after the puck was gone, which is almost a full second." On top of it, Petterson was injured, which could also factor into the IIHF's decision.

    The timing could mean that Canada will have to submit its final roster before knowing Jenner's status for at least the first two games vs. Germany and Slovakia on Dec. 26 and 28.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Team Canada’s Boone Jenner faces suspension for late hit that injured Swede
  • Jacob Trouba (left), Seth Jones and Patrick Sieloff (Getty Images)

    GROUP B: UNITED STATES

    Last year’s finish: Seventh
    Last year’s round-robin record: 1-3-0-0

    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.

    After a disastrous showing in last year’s WJC, which found the Americans left out of the medal round altogether and stuck in the relegation round, longtime NHL defenceman Phil Housley has been tasked with restoring a USA program that’s just three years removed from a gold medal.

    Though Housley’s well known for the gaudy offensive numbers he posted during his career, his club’s best path to success in Ufa centers around keeping pucks out of its own net.

    2013 draft-eligible defenceman Seth Jones, who captained Team USA to a gold medal in last year’s U18 championship, has lofty expectations for his first (and perhaps only) shot at WJC glory.

    “One of the goals I have is to give up the least number of goals in the tournament as a team,” Jones told Buzzing the Net in early December. “It’s going to take a lot of depth, with four full forward lines and three good defence pairs to win this thing.”

    Jones, the Portland Winterhawks rookie and son of ex-NBA player Popeye Jones, may be the flashiest name on the American squad, but he says he’ll be taking his cues from the team’s three returning players from last year.

    Defenceman Jacob Trouba – who also played on the U18 team last year – is back, along with forward J.T. Miller (formerly of the Plymouth Whalers) and goaltender John Gibson of the Kitchener Rangers.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Seth Jones hopes to lead Team USA back to prominence
  • Memorial Cup-winning captain Michael Bournival (left) and OT hero Anton Zlobin (The Canadian Press)

    Know this much: junior hockey provides plenty of drama.

    As 2012 draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the controversial, the riveting, the breathtaking, the simply out-there and buzzy moments that make the junior game so fun to follow. There was probably too much going on this calendar year to distill it down to just five stories, but here is BTN's best effort at taking in the zeitgeist of the junior game from the past 12 months.

    Read More »from Buzzing The Net’s year in review: 2012′s Top 5 junior hockey stories
  • Russia's Nail Yakupov

    Sports – especially hockey – are a breeding ground for all sorts of superstitions. Surely you’ve heard a bunch of them. Some players always lace up their left skate first, some don’t talk to the media before the game, some have to tap their goalie’s pads a certain number of times before the puck drops.

    It is widely believe that whatever country hosts an international tournament is cursed. Stupid, right? Come on, Canada, back me up.

    Of course, it makes little or no sense in the context of World Juniors. However, the last team that won the gold medal on home soil at the IIHF world championship was Team USSR back in 1986. So 26 years of failure would make you believe in all sorts of things.

    And if you’re modern Russia, that scares you. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian team has been unable to deliver at home on any level.

    The first international tournament post-Soviet Russia ever hosted was ironically in Ufa with 1996 European Hockey Championship. That was the

    Read More »from World junior championship: Can Russia break its curse? Ufa may be the answer

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