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  • 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
  • Mark McNeill (in red) is a Blackhawks prospect (The Canadian Press)Mark Charles Hudon down as the third Canadian lost to injury for the upcoming IIHF U20 world championship, joining Ryan Murray and Colton Sissons, although he is the only one who had actually made the team.

    As per the tweet above and an official Hockey Canada announcement, Hudon is out with a back injury, despite having played yesterday against Finland in pre-tournament competition. He will be replaced by Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders, who was a surprising cut prior to the tournament in my mind. McNeill is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and was the first-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in last season's draft. This year, he's been a force at both ends of the ice as captain of the Prince Albert Raiders, scoring 13 goals in 35 games, getting big minutes on a team that's leading the WHL's East Division.

    It is upsetting for Hudon, for sure, the diminutive yet offensively gifted prospect taken in the fifth round by the Montreal Canadiens. His 5-11, 171-pound frame does not suit him to being as physical as McNeill, but his puck possession and playmaking games are just as valuable. The preference to take Hudon over McNeill may have been a stylistic one, or the Team Canada brass could have thought that it was wiser to bring the more skilled guy to Russia in the depth role.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Mark McNeill replaces injured Charles Hudon
  • Sweden captain Filip Forsberg, the Washington Capitals' No. 11 overall pick (Getty Images)

    GROUP A: SWEDEN

    2012 finish: Gold medal, won 1-0 in overtime over Russia in final
    2012 round-robin record: 2-2-0-0, 26 GF/11 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.

    Sweden is at a point where it expects to medal even if circumstances deny them their top players. That certitude did not come on with last January's gold-medal triumph in Calgary, since there was a burgeoning belief going into the tournament that it might be their time.

    Missing bound-to-Binghamton Mika Zibanejad and woulda-been defensive pillars Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom hurts, but the defending IIHF world U20 champions still have what it takes to be a tough out in Ufa, Russia. Sweden has medalled at the WJC in 4-of-5 seasons (and came within minutes of playing for gold in Buffalo in 2011). The so-called Swedish super model that keeps stamping out top draft prospects — hello there, Elias Lindholm — also keeps championship coach Roger Ronnberg with the U20 team. Ronnberg's steady hand should be a guide for a team which might need to overachieve.

    "I think the Sweden team should always have expectations to win," says Florida Panthers prospect Rasmus Bengtsson, the Muskegon Lumberjacks defenceman who is one of the four 19-year-old rearguards on Ronnberg's roster. "That should be the culture of the organization, to win every game and championship we can, to go for the gold.

    "Having Roger, I think that's important," says Bengtsson, who will likely be a minutes-muncher on the blueline along with Anaheim Ducks No. 6 overall pick Hampus Lindholm. "He's done a really good job getting the team to work together in every tournament."

    Read More »from World junior championship: Sweden soldiers on without 3 kingmakers
  • GROUP B: GERMANY

    2012 finish: Won Division I Group A event to earn promotion
    2012 round-robin record: 5-0-0-0, 34 GF/9 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.

    Germany's Nick Latta (OHL Images)Germany would like to take off its coat and stay a while. It will be tough with the draw it has at the world junior championship.

    More than a dozen players off the squad that waltz through the IIHF's second-rung tournament last season are too old for the WJC, so the club going to Ufa will be relatively young. Edmonton Oilers fourth-rounder Tobias Rieder, whose status is murky due to a deep bone bruise/hairline fracture sustained in an OHL game last month, is the only drafted player. Basically, it boils down to whether Germany can keep from getting its doors blown off in the first four days when it faces Canada, the U.S. and Russia and refocuses on its round-robin finale vs. Slovakia. Ensuring the country plays in successive WJCs for the first time since 1997-98 would mean the world.

    "It's really important to Germany — they've always went up and down, up and down," says Sarnia Sting centre Nick Latta, one of seven players on the preliminary roster who skates in either the CHL or USHL. "They [the IIHF] have changed the format so only one team goes down. That would be the first priority, to stay up.

    "It's tough with our first three games but the other group would be the same with the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland," Latta adds. "When we go to to this tournament, we have to win."

    Read More »from World junior championship: Germany hopes to end its up-and-down pattern
  • Dallas Stars prospect Radek Faksa embarks on his second world junior championship (Getty Images)

    GROUP A: CZECH REPUBLIC

    2012 finish: Fifth, lost 2-1 in overtime to Russia in quarter-final
    2012 round-robin record: 2-0-0-2, 12 GF/11 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.

    Climbing out of the relegation zone last year means Radek Faksa, Tomas Hertl, David Musil and the Czechs finally have a friendly draw in the world junior championship. They might also have a group which can cash in on their opportunity, provided they have the support to match a multifaceted offence.

    Team Czech Republic, which last medalled in 2005 when it upended Phil Kessel and Team USA for the bronze in Vancouver, spent half a decade in a vicious cycle of lower-rung finishes that inevitably put them in pools with hockey heavyweights at the following WJC. Last season, with current Detroit Red Wings farmhand Petr Mrazek stealing the show, they made an enervating run to within one goal of playing for a medal, ultimately finishing fifth.

    They managed that feat without a big cog, laser-accurate finisher Marty Frk, the Red Wings high pick who missed the event due to a concussion. Ufa could represent their best medal shot in a while, with high draft picks Faksa, Frk, Hertl (especially Hertl) and Dmitrij Jaskin all together for the last time. Edmonton Oilers high second-rounder David Musil anchors the defence in a lineup more than half composed of Canadian major junior players, including likely starting goalie Patrik Bartosak.

    "I think we have a much better team this year so our wish is semifinals," says Faksa, the Kitchener Rangers pivot whom the Dallas Stars drafted No. 13 overall last June, four choices before high-scoring Hertl was snapped up by the San Jose Sharks. "We have some pretty good guys. We're in the easier group so I hope we can finish in second place."

    Read More »from World junior championship: Czech Republic dedicated to going another mile
  • Alessio Bertaggia (left) and Sven Andrighetto (Getty Images)

    GROUP A: SWITZERLAND

    2012 finish: Eighth
    2012 round-robin record: 1-0-1-2, 12 GF/16 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.

    A matchup with the Swiss unfolds like clockwork — two-plus hours of trying to break through a forcefield of small but swift defensive-minded forwards.

    That devotion to their system has helped Switzerland often stymie the most talented teams at the world junior championship in recent years. Their trouble has sometimes been that they play up or down to the calibre of opponent, which is why they — but also has a knack for frustrating itself.

    "We're going to be a hard-working team — we won't be the most skilled team," says centre Tanner Richard, a standout for the OHL's Guelph Storm who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in June. "We usually have pretty good battles against the top teams. Lately, we haven't been dominating in games that we should. Last year, we lost a game against Slovakia that we should have won, but against Sweden and Russia, we had our two best games.

    "I think we'll be fine against the bigger teams. We have to work more on controlling the play against the teams who are more or less in our range, at our level and a bit lower than us."

    Team USA's freefall to the relegation round in 2012 led to the Americans being with Canada and Russia in a loaded Group B. Coach Sean Simpson's Team Switzerland is in a pool the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia and defending champion Sweden. The club boasts only two NHL draft picks, Richard and Minnesota Wild sixth-rounder Christoph Bertschy. The hope is that they can patch together enough offence by committee to complement a veteran defence corps led by Samuel Guerra and the goaltending of likely starter Luca Bolthauser, who plays for Farjestad Karslbad in Sweden's top junior league.

    "We don't have superstars this year but we have a pretty good team and everyone is very close in terms of skill," says 17-year-old defenceman Mirco Mueller, of the WHL's Everett Silvertips.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Switzerland eyes medal round, looks to be a spoiler

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