The 2015-2016 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship begins this Boxing Day with Canada facing the U.S. at 1 pm ET in the preliminary round.
Hockey fans can watch the best under-20 players from around the world as they take the ice in Helsinki, Finland, in the high energy, two-week tournament.
Team Canada is hoping to put a streak together after last year’s 5-4 gold medal victory over Russia, a victory that ended a five-year gold medal drought.
So for those sports fans who are just starting to follow Canada’s favourite sport, or maybe just need a refresher, we’ve got everything you need to know about the Canadian junior squad right here.
This year’s team will not have star player Connor McDavid and will only have four returning players from last year’s gold medal-winning squad that include: Lawson Crouse (Mt. Brydges, Ont./Kingston, OHL), Joe Hicketts (Kamloops, B.C./Victoria, WHL), Brayden Point (Calgary/Moose Jaw, WHL), and Jake Virtanen (Abbotsford, B.C./Vancouver, NHL).
One thing Team Canada doesn’t lack is firepower. Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome are currently sitting as two of the top OHL goal scorers this season. The Canadian squad also has centre Brayden Point, who is arguably one of the best players in the WHL, despite playing in fewer than 20 games. Jake Virtanen, the 19-year-old rookie of the Vancouver Canucks will also be a strong addition to the team. Despite only having one goal and three assists in 19 NHL games, Virtanen has had other impressive seasons in the past, two years ago he had a career record of 45 goals.
Team Canada’s original plan was to have two goaltenders share the responsibility, with Mackenzie Blackwood to start and Mason McDonald to be the skilled backup. But things will be done a bit differently now as Blackwood will miss the first two games after being suspended for eight games by the OHL. While McDonald is a sharp goalie, the Calgary Flames prospect has struggled this season with a 3.47 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage. Until Blackwood returns, Samuel Montembeault will be on the bench as backup.
An obvious weakness to Canada’s roster is the overall lack of size, with seven players standing under six feet. But what the team lacks in size, they make up with in skilled, high-end offensive players. Wingers Jake Virtanen (6’1) and Lawson Crouse (6’4) will most likely be the keys to the team’s success.
Who to Watch For:
Team Canada is filled with an impressive roster, but there are a few players that you will want to keep your eyes on.
Mitch Marner: This winger and Toronto Maple Leaf’s prospect finished second in OHL scoring last season with 126 points and is currently in third with 58 points in 25 games with the London Knights this year.
Travis Dermott: Dermott is a defenceman and locked down 45 points last year while playing alongside Connor McDavid So far this year he has 27 points in 29 games and could be a big part of Canada’s power play.
Anthony Beauvillier: Beauvillier will be lacing up as one of the youngest on Team Canada’s roster and has already made a strong impression this year at selection camp, where he had four goals, including a hat trick. So far this year he has 41 points in 21 games and he’s sure to stand out in Helsinki.
Dylan Strome: Strome will be the centre for Canada’s top line at the tournament. The third-overall pick of the 2015 NHL draft already has 53 points in 25 games so far this year and will stand out for his elite skills, who is smart in every aspect of the game.
You can see the full roster and schedule here. #GoCanada