The 2021 World Juniors Hockey Championships, hosted by the International Ice Hockey Federation, began on December 25th and conclude on January 5th. This year, the tournament will be hosted in Edmonton, Canada and is structured to be a “bubble” type event similar to that of the NBA playoffs due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Juniors tournament is an annual Under-20 ice hockey event that started in 1977, and it consists of the top-10 ranked international teams from around the globe.
The 10 teams are divided into two groups for a round robin schedule, followed by the top four teams from each group advancing to the quarter-finals in a single-game elimination playoff bracket. The teams and groups for this year are:
Group A: Canada, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and Slovakia
Group B: Russia, Sweden, United States, Czech Republic, and Austria
The Canadians are the perennial powerhouse of the event, as they have won 18 gold medals since the inception of the tournament, which is five more than Russia, who has the second most all time. Finland boasts five gold medals, which rounds out the top three for most gold medals. The United States has recorded four gold medals at the event, most recently in 2017.
Boston College Players in the Event:
Four Boston College Eagles were called up to this event by their respective countries. Spencer Knight, Drew Helleson, and Matt Boldy will represent the United States, and Alex Newhook will represent Canada.
The United States national team began their training camp during the week of December 7th, which meant that the three BC players missed the series against UConn where the Eagles split the series and suffered their first loss of the season. The star-studded trio for BC will rejoin the squad at the conclusion of this tournament as well.
The Canadian national team has hosted a training camp since the middle of November for their finalized roster for the event, which is why Newhook has yet to suit up for the Eagles this season. He will rejoin the team at the conclusion of this tournament.
Knight and Newhook are poised to be star players for their respective countries, as both are expected to be among the tournament’s best players. This is Knight’s second year at this event, where he was also a starter last year and has earned the starting position again for the red, white, and blue.
What to Watch For:
This year boasts arguably the most talented rosters that these counties have ever had. It provides hockey fans all around the world with action-packed games filled with young talent that will be household names in the NHL for years to come.
Let’s take a look at USA’s group and potential playoff opponents.
USA was able to avoid both Canada and Finland in the group stage, who both have caused them troubles in previous years. However, that means it is almost impossible to avoid them in the knockout stages. The best bet for the US is to finish top in their group, as that would most likely set them on the opposite side of Canada in the playoff bracket.
The US faced off against Russia in their opening group stage match, and lost the vitally important match to start off on the wrong foot. Russia boasts a star-studded roster of college talents and NHL prospects. The United States has their own college standouts as well, but this clash will arguably be the most exciting game of all of Group B. Sweden and the Czech Republic are always big, physical teams which will cause troubles for the US team.
With the talent on this US roster, it is expected that they at least make it to the quarter-finals and finish well in the group. The real challenge for the team will be obtaining another medal for their tally, as Canada, Finland, and Russia will be their toughest challengers to the title.
Players to Watch:
Cole Caufield - USA - RW: This is Caufield’s second year at the event, and he will be looking to continue his extremely strong start at Wisconsin into the World Juniors tournament. He leads the NCAA in points scored this season, as he has already recorded six goals and six assists in 10 games.
Tim Stutzle - Germany - W/C: Stutzle will be Germany’s best player at the event, as he was taken 3rd overall in the NHL draft by the Ottawa Senators. Germany has a thinner roster than usual due to COVID and unreleased players, which means that they will be looking to Stutzle to lead them to the quarter-finals even more than originally anticipated.
Alexander Holtz - Sweden - W: The New Jersey Devils prospect is one of the most prolific and efficient shooters in all of hockey. At the age of 16, he recorded 30 goals in 38 games in Sweden’s U-20 league. He led the Sweden U-18 to a gold medal in April of 2019 at the World Championships. With fellow countrymen Lucas Raymond being the playmaker and assist leader, look for these two to lead Sweden to a very strong run in this year’s event.
We wish the four Eagles the best of luck in the tournament, and we are incredibly excited for them to represent their countries and Boston College at the event.
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