Canadian captain Thomas Hickey, left, and head coach Pat Quinn chat during a team photo in Kanata, Ont. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Pat Quinn clearly didn't want to let a chance for a quip to get past him.

The topic was the world junior hockey championship in Ottawa and someone mentioned to the affable head coach of Canada that Sweden was generating more buzz than his collection of teenagers.

"From everything I heard, from talking to the NHL scouts, that on paper they should be the favourites," said Quinn, pausing for effect.

"Paper! You wipe something with that sometimes. Oh no, you wrap something. … "

Sweden's not fish-wrap, and you can say the same thing about the United States and Russia when the championship begins Friday in Ottawa.

Canada is in tough to win a fifth straight title and it will take a lot more than home-ice advantage to emerge atop the world junior standings and tie the country's record for consecutive gold medals won between 1993 and 1997.

Quinn will play a key role, part of which is to deflect the pressure away from his team. But when you have been around hockey as long as Quinn has, you know what to say and when to say it.

"I think I have been around long enough to know what it takes to win and I do not know whether we have it or not but we will learn over the next little while whether this club does,'' said Quinn.

"It takes discipline, 60 minutes of hockey and if we are going to be a gold-medal team we have to play that way. We have to find a way to be involved the whole game."

This marks the second time in less than a year that Quinn, who will soon turn 66, has been asked to guide a bunch of kids young enough to be his grandsons. He coached Canada to an Under-18 world championship gold medal in the spring, answering his critics who say he can't work with younger players.

It's also worth mentioning that the 2009 world junior championship marks the 10th time Quinn has been involved with the national team that falls under the Hockey Canada umbrella.

"The bottom line is that young people and old people, the one thing they want to do is do the job well,'' said Quinn. "And my job as a coach is to try to give them a way to do that … be the best they can be. You heard that all the time but that is what it is really all about."

Here's a breakdown of the teams in the tournament:

Pool A

Canada (2008 result: 5-1, 1st place)

Despite winning the last four titles it will take a team effort to win gold in Ottawa. With eight juniors making a living in the NHL, Quinn and his staff selected a roster than includes eight 18-year-olds and two 17-year-olds. The world junior tournament is historically known as a pressure-packed event where 19-year-olds dominate the play.

"This group here has some talent," Quinn said. "It's our job now as players and coaches to try and come together so we make the best effort we can to win a gold medal. The team that becomes a team better than the other guys generally win. It's not always skill."

Ten players were drafted in the first round of the NHL draft in either 2007 or 2008, with Thomas Hickey and Alex Pietrangelo being the highest draft picks, going fourth overall to Los Angeles and St. Louis in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

The offence will be led by John Tavares, Cody Hodgson, Jordan Eberle, while Chet Picard and Dustin Tokarski are the goalies.

Czech Republic (2008 result: 3-2, 5th place)

The Czechs were a junior powerhouse in the late 1990s but their development program has tailed off in the last couple of years. Just three Czech players were drafted by NHL clubs last June.

The North American contingent includes Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standouts Andrej Nestrasil of Victoriaville and Jan Stransky of Gatineau, defenceman Thomas Kundratek, who plays for the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers, and Zdenek Okal, who has 32 points in 36 games for the Tigers.

Germany (2008 result: 5-0 to advance to elite group)

Germany isn't exactly a powerhouse when it comes to the world junior stage and that isn't about to change.

German assistant coach Uwe Krupp is thrilled his players will be exposed to world-class hockey.

"It is great for the German kids and the German program to play in Canada," said Krupp. "This is something these kids will be able to tell their grandchildren, that I played in front of 18,000 people in Canada."

There are seven Germans playing in the Canadian Hockey League, including goaltenders Timo Pielmeier (Shawinigan) and Philipp Grubauer (Belleville).

United States (2008 result: 4-2, 4th place)

With four first-round NHL draft picks on defence, the Americans will be competitive and will be led by James vanRiemsdyk, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.

The lineup also includes 2009 draft prospects Jordan Schroeder, who had seven assists at last year's world juniors, and Jeremy Morin. Both will go in the first round of the draft in Montreal.

Another player to watch is Colin Wilson, who was Nashville's top choice, seventh overall, in the 2008 draft. He is the son of former Canadian national team member Carey Wilson.

The Guelph Storm's Thomas McCollum of the Ontario Hockey League is expected to get the majority of the starts in net for Team USA. He was the 30th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2008 draft.

Kazakhstan (2008 result: 3-4, 8th place)

It has been more than a decade since Kazakhstan pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the world junior championship when they beat Canada. That team was led by Nik Antropov, who parlayed a good showing into being a first-round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Trouble is, the Kazaks have not produced any players close to Antropov's potential since then and this has been reflected in their ranking.

They have eight returning players from the squad that finished eighth last year and will fight to avoid relegation again.

Pool B

Sweden (2008 result: 5-1, 2nd place)

The Swedes feature the top defenceman in the tournament in Victor Hedman and possibly the top junior-aged goalie in the world in Jacob Markström. Both are playing in the Swedish Elite League. Another player to watch for is Markus Paajarvi, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the NHL draft in June. He will likely go Top 10 in the draft.

The Swedes will also feature Mattias Tedenby, Carl Gustafsson and Mikael Backlund, who were all drafted by NHL clubs last June.

"This is the best Swedish team I have ever seen," says Detroit Red Wings European scout Hakan Andersson. "There is a lot of skill on this team. They don't quit and they don't like to lose."

Finland (2008: 2-3, 6th place)

The Finns have come upon hard times in the last two NHL drafts. No player was among the first 60 players taken, and they will be in a tough battle to make it through to the second round of the tournament.

"Finnish hockey has been standing still and has not produced many top players in the last years," says Goran Stubb, the head of the NHL's European scouting service.

Harri Sateri, a San Jose pick last summer, will lead the team in goal. He plays for Tappara in Finland's top league. Another player to watch is 16-year-old Mikael Granlund.

Russia (2008 result: 4-2, 3rd place)

Russia has been the silver medallist for three straight years, losing to Canada in the final, before winning the bronze medal last year. This year, they could medal but probably not for the gold.

The roster was bolstered when Columbus released forward Nikita Filatov and winger Maxim Mayorov from its American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse.

The Russians will also have Evgeny Grachev of the OHL's Brampton Battalion, Sergey Korostin of the Peterborough Petes, along with Maxim Goncharov, a third-round pick by Phoenix in 2007.

Slovakia (2008 results: 4-3, 7th place)

Like Finland, Slovakia will be in tough to qualify for second round of the tournament.

One player to watch is Richard Panik, a draft-eligible forward who is playing in the Czech Republic, while forward Andrej Kudrna of the Vancouver Giants has loads of potential.

Latvia (2008 result: 4-1 to advance to elite group)

The Latvians loaded up their roster last year to advance to the elite A Group. But the star players from that roster are too old for the 2008 world junior.

Players to watch include Roberts Jekimovs, who played junior in Sweden this season, Edgars Ulescenko, Janis Straupe, goalie Dainis Vasiljevs, along with Andris Dzerins, who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL.