World junior championship tournament primer | Hockey | CBC Sports

NHLWorld junior championship tournament primer

Posted: Sunday, December 25, 2011 | 12:02 PM

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Team Canada brothers Dougie Hamilton, right, and Freddie Hamilton, are the first brothers to make the Canadian squad since Mike and Randy Moller in 1982. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press) Team Canada brothers Dougie Hamilton, right, and Freddie Hamilton, are the first brothers to make the Canadian squad since Mike and Randy Moller in 1982. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

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The Canadian junior tournament opens on Boxing Day in Edmonton and Calgary. Canada's curtain raiser will be against Finland on Monday. The Canadian juniors will be trying to win their 16th under-20 championship and first since 2010 in Ottawa. Here are some other storylines for this year's event.
The Canadian junior team is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its program of excellence, which has won 15 gold, seven silver and three bronze medals and an unmatched record of 149-33-19 under-20 championships. Canada has snatched a medal in 13 consecutive world junior tournaments and in 20 of the last 22.

The last two world junior winners, however, were the United States in 2010 and Russia last year with its brilliant third-period come-from-behind victory against Canada in Buffalo.
This is the 10th time the world under-20 championship will be held in Canada. Here are the results from the previous nine:

1978 -- Montreal (bronze)
1986 -- Hamilton (silver)
1991 -- Saskatoon (gold)
1995 -- Red Deer (gold)
1999 -- Winnipeg (silver)
2003 -- Halifax (silver)
2006 -- Vancouver (gold)
2009 -- Ottawa (gold)
2010 -- Saskatoon (silver)

Tournament favourites

Either Canada (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009), Russia (2002, 2003, 2011) or the United States (2004, 2010) have been among the past 10 winners of the under-20 championship and each country is among the contenders this time around in Edmonton and Calgary.

In their three exhibition games last week, the Canadians dumped Finland 3-1 and Switzerland 7-1 before they dropped a 5-3 decision to Sweden last Friday. The Swedes, too, should be considered a contender. Sweden will be led by Ottawa Senators prospect Mika Zibanejad and Edmonton Oilers draft pick Oscar Klefbom, but Sweden has not won a junior title since 1981.

Sweden is in Pool A, along with Russia, Latvia, Slovakia, and Switzerland, and will play its games in Calgary. Canada is in Pool B along with the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and the United States and will play its round-robin games in Edmonton.

Canada opens the tournament against Finland on Monday. 

Russia's motivation

Among the 37 killed when the plane carrying players, coaches and staff of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey club crashed last September were two members from Russian coach Valeri Bragin's gold medal winning team from last year, forward Danill Sobchenko and defenceman Yuri Urychev.

There also were two players, Pavel Snurnitsyn and Maksim Shuvalov, who likely would have been part of this Russian junior team.

This Russian team has only one returning player from its championship team in Evgeni Kuznetsov, a first-round pick of the Washington Capitals. But this club does have Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, the favourite to be selected first overall at the NHL entry draft in June. 

Brother acts

The Canadian team has its first brothers on the team since Mike and Randy Moller played on the 1982 team. But Freddie and Dougie Hamilton aren't the only brother act in the tournament.

Mikael and Markus Granlund will line for Finland. They are known for the lacrosse-style goals they have scored in competition. Both forwards, they play for HIFK Helsinki and could find themselves in the NHL soon. The 19-year-old Mikael is a 2010 first-round pick of the Minnesota Wild. The 18-year-old Markus is a 2011 second-round choice of the Calgary Flames.

Hay fever

Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay is back at the helm of the Canadian junior team for the first time since 1995, when he steered Canada to its first 7-0 gold-medal win in the tournament.

One player more familiar with Hay's demanding ways is 19-year-old Brendan Gallagher. He plays for Hay on the Giants. The tenacious 5-foot-8, 170-pound right wing is a 2010 fifth-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens.

This Canadian team has only three returning players from last year in Jaden Schwartz, Quinton Howden and Brett Connolly. Schwartz was named team captain, while Howden and Connolly have been appointed alternate captains along with Devante Smith-Pelly and Brandon Gormley.

Team Canada line combos

Jaden Schwartz - Mark Scheifele - Brendan Gallagher
Quinton Howden - Freddie  Hamilton - Devante Smith-pelly
Jonathan Huberdeau - Ryan Strome - Mark Stone
Boone Jenner - Michael Bournival - Brett Connolly
Tanner Pearson

Jamie Oleksiak - Nathan Beaulieu
Brandon Gormley - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Murray - Mark Pysyk
Scott Harrington

Goalie: Marc Visentin

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