Fear the red and white
Alberta plays host to world juniors
Calgarians best gift comes after Christmas this year.
It’s not Olympic-level competition, but the World Junior Hockey Championships will bring a level of athletic electricity and excitement not seen since 1988. (Or maybe 2004).
Starting Boxing Day, the best junior hockey players in the world will descend on Alberta, splitting time between Calgary and Edmonton.
Unfortunately for Calgarians, the Saddledome will be hosting the B group during the round robin, meaning they won’t see Team Canada action locally until at least the quarterfinals.
Fear not, the ‘Dome will be hosting the gold-medal game.
As for the red and white, the squad is coming off two straight silver medals, falling in two gold medal games to the United States and Russia.
Only three players will likely be coming back to this year’s squad, including a likely leader in forward Jaden Schwartz , Moose Jaw Warriors sniper Quinton Howden with Mark Visentin back manning the pipes.
The team is hurt by the number of eligible players currently in the NHL like Edmonton Oilers super-kid Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Florida Panthers d-man Erik Gudbranson and Columbus Blue Jackets sniper Ryan Johansen.
But while they are missing those players, they still have plenty of experience with a number of first-round draft choices like Winnipeg Jets potential savior Mark Scheifele.
Hockey Canada recently released the names of the 41 players who will compete for a spot on the 23-man team.
Included on the roster are a number of players with Calgary connections.
Flames draft choice Kootney Ice forward Max Reinhart, son of former Flame Paul Reinhart, was one of the players named, as well as fellow Flames pick Michael Ferland.
On the defensive end, born and raised Calgarian Matt Dumba, who is lighting up the WHL with the Red Deer Rebels will compete against 13 other defenseman for likely seven positions.
“Thanks to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence, many of these players have already received the experience necessary to deal with high-paced international competition such as the world juniors,” said Kevin Prendergast, Hockey Canada’s head scout. “The quality and skill of the 41 players invited to camp next week is a testament to the hard work, commitment and development of all those involved in the Canadian minor hockey and junior hockey systems.”
The final roster will be selected on Dec. 14.
Team Canada’s competition might come in the form of defending champions Team Russia.
The teams ended up splitting the six games of the Subway Super Series earlier this year when Russian junior team players Canadian Hockey League all-stars.
Between the pipes, they’ll have Andrey Markov who is leading the WHL in wins, with16 so far.
Add in forwards Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, two players vying for to be the No. 1 draft choice in next year’s NHL draft, this team will have no problem finding the back of the net.
All the festivities start Boxing Day, with 10 teams before being whittled down to the gold medal winner on Jan. 5, 2012.