The Subway Super Series turned out, to no surprise, to be a hard fought couple of games. Although Canadian viewers are not thrilled with the turnout, they will have their chance at redemption. Luckily for them, this chance comes in less than a month. On December 16, the 2013 World Junior Championships will begin in Ufa, Russia. These teams will consist of multiple players that competed only a few short weeks ago, and they will be ready to play again. With no official rosters out, I cannot inform you on exactly which matchups will take place, but there are plenty of players that we will be sure to see.
Even though he did not have his best 6 games in the Super Series, Nail Yakupov will undoubtedly be leading team Russia into the tournament. Playing in front of a home crowd could give the young star and his team an extra burst. Only a couple months ago he decided to leave the Sarnia Sting in order to play against older and more experienced players in the KHL. Yakupov has been turning heads with his speed and shooting ability, acquiring 18 points in only 19 games for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. He will be returning to his second WJC and will likely play alongside fellow countrymen and 2012 first rounder, Mikhail Grigorenko. As of now, all eyes are on Russia to see if they can live up to their expectations, especially after taking home the silver medal last year.
A year ago, Canada took home the bronze medal, and they were not satisfied. What made it worse for them was that they lost in front of their home crowd in Alberta. Now they will have to redeem themselves in Russia, which will be no easy task. What Canada does have is an advantage in experience. TSN Hockey Insider, Bob McKenzie, threw together some ideas on what the first line could be. It consisted of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centering Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele. Out of this line, both Nugent-Hopkins and Scheifele have played in the NHL, and “Nuge” tied Gabriel Landeskog for most points as a rookie, even after missing 20 games due to an injury. Also, Nathan MacKinnon will be given a golden chance to prove that he should be the number one pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, which he will not take lightly.
The United States had a disappointing 1-3 record last year in round robin play and finished without a medal. This year they will be looking for a young new group of players to lead them to success. One of the key players they will be turning to is Seth Jones, who plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Jones is one of few players that has had his name tossed around as a possible top 5 first round pick in the upcoming draft. He is a shut down defenseman who will be much needed when they face the highly skilled offense of Canada and Russia. With the United States defensive style of play they will need returning WJC forward J.T. Miller to step up and help the offense produce enough points to get them into the medal round.
This year will be different then previous years because of the NHL Lockout and the new divisions. No one has enjoyed the lockout, but Players like Nugent-Hopkins who would certainly be playing in the NHL will now have the chance to return to the WJC for one last time. Lastly, one of the three teams I previously mentioned in the article will not make the medal round. Group B consists of Russia, Canada, United States, Slovakia, and Germany (Germany was added this year due to Denmark being dropped). Last year Russia and Slovakia were in Group A along with Sweden, who went on to win the Tournament. This will make the first round extremely competitive, but at the same time will give Sweden a strong chance at returning to the Gold medal game for a repeat.