Instead of writing about the lockout, which seems to be the default for hockey journalists currently, I felt that I should write about the World Juniors, the most exciting annual IIHF event. So instead of versing in the prose of doom and gloom, I present to you my podium predictions for the 2012-2013 World Junior Championship, which will be held in Ufa, Russia.
The easy pick, Canada once again goes into the tournament as a favourite despite a string of three consecutive gold-less years. The issue in the past has been goaltending, and it appears that will be fixed this year. Malcolm Subban has the capacity to play as well as any other goalie in this tournament. With returnees Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Huberdeau and Boone Jenner, along with the possible additions of top 2013 draft prospects Nathan Mckinnon and Jonathan Drouin and established NHL star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The D corps will likely feature Dougie Hamilton and Griffin Reinhart, among others. Subban doesn't have to win any games for an incredibly deep Canadian squad. He just has to not lose them.
The Americans are coming off a disappointing showing in last year's tournament and will be looking to return to the podium. For me, the Americans make it to the gold medal game because of their depth. Their top-6 will have plenty of scoring talent with Alex Galchenyuk and JT Miller and their bottom-6 will be impossible to play against. Former first round picks Tyler Biggs, Henrik Samuelsson and Stefan Matteau will all provide sandpaper. Their impressive D is headlined by Winnipeg Jets prospect Jacob Trouba and top 2013 draft prospect Seth Jones. In net, they have what is likely the best starter in the tournament, Jon Gibson. I anticipate the gold medal game between these two teams will come down to the wire.
Despite Russia's firepower, I see defending champion Sweden beating them out in the bronze-medal game. Sweden's squad will feature returning golden boy Mika Zibanejad and 2012 draft picks Filip Forsberg, Sebastian Collberg and Pontus Aberg. Their D will be led by Anaheim Ducks prospect Hampus Lindholm with Oscar Klefbom and Jonas Brodin likely to miss the tournament with injuries. Their goaltending is once again strong with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Oscar Dansk between the pipes. I expect Sweden's steady style to outlast the Russian offence in the bronze medal game.
Thanks for Reading!