The IIHF world junior hockey championship is a holiday tradition — in Canada, at least — that helps fill the sports void in the days after Christmas.
The 2019 World Juniors kicked off in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. on Boxing Day and will wrap up on January 5.
For casual junior hockey fans, here is a guide to the 2018-19 World Juniors.
Canada will play four preliminary-round games.
Dec. 26: Canada vs. Denmark – 8 p.m. ET
All of Canada’s preliminary-round games will be played at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
If they advance to the elimination round, Canada will play in one of four quarterfinals matches on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
The semifinals will take place on Friday, Jan. 4. The first semi will go at 4 p.m. ET and the other at 8 p.m. ET.
The 2019 World Juniors gold medal game will take place on Jan. 5 at 8 p.m. ET.
Games will be broadcast on TSN.
Oddsmakers have Canada as the favourites to win on home soil. According to PlayNow, Canada is favoured to repeat as gold medalists while the U.S. has the second-best odds. Finland, Sweden, Russia will be in the medal hunt, but are relative long-shots to win it all.
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Alexis Lafreniere (Canada) He will become the first 17-year-old to play for Canada at the tournament since Connor McDavid after being selected by head coach Tim Hunter because “he doesn’t play like a young player.” He’s already being talked about as a potential No. 1 pick for the 2020 NHL draft.
Quinn and Jack Hughes (USA)
The Hughes brothers are widely considered to be two of the best young prospects in hockey.
Quinn was drafted by seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks in this summer’s NHL draft.
Jack is an even more tantalizing prospect. The speedy, highly-skilled and high-scoring centre is an early favourite to be the first overall draft pick in June.
The brothers shared the ice at the world junior showcase in Kamloops, B.C., last summer, connecting on some highlight-reel worthy goals.
Kaapo Kakko (Finland) – The 17-year-old forward is also projected as a top pick for the upcoming NHL draft, with some scouts having him ranked No. 2 behind Jack Hughes. He’s playing this season in the top pro league in Finland and has shown he isn’t afraid to be physical in order to make plays happen.
Martin Necas (Czech Republic) The 19-year-old forward will be playing in his third world juniors tournament. Last year he tied for the tournament lead in scoring with 11 points in seven games, and has transitioned his game this year to North America. The 12th pick from the 2017 draft started with Carolina and is currently with its AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
Klim Kostin (Russia) The 19-year-old St. Louis Blues prospect produced five goals and eight points in five games at last year’s tournament, but went home disappointed. He’s averaged a point per game at every international level he’s played at.
Erik Brannstrom (Sweden) Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin was the talk of last year’s tournament. Fellow defenceman Brannstrom may not have Dahlin’s star power, but the 19-year-old has put together a strong first half of the season in the American Hockey League despite being one of the few teenagers eligible to play. The Vegas Golden Knights draft pick is a returnee and had four points in seven games at last year’s tournament.
— With files from The Canadian Press