December 26, 2018 8:45 pm
Updated: December 27, 2018 2:35 am

IIHF World Juniors 2018-19: Players to watch, Team Canada schedule and everything else you need to know

WATCH: Hockey fans are getting excited for a Boxing Day tradition. The IIHF world juniors kick off Wednesday, and this year Vancouver and Victoria are playing host. Sarah MacDonald has the latest.

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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.

What time does Team Canada play at the World Juniors?

Canada will play four preliminary-round games.

Dec. 26: Canada vs. Denmark – 8 p.m. ET

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Dec. 27: Canada vs. Switzerland – 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 29: Canada vs. Czech Republic – 8 p.m. ET
Dec. 31: Canada vs. Russia – 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.

READ MORE: Vernon’s Anne Cherkowski headed to 2019 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Japan

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.

What channel are the World Juniors on?

Games will be broadcast on TSN.

Who are the favourites to win the World Juniors?

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.

READ MORE: World Junior Hockey Championships returning to Alberta in 2021

WATCH: Anne Cherkowski going for gold with U18 National Team

Players to watch

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.

Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere (11) hoists the Hlinka Gretzky Cup following the Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold medal game against Sweden, in Edmonton on Saturday, August 11, 2018. Serge Beausoleil might be the head coach of the Rimouski Oceanic, but even he can feel like the student when forward Alexis Lafreniere hits the ice.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

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.

Team USA Jack Quinn, left, along with his brother Quinn Hughes,24 , take part in the during pre-game skate at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C. on Tuesday July 31, 2018. World Junior Showcase is an eight-day event featuring Canada, Finland, Sweden, and the United States, who will play 11 games.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

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.

Team Canada’s Ty Smith fights for control of the puck with Team Finland’s Kaapo Kakko during third period IIHF exhibition hockey action at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. Hayward

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan

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.

Czech Republic’s Martin Necas (18) and Switzerland’s Matthew Verboon (15) collide during first period World Junior Hockey Championship action in Vancouver on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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.

Russia’s Klim Kostin celebrates his goal during first period IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary hockey action against Sweden, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, December 31, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

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.

Sweden’s Erik Brannstrom (L) is chased by Russia’s Ilya Mikheyev during the Sweden Hockey Games tournament match between Sweden and Russia at Hovet Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, 28 April 2018.

EPA/HENRIK MONTGOMERY SWEDEN OUT

— With files from The Canadian Press

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