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2021 World Junior Championship Outlook, Plus Team Canada News

Will North American teams be at a disadvantage at the 2021 World Junior Championship?

Candidly, it is hard to believe that the World Junior Championship (WJC) will be over in less than two months. In late October, Hockey Canada invited 46 players to compete for a spot on this years WJC roster. Those 46 players, including six returnees, will participate in a selection camp being held in Red Deer starting November 16th.

Related: Calgary Flames Jakob Pelletier Chosen for 2021 World Junior Tryout Camp

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, several top junior players are currently competing at the Karjala Cup – an annual Men’s event that pits the national teams of Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden against each other in a series of tournaments.

Russian Juniors in Karjala

Earlier today, the Russian team rode 18-year-old goaltender Yaroslav Askarov to a 2-1 shootout victory. Of course, Askarov was the first goaltender selected in the most recent NHL Draft. The Nashville Predators selected the highly touted goalie with the 11th overall selection. The Russian team also includes several other 2020 NHL draft selections including:

  • 15th overall selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs – Rodion Amirov, LW, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL) – Amirov tied the game late to force OT/shooutout
  • 20th overall selection by the New Jersey Devils – Shakir Mukhamadullin, D, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)
  • 21st overall selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets – Yegor Chinakhov, RW, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
  • 37th overall pick by the Minnesota Wild – Marat Khusnutdinov, C, St. Petersburg (KHL)
  • 85th overall selection by the Tampa Bay Lightning – Maxim Groshev, RW, Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
  • 106th overall selection by Toronto Maple Leafs – Artur Akhtyamov, G, Irbis Kazan (Russia Jr)

One would assume that most of these players will compete for spots on the Russian junior team that will be in Edmonton for the World Championship this Christmas.

I can’t help but wonder what affect, if any, this might have on the world junior tournament. More specifically, will the international junior teams outside North America have any kind of advantage in Edmonton?

My guess – maybe, but likely not. In fact, a long break for some of these elite level athletes might have been beneficial. After all, these are still kids so a break from the grind and spotlight might be just what the doctor ordered in some cases.

Team Canada at the World Juniors

Further, the Canadian junior team will also have six warm up matches against a Canadian University all star team. As noted previously, the Canadian’s will also have six solid returnees from last years squad including three 2020 NHL 1st round selections – Quinton Byfield (Sudbury, OHL/2nd overall, LA Kings), Jamie Drysdale (Erie, OHL/6th overall, Anaheim Ducks), and Dawson Mercer (Chicoutimi, QMJHL/18th overall, New Jersey Devils).

The other three returnees were all 2019 NHL 1st round selections: Bowen Byram (Vancouver, WHL/4th overall, Colorado Avalanche), Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge, WHL/7th overall, Buffalo Sabres), Connor McMichael (London, OHL/25th overall, Washington Capitals).

Finally, the 3rd overall selection from the 2019 NHL draft, Kirby Dach, has been loaned to Team Canada after spending the 2019/20 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Despite being limited in terms of game action over the last several months, not all is bad for the Canadian National Junior Team. In fact, the eventual team should be in a good position to repeat as World Junior Champions.

NEXT: Would the OHL Really Return With No Body Contact?

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