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Welcome to World Juniors 2015
Caps prospect Jakub Vrana will be representing the Czech Republic. (M. Richter)
‘Tis the season for egg nog, winter tires, and – if you’re a hockey fan – the World Juniors. For those new to international hockey, the day after Christmas marks the official start of the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship tournament. This year the games are being held in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. The World Juniors gives elite players under the age of 20, selected from various leagues around the world, a chance to show off their skills internationally.
There is plenty at stake in the World Juniors, as rivalling national teams face each other in attempt to reach the finals and take home the gold medal. While the Canadians and Russians have made a name for themselves as tournament dominators, hockey development in other countries has been catching up in recent years making the games even more exciting to watch. The tournament also gives players, management, and fans a unique experience by bringing these top prospects into an intense, high-pressure spotlight to market their talents and prove their skill.
For the Washington Capitals, the tournament has been a fantastic resource for getting an early look at player development within their system. From the current roster, almost half of the team has played in the World Juniors, many more than once. While doing well in the tournament doesn’t necessarily determine whether a player will do well in the NHL, it’s a good indicator of their skill level and areas in need of improvement. Most recently, Andre Burakovsky took home silver with Team Sweden in 2014, while Dmitry Orlov won gold during his final year in 2011 with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who also medalled the following year, his final year of Junior eligibility.
This year, the Capitals have three prospects in the tournament: 2013 draftee Madison Bowey for Canada, and forward Jakub Vrana and goalie Vitek Vanecek for the Czech Republic (and both picks in last year’s draft). With only three players to follow, it gives ample space to keep an eye out for future considerations for the upcoming draft.
The first game starts at 1PM, with Russia playing Denmark at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, followed by the US playing Finland at the Bell Centre in Montreal at 3PM.