From streaks to seats: What to watch for at the world junior hockey championship

Some of the world’s best young hockey talents go head-to-head in Victoria and Vancouver next week

Team USA’s 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. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett)

Some of the world’s best young hockey talents will go head-to-head in Victoria and Vancouver next week.

The 2019 world junior hockey championship kicks off on Tuesday, featuring dozens of athletes likely to carve out careers in the NHL.

Here are five storylines you’ll want to watch at this year’s tournament:

THE BROTHERS HUGHES

Hockey fans will get a peek at the teen who’s expected to go No. 1 at next year’s NHL draft — and he’ll be playing with his older brother.

Both Quinn and Jack Hughes will be key pieces for the U.S. team.

Seventeen-year-old Jack has already earned a reputation as a speedy, highly-skilled and high-scoring centre. Currently playing with the U.S. development team, he’s an early favourite to be the first overall draft pick in June.

Nineteen-year-old Quinn was taken seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks last year.

He’ll be one of three returning defencemen for the U.S. junior team, and has spent this season as a sophomore at the University of Michigan. Quinn already has three goals and 17 assists for the Wolverines this year, closing in on the 29 points he tallied in his rookie campaign.

The Hughes brothers shared the ice at the world junior showcase in Kamloops, B.C., last summer, connecting on some highlight-reel worthy goals.

U.S. junior team coach Mike Hastings said at the time that the pair have obvious chemistry, talent and passion for the game.

READ MORE: 6 more cuts made to Canada’s prospective world junior team, more await

SWEDEN’S STREAK

It’s been a long time since last year’s silver medallists lost a match up in the group stage — 11 tournaments (or 44 games) to be precise.

Though Sweden has dominated in round-robin play, they have captured just one gold medal in the same stretch, taking the championship title in 2012.

Keeping the streak alive may be difficult this year. The Swedes are in a group with the United States, Finland, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

They’ll also be without 18-year-old defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, who is busy tearing up the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.

Timothy Liljegren of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies won’t be in the lineup after he suffered a high-ankle sprain earlier this month.

But the Swedes will still get some solid defensive play from Liljegren’s Marlies teammate Rasmus Sandin, and Adam Boqvist, who’s with the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.

CANUCKS IN THE CREASE

Mike DiPietro used the disappointment of being cut from last year’s junior squad as fuel as he evolved into one of the best netminders in the Canadian Hockey League.

After selection camp, he set an alarm on his phone that would periodically blast a stark message on to the screen: “Got cut from world juniors.” The message motivated the Vancouver Canucks prospect to push a little harder when he returned to the Windsor Spitfires.

It worked. DiPietro’s performance in net earned him goaltender of the year honours from the Ontario Hockey League last season.

His success has continued this year, first with the Spitfires and now the Ottawa 67s. He’s posted a 12-8-0 record with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

Now the 19-year-old Amherstburg, Ont., native will be one of Canada’s two goalies in this year’s tournament.

The other is Calgary’s Ian Scott, who has been a brick wall for the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. He boasts a 23-2-0 record this season with a 1.61 goals-against average and a stunning .943 save percentage.

Earlier this month, the 19-year-old signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

KAZAKHSTAN’S BACK

Yes, Kazakhstan has a junior hockey team.

While the athletes making up the squad aren’t necessarily household names, many play in the Kontinental Hockey League’s feeder league, known as the MHL.

Hockey fans may be surprised to see the Central Asian country listed among the tournament contenders, but this isn’t the first year the Kazakhstanis have participated. They were last in the tournament in 2009.

And they have played giant-killer before, upsetting Canada 6-3 in the 1998 world junior championship in Finland.

While Canada is a perennial world juniors powerhouse, some other countries come and go, depending on their performance the year before.

After round-robin play, the two last-placed teams play a best-of-three relegation series where the winner retains their spot in the tournament. The loser is sent down to play in Division I Group A.

Germany won the lower tournament earlier this month, earning a spot in 2020’s main event.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Seasonal road bans for the County of Stettler declared for Monday

Road bans go into effect Monday, March 25 at 1 p.m.

Supporters rally for Jason Kenney as UCP leader stops in Red Deer

Kenney promises equalization reform, stopping ‘Trudeau-Notley’ payroll hike, trade, economic mobility

Stettler’s Christ King Church a spectacular structure

Great submission to history book committee on Stettler’s Catholic church

Don’t leave ice huts on lake: County of Stettler

Anglers reminded to remove ice huts from lakes prior to April 1

What are you fertilizer requirements for spring?

Soil tests are still best way to determine levels at beginning of season

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Judges on Twitter? Ethical guidance for those on the bench under review

Canadian judges involvement in community life are among issues under review

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Most Read