The 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship schedule has been released.
The tournament will be starting on Christmas Day as opposed to Boxing Day for the first time since 2005. The United States vs. Russia headlines the tournament’s opening day games.
This year’s tournament will be held without fans and played in a “bubble” style tournament in Edmonton, Alberta, due to the novel coronavirus.
Along with the schedule, the groups for the preliminary round have also been released.
Canada Looking to Go Back-to-Back
The defending champions Canada has, on paper, one of their easier groups in recent history. Group A features Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Germany.
Canada has a slew of players eligible to return for this year’s tournament.
Among those names include NHL‘s 2020 No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens, Connor McMichael, among others.
Canada will likely face its toughest competition in group play in Finland on New Year’s Eve.
Canada will likely enter the tournament as the favourites to win the gold.
Sweden Looking to Exercise Knockout Stage Demons
While Canada is looking to go back-to-back at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship, Sweden is in a completely different predicament. Sweden is looking to win a gold medal for the first time since 2006.
Since 2006, Sweden hasn’t lost a single game in the preliminary round, going 52-0 in that time frame. Despite that absurd record, Sweden only has one gold medal to show for it.
This year, the Swedes will likely be focused less on their undefeated streak and more on winning the gold.
Russia Looking to Win First Gold Since 2011
If you’re an avid watcher of the World Junior Hockey Championship year after year, you might be surprised when I tell you that Russia hasn’t won a gold medal in almost a decade.
Despite always putting up a good fight in group play, Russia seems to struggle in the knockout round.
This year, they’ll be looking to end their dry spell and bring home the gold for the first time since 2011.