Above the 49th parallel starting on December 26, there will be a assemblage of prodigious skill at the 2015 World Junior Championship (WJC) that hockey fans will not want to miss.
Team Canada & Team USA are expected to have their best squads in years. Almost all of the best male hockey players in the world under the age of 20 will be in Canada for the tournament. This includes draftees from the last two NHL Entry Drafts who have already played in the NHL like Curtis Lazar (Ottawa), Sam Reinhart (Buffalo), Darnell Nurse (Edmonton), Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers), and Mirco Mueller (San Jose). You basically get to watch a truck load of future NHL all-stars before they become household names.
Want to know what the big deal is about the assumed top pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Connor McDavid? Tune in and find out. If that's not enough, the player expected to be taken with the second pick, Boston University's Jack Eichel, will be captaining Team USA. Viewers will also get to catch a number of other players who will likely hear their names called early in the upcoming draft including defensemen Noah Hanifin and Ivan Provorov. If you are a fan of an NHL franchise that is having a poor season (*cough Coyotes fans cough*), this is chance to scout out players who may determine the future of your team's fortunes.
Sun Belt hockey aficionados, especially those from the Grand Canyon State, will get to see another potential draftee in action. This one, however, won't have his name called in Florida this coming June. Auston Matthews from Scottsdale, Arizona is currently seen as the potential number one pick in the 2016 draft. The 17 year old will be the youngest player on the Team USA roster. Fox Sports Arizona recently did a segment on the rising star from the Sonoran Desert.
For fans of the Arizona Coyotes there is even more incentive to take in the WJCs. Max Domi, the Coyotes 1st round pick in 2013, will be playing for Team Canada. While Domi didn't make the NHL roster this season as many had anticipated, he will likely be in a Sedona Red uniform within the next year or two, as he becomes eligible to play in the Coyotes' farm system. The young London Knight already has 58 points in 27 games in the OHL this season. Joining Domi at the tourney will be the Coyotes' 3rd round draft pick in 2014, forward Anton Karlsson of Sweden.
Besides all of the individual talent on display, another other reason to tune in is the over the top nationalism. The New Year's Eve game between Team Canada and Team USA has become a tradition in the vein of high school/college football rivalries. This is international hockey's version of the Iron Bowl. The Czech Republic vs. Russia game, also on Dec. 31, is likely to have a similar intensity. Who knows, a repeat of the 2010 gold medal celebration could happen this time around. Speaking of 2010, it was the last year the United States won the tourney. Canada's drought extends one year earlier. A North American country's drought is likely to end on January 5.
The NHL Network will be showing 23 games live in the United States. This includes Team USA & Team Canada's preliminary round games, as well as assorted other preliminary round games, and the entire medal round. Team USA's games will also be streamed live on NHL.com. In other words, there will be an abundance of puck to longingly gaze at over the holiday break.