Maybe the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) should have located this year's U-20 World Junior Championship (WJC)in Glendale instead of Helsinki. This year's tournament has Grand Canyon State paw prints all over it. From the consensus best player in the upcoming 2016 NHL Entry Draft, to the son of a former Coyote captain, it's not just Arizona Coyotes prospects either. However, there are plenty of said prospects as well. As a matter of fact, there are seven Desert Pups on WJC rosters and the Coyotes are tied for the most of any NHL club with the Philadelphia Flyers.
By now everyone who follows hockey knows Auston Matthews' name. The 18 year old from Scottsdale has even been written up in the New York Times and Boston Globe. While Matthews may be the headliner for Team USA (and the entire tournament), he's not the only player wearing red, white, and blue with ties to Arizona. Matthew Tkachuk, son of former Coyote star Keith Tkachuk, is also expected to be featured prominently for the Americans.
Joining Matthews and Tkachuk on Team USA are two Coyotes prospects. First is Tkachuk's London Knights teammate Christian Dvorak. Dvorak was a second round pick in 2014 and is starting to look like the steal of said draft. He's currently leading the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in scoring with 65 points in just 27 games played. The other Coyotes prospect for the USA is like Tkachuk, the son of a former NHL player. Ryan MacInnis, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Al MacInnis. Unlike his father, Ryan doesn't patrol the blueline. He's a forward and was actually picked by Arizona 15 spots before Dvorak in last year's draft.
The first team the Americans will face in the championship is Team Canada which includes the Coyotes' first round picks from the last two entry drafts, forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. Strome was the third overall pick in 2015 while Perlini was the 12th player taken in 2014.
The second roster the Yanks will face includes three Coyotes prospects. Team Sweden's players include Arizona goalie prospect Erik Kallgren and the club's recent 3rd round right wing prospects, Jens Looke (2015) and Anton Karlsson (2014).
The WJC tournament runs today through January 5. Team USA's road to gold begins at 11am MST against the boys from the North. This year's tournament looks to be wide open with up to six squads, including the US, having the talent to potentially go home with gold medals. The NHL Network is once again televising the tournament in the US. Check the network's schedule for dates/times of all the game action.