Madison Bowey and Team Canada will try to bring Wolrd Junior supremacy to Canada on home soil. (Photo: Hockey Canada)
On Friday, the 2015 World Juniors will be underway in Montreal and Toronto. Two groups of five teams will be battling for ten days to determine the strongest junior team on the planet. It’s arguably the most meaningful and most exciting annual international hockey tournament.
The Washington Capitals will not be well represented at the tournament unlike in years past. After the club decided to not release Andre Burakovsky in a controversial move, only three Caps prospects will be playing at the tournament: Canadian defenseman Madison Bowey and two Czech nationals, forward Jakub Vrana and goalie Vitek Vanecek.
Bowey has been dominant with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, but his play on bigger stage has often left me wanting more, whether in the NHL pre-season or Subway SuperSeries. With the World Juniors hosted in his home country, this is a huge opportunity to take another step and establish himself as one of the best defensemen not currently in the NHL. That’s especially important considering Canada is heading into the tournament without its best eligible defenseman, Aaron Ekblad.
Game to watch: Canada vs. USA, December 31, 4PM ET, NHL Network. One of the greatest things in hockey is a showdown between the two hockey megapowers of today. At any level, the battle of North America is basically an All-Star Game where the result matters.
The Czech winger has taken a big step in his development this year regularly playing in one of the best pro leagues in the world, SHL. Vrana, along with the Bruins’ David Pastrnak and 2015 projected first-rounder Pavel Zacha, will be relied upon to lead the Czech offense after a solid U-18 tournament last spring. However, the Czech core is on the younger side, including mostly 17- and 18-year-old players. They may have to wait another year before a big push for a medal. But if you want to root for a cinderella story similar to the one delivered by Finland a year ago, the Czechs are your best bet.
Another part of the up-and-coming Czech bunch, Vanecek has struggled early in the season, as he lost his spot on the second-tier Czech club HC Bentaky nad Jizerou and getting sent to the junior squad of his main team, Bili Tygri Liberec. That didn’t last long though. He’s now ninth in save percentage among the goalies in the second-tier Czech league and will likely share time in net with older Miroslav Svoboda who is not nearly as highly-touted as Vanecek. It’s pretty safe to say it’s Vanecek’s job to lose.
Game to watch: Czech Rep. vs. Sweden, December 26, 4PM ET, not televised live in the US. On the first day of the tournament, the Czechs get a chance to make a statement against one of the tournament’s favourites. One of Sweden, Czech Republic and Russia will have to play either Canada or USA and a winning team in this game all but guarantees that it won’t be them getting a tough quarterfinal match-up.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.