WJC 2015 rolls in for holiday treat


Merry Christmas to everyone who is celebrating. As a Jewish person, I’ll get into the Christmas spirit when tomorrow’s World Junior Hockey tournament rolls in. Fittingly, the U20 WJC is taking place in Montreal and Toronto. Perfect considering all the hype surrounding Connor McDavid. He’s back healthy for Canada which gives us more reason to watch.

With USA boasting Jack Eichel, American hockey fans have plenty to get excited about. McDavid and Eichel highlight a tournament featuring top prospects. Whether it be 2015 Draft eligible or recent draft picks, there’s a reason to follow #WJC2015. It’s simply awesome. Especially if your team is in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes.

Resident Sabre blogger Brian Sanborn certainly will have interest. Though he is kind of bummed out about the Islander revival since Buffalo also has their first round pick. The Sabres will be well represented by 2014 number one pick Sam Reinhart (CAN), J.T. Compher (USA), Hudson Fasching (USA) and Victor Olafsson (SWE). Compher and Fasching return for the Americans. After registering an assist in nine games for Buffalo, Reinhart was returned to Kootenay (WHL) and has eight goals and 19 assists in 15 contests.

Unfortunately, the Devils don’t have many prospects for Hasan to track. Due to a wrist injury that’s kept him out most of his sophomore year with Boston College, 2013 second round pick Steven Santini won’t play for USA. He was cut yesterday. The 19-year old defenseman was an asset on last year’s team. Hopefully, he’ll return soon for BC in the next calendar year. The Devils are represented by 2013 fourth rounder Miles Wood (USA). The son of former NHLer Randy Wood, Miles can be followed on Twitter. He committed to Boston College in 2015-16.

For the Rangers, all eyes will be glued on 2013 third round gem Anthony Duclair (CAN). If the pre-tournament is any indication, he could be primed for a big tournament. Russia also features Pavel Buchnevich. The 75th overall selection is looking like a steal. In the KHL, he’s put up 10 goals and 11 assists in 32 games for Cherepovets Severstal. 2014 second round pick Brandon Halverson (USA) is one of three goalies on the American roster. He’ll likely back up projected starter Thatcher Demko. Interestingly, the Blueshirts have two goalies in the tourney with fourth rounder Igor Shestkerin part of Russia. Oddly, his name is spelled differently on the IIHF site. They have it as Shestyorkin. He won his only game for St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL making 19 saves in 46 minutes.

If you’re an Islander fan, there’s Russian netminder Ilya Sorokin. A player the club tabbed 78th overall in the third round this past summer. He’s 4-11-1 with a 3.25 goals-against-average, .906 save percentage and a shutout for Novokuznetsk Metallurg (KHL). 2014 fourth round pick Linus Soderstrom is one of three goalies on Sweden. In 4 games for Sodertalje SK of the Swedish-1 league, he’s 1-3-0 with a 2.48 GAA and .909 save percentage.

There’s something for everyone. USA boasts a strong roster featuring Eichel along with returnees Compher, Fasching, Demko, Ian McCoshen and Will Butcher. They are carrying four 2015 draft eligible including Eichel, defensemen Noah Hanifin, Zach Werenski and Brandon Carlo. Forward Austin Matthews is the only 2016 draft eligible. Keep an eye on Jersey native Anthony DeAngelo. An offensive defenseman selected by the Lightning 19th overall, he should put up points. Dylan Larkin, Tyler Motte and Massapequa native Sonny Milano all are players to keep track of.

Defending champ Finland boasts Kasperi Kapanen and Artturi Lehkonen. Canada is loaded with McDavid, Reinhart, Duclair, Max Domi, Sens’ rookie Curtis Lazar, Nic Petan, Darnell Nurse, Samuel Morin and Zachary Fucale. Leafs’ first round pick William Nylander headlines Sweden along with Lucas Wallmark, Robert Hagg and Olafsson. Russia is led by Buchnevich, undrafted 19-year old Sergey Tolchinsky, Vladislav Kamenev and 2015 draft eligible defenseman Nikita Cherepanov.

Coverage for #WJC2015 will be on NHL Network. The first game is 3 PM with USA taking on defending champ Finland. Canada faces off at 7 PM against Slovakia. Russia faces Denmark and Sweden takes on Czech Republic.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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