Christmas brings in World Junior Championship

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! To Hasan, Pan and the lurking Brian, wishing you and your families all the best on this unusually mild Christmas in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

It is hard to fathom 60 to 70 degree temps in late December. At least for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, it was a bit cooler. Given some of the recent winters we’ve had, we’ll take it. Even if I prefer it to be colder with even a little light snow for a white Christmas. 🙂

All the same, whatever holiday you celebrate appreciate what you have. It’s about family, loved ones and friends. Enjoy this special time filled with sunshine and rhythm and rhyme.

For us puckers, it’s especially nice to have a couple of days off from the daily stresses our teams cause. With the holiday season here, my favorite tournament starts up tomorrow in Helsinki, Finland. Of course, I’m referring to the Under-20 World Junior Hockey Championship. I’ll be quite busy over the next week with work but will try to have some posts up on the premier junior hockey tournament featuring the best 17, 18 and 19-year old prospects.

This year is no different. Headlined by projected top overall pick American Auston Matthews, he’ll try to lead Team USA back to a medal. Joined by Sonny Milano, Zach Werenski, Christian Dvorak and Colin White, Team USA gets going tomorrow with a big challenge against defending champ Canada. Canada features Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, Lawson Krouse, Jake Virtanen and Haydn Fleury.

If you’re a Ranger fan, you’ll be tracking American goalie prospect Brandon Halverson. He’s the likely starter for Team USA. If you root for the Devils, then you’ll be following Canadian prospects John Queenville and Mackenzie Blackwood on Team Canada. Queenville is among a talented forward crop while Blackwood is one of three goalies on the roster. Sabres fans can follow defenseman Will Borgen. The 19-year old Buffalo 2015 fourth round pick is part of Team USA.

It’s hard to believe there won’t be the traditional New Year’s Eve game. But the tournament isn’t in North America. So, it looks like I’ll miss it live and catch the replay over John’s in South River, New Jersey joined by Brian who is home for Christmas.

Team USA and Canada are joined by Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark in Group A. As always, each game can be seen on NHL Network. Group B features Belarus, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Slovakia. When I get back later, I’ll try to put up more on Sweden and Russia.


About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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