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WORLD JUNIORS: Tournament Primer

Get ready for the 2020 World Junior Championship with our tournament primer

by Amanda Stein amandacstein / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Day after Christmas marks a very important day on the international hockey schedule: the beginning of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. 

The 2020 World Juniors is taking place in the Czech Republic this year, with two host cities of Ostrava and Trinec and runs through January 5th when the gold medal game is played. Finland enters the tournament as the defending champion, after their 2019 victory over the United States. 

Here is a little bit more about the Devils prospects that will be competing in this year's tournament: 

TEAM CANADA:

Ty Smith (D): 

Smith is one of five returning players for Canada and one of two defensemen who have returned for the 2020 championship. Smith, through pre-tournament play, has played on Canada's top defensive pairing with Jared McIssac, the Detroit Red Wings 2nd round selection in 2018. 

Smith has also been quarterbacking the Canadian second power-play unit and is expected to log major minutes alongside McIssac. As a 19-year-old this will be the final time in Smith's career that he will be eligible to compete at the World Juniors, a tournament that is revered among Canadian hockey fans and players.

"The World Juniors is extra special," Smith told CTV Edmonton. "That's the tournament everyone watches and the tournament you watch growing up."

Smith was named one of Canada's three alternate captains, a role he should have no problem settling in to. Smith has worn a letter for Team Canada appearances before, captaining Canada at the under-18 and under-17 level and the Youth Olympic Games under-16 tournament.

He also wears the 'C' for his WHL Spokane Chiefs team, where he is playing at a near point-per-game pace. 

Kevin Bahl (D):

The newest New Jersey Devils prospect found out he was traded to the Devils while taking part in Team Canada's pre-tournament camp in Vienna. Now, he'll patrol the Canadian blueline alongside the other Devils prospect, Smith. This will be a first appearance at the World Juniors for Bahl, who stands 6-foot-6 and 229 pounds. 

Despite his hulking size, Bahl moves well on his skates and will be counted on for big shutdown minutes for Canada, playing in a top-four role on the Canadian defense. 

Smith has been impressed with the way Bahl has been playing, telling TSN's Mark Masters:

"He's obviously a pretty big rig, but he can move very well for a big guy, handles the puck well, makes plays. He's turning into a bit of a two-way guy as opposed to a defensive guy. He can move very well so it's impressive." 

Bahl boasts five goals and 15 assists for 20 points through his first 28 games this season with the OHL's Ottawa 67s, and is on pace to out-do his 34-point total in 68 games last season. In his past 96 games for Ottawa Bahl is a plus-7. 

Canada opens their tournament with a rivalry matchup against the United States at 1pm on December 26th

SWITZERLAND:

Akira Schmid (G):

Akira Schmid is one of three goaltenders on the Swiss national team roster. The 19-year-old, currently playing for the USHL's Omaha Lancers, is part of a Swiss team that is looking to build upon a budding Swiss roster. 

"The goal is the quarter-final qualification," Swiss head coach Thierry Paterlini said. "It will be a big and hard piece of work. I am sure that the team will tackle and master this challenge with a lot of passion and conviction."

Schmid started this hockey season with an injury but is now healthy and ready to compete for Switzerland. He has played in six games for Omaha this season with two wins and two losses on his record and a .889 save percentage. 

On the international stage, he's been in the competition before for Switzerland, suiting up in three games at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he posted a 1.96 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He also played in two games at the 2017-18 World Jr. A Challenge. 

Schmid will compete for the Swiss net with Stéphane Charlin of Genève Servette HC and Luca Hollenstein who plays for EV Zug.

Switzerland starts the tournament against Kazakhstan on December 26th.

SWEDEN

Nikola Pasic (C/LW)

Forward Nikola Pasic was drafted by the Devils in 2019 and has been playing for Bik Karlskoga in Allsvenskan, Sweden's second-highest league just under the SHL. In 28 games with his club team, Pasic has seven goals and 17 assists.

On an international stage, Pasic has represented Sweden at the IHF U18 World Championship, in 2018 where Sweden took home the bronze medal. Several of his bronze-medal winning teammates will be competing alongside him at this year's World Juniors. 

Pasic, through pre-tournament play, has skated on Sweden's second line with Dallas Stars drafted Oskar Bäck and 2018 Red Wings pick Jonatan Berggren. Pasic has also been practicing on Sweden's second power-play unit and is one of seven NHL drafted forwards on Sweden's roster. 

RUSSIA:

Daniil Misyul (D)

Devils defensive prospect Misyul has been skating on Russia's top four, often paired with Philadelphia Flyers prospect Yegor Zamula. 

Misyul has been playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL this season, skating in 28 games and posting two goals. 

The 19-year-old will make his first appearance at the World Juniors, but has previously represented Russia at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge where he took home a bronze medal in 2017, the World Jr. A Challenge, and the IIHF World U18 Championship.

Russia opens the tournament on December 26th against the host nation, Czech Republic at 9 AM ET.

CZECH REPUBLIC:

Patrik Elias

Yes, a bit old to represent the Czech Republic on the ice, so Devils great Elias will be behind the bench for the host team at the 2020 tournament. Elias will work as an assistant coach for the Czech Republic alongside head coach Václav Varaďa and fellow assistant coach Aleš Krátoška.

TEAMS

Group A: Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Slovakia, Kazakhstan

Group B: USA, Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany

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