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Gold for U.S., Canada among 2016 WJC predictions

NHL.com @NHL

Parity never has been greater at the World Junior Championship.

The past five tournaments have been won by five teams; in the previous 18 years only five teams won gold.

To further exemplify the level of unpredictability, NHL.com writers Adam Kimelman and Mike G. Morreale were asked to make predictions in 10 categories, and they had two similar answers.

Each writer believes 2015 WJC champion Canada will win a medal, but they differ on the color; Kimelman predicts a second consecutive gold medal, while Morreale believes they'll take silver.

Canada returns four players from the team that celebrated on the ice at Air Canada Centre in Toronto at the 2015 tournament. But for the 2016 WJC they're bringing three goalies because potential No. 1 goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood will have to sit out the first two games because of a suspension.

The United States, which Morreale picked to win gold after a fifth-place finish last year, could have the tournament's best player in center Auston Matthews. The potential top pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews has experience from playing in the 2015 WJC in addition to playing this season against men on bigger ice with Zurich in Switzerland.

In a deep field of 2016 draft prospects that will play in the tournament, each writer believes Matthews will be the standout star.

The U.S. won the last time the tournament was in Finland, in 2004.

Finland won gold as host in 1998, and they'll have a chance to repeat that feat led by two top 2016 draft prospects, forwards Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine. Kimelman predicts the host nation will win the silver medal this year.

Among other expected standouts are forwards Jake Virtanen (Vancouver Canucks) of Canada and William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs) of Sweden, defensemen Travis Sanheim (Philadelphia Flyers) of Canada and Zachary Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets) of the United States, and Russia goaltender Ilya Samsonov (Washington Capitals).

KIMELMAN MORREALE
Pool A winner: Canada Pool A winner: Sweden
Pool B winner: Finland Pool B winner: Russia
Bronze Medalist: Russia Bronze Medalist Sweden
Silver Medalist: Finland Silver Medalist: Canada
Gold Medalist: Canada Gold Medalist: United States
Surprise Star: David Kase, F, Czech Republic Surprise Star: Pius Suter, C, Switzerland
Best Goalie: Ilya Samsonov, Russia Best Goalie: Ilya Samsonov, Russia
Best Defenseman: Travis Sanheim, Canada Best Defenseman: Zachary Werenski, United States
Best Forward: Jake Virtanen, Canada Best Forward: William Nylander, Sweden
Top 2016 NHL Draft eligible player: Auston Matthews, United States Top 2016 NHL Draft eligible player: Auston Matthews, United States

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