The 2014 World Junior Championship gets underway in Malmo, Sweden on Thursday. The tournament features some of the top under-20 players in the world from ten countries.
“It’s one of the best tournaments in the world,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “It’s the best players in the world under the age of 20 playing against each other. It’s high level competition. It’s high pressure. Every game is important. So it’s a great tournament for evaluating players.”
Two Dallas Stars prospects are expected to play in the tournament. Center Radek Faksa, Dallas’ first round pick (13th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, will represent the Czech Republic for the third time at the World Juniors. The 19-year-old has four points (two goals, two assists) in 12 games in the past two tournaments.
The 6-3, 213 pound two-way center, who is expected to be a key player for the Czechs, leads the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League in scoring this season with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) in 29 games.
Defenseman Esa Lindell, the Stars’ third round pick (74th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, will play for Finland. Lindell, a good puck-moving defenseman, will be playing at his first World Juniors. He was among the last players cut from Finland’s roster for last year’s tournament.
The 19-year-old Lindell has played in the top two levels of Finnish hockey this season, but seems to have settled in with Jokerit of the top league, where he has one goal, a plus-three rating and is averaging 16:07 of ice time in 24 games.
“This is a good opportunity for these guys,” said Nill.
Stars defense prospect Ludwig Bystrom, a second round pick (43rd overall) in 2012, was on Sweden’s preliminary roster for the tournament, but was among the final players cut this week.
2014 draft watch
There will be several top prospects who are eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft playing in the tournament. Among them are F Sam Reinhart (Canada), D Aaron Ekblad (Canada), F Anton Karlsson (Sweden) and F Leon Draisaitl (Germany).There’s also highly touted Canadian forward Connor McDavid, who will be draft eligible in 2015.
The ten teams at the tournament are split into two five-team groups. After one round of round-robin play within each group, the top four teams in each group advance to the playoff round.
Team USA won the gold medal last year and is considered among the favorites this year. Canada, Russia and Sweden are among the favorites as well.
Group A: United States; Canada; Czech Republic; Slovakia; Germany
Group B: Sweden; Russia; Switzerland; Finland; Norway
The NHL Network in the United States will be providing coverage of some of the preliminary round games, including all of Team USA’s games. The network will cover all the playoff games, including the gold and bronze medal games. TSN is providing coverage in Canada.
NHL.com is streaming all Team USA games as well.
Thursday’s schedule (Times are Central)
Germany vs. Canada, 6:30 a.m. (NHL Network-US)
Norway vs. Russia, 8 a.m.
Czech Republic vs. United States, 10:30 a.m. (NHL Network-US)
Switzerland vs. Sweden, Noon
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.