2019 IIHF World Junior Championship: Schedule, teams, tables, TV channels, players to watch

One of the most exciting hockey events of the year is set to kick off on Wednesday with the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship getting underway in Vancouver and Victoria, Canada. The annual tournament features fun, fast-paced play and gives hockey fans a look at some of the elite young prospects who will be making their way to the NHL soon. 

It might be the most fun event on the hockey calendar behind the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so if you're in need of a primer for this year's tournament, we've got you covered.

What is the World Junior Championship?

The WJC, or more simply the World Juniors, is an annual international ice hockey tournament that features some of the best under-20 players in the world. A large number of NHL prospects participate in the event every year, both in the form of players who have already been drafted and players who are expected to be drafted this summer. The main tournament features the top-ten ranked hockey nations in the world, but there are also several lower divisions that play separate WJC tournaments for the purpose of promotion/relegation.

How does the format work?

The event typically runs from the day after Christmas until early January, with a round-robin preliminary round preceding an elimination three-round playoff. The 10-team field is split evenly into two groups (Group A and Group B), with every team playing one prelim game against each of the four other teams in their group. The preliminary round uses a 3-2-1-0 point structure (3 points for a win, 2 points for an OT win, 1 point for an OT loss, 0 points for a regulation loss). 

At the conclusion of the preliminary round, the top four teams from each group will move on to the playoff round, while the last place teams from each group will face off in a best-of-three series to determine who gets relegated for next year's tournament.  

Which countries are competing this year?

Here is this year's group layout:

Group A

  • Canada 
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Russia
  • Switzerland

Group B

  • United States
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Slovakia
  • Kazakhstan

Who is the reigning champ?

Canada won last year's tournament and did so in pretty dominant fashion, only losing once all tournament -- a preliminary round overtime loss to the United States. It was Canada's 17th gold medal in tournament history -- the most of any country. (Russia has the second-most with 13.) 

Who are the players to watch this year? 

There are a number of players worth keeping an eye on as we head into this year's tournament, but the most notable player to watch will be 17-year-old United States forward Jack Hughes, who is the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Hughes will also be playing alongside his older brother, Quinn Hughes -- a promising 19-year-old defenseman who was taken No. 7 overall by the Vancouver Canucks last year.

Filip Zadina, 19, of the Czech Republic had a great tournament last year, scoring seven times. The forward was taken No. 6 overall by the Red Wings in last year's draft and he'll be looking to impress with his shooting ability once again this year. Finnish forward Eeli Tolvanen, 19, is well-traveled at this point -- he's already had an NHL stint, two prior WJC runs and was a standout in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Nashville Predators forward prospect has show-stopping offensive skill.

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere is only 17 years old, but the winger is already being looked at as the potential first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Canadian defenseman Evan Bouchard, 19, is a promising two-way blue liner that has excellent puck skills. He was taken 10th overall by the Oilers last summer and should be a strong leader on Canada's squad this year. 

Klim Kostin, 19of Russia is a big forward presence and had a standout performance in last year's tournament. The St. Louis Blues prospect should have even more of an opportunity to be a difference-maker as one of Russia's elder players this year. Swedish defenseman Erik Brannstrom, 19, is a smooth, exciting, puck-moving playmaker and the Golden Knights' first-round pick should be an integral part of Sweden's attack.

Table

Group A

TeamGPWOTWOTLLPGoal diff.

Russia

4

4

0

0

0

12

+9

Canada

4

3

0

0

1

9

+18

Czech Republic

4

1

1

0

2

5

0

Switzerland

4

1

0

1

2

4

-1

Denmark

4

0

0

0

4

0

-26

Group B

TeamGPWOTWOTLLPGoal diff.

Sweden

4

3

1

0

0

11

+8

USA

4

3

0

1

0

10

+9

Finland

4

2

0

0

2

6

+5

Slovakia

4

1

0

0

3

3

+1

Kazakhstan

4

0

0

0

4

0

-23

How do I watch?

Here is the full schedule for the tournament, along with the North American TV broadcast options in parentheses.

Wednesday, Dec. 26

Czech Republic 2, Switzerland 1 (OT)
United States 2, Slovakia 1
Canada 14, Denmark 0
Sweden 2, Finland 1

Thursday, Dec. 27

Russia 4, Denmark 0
Sweden 5, Slovakia 2
Canada 3, Switzerland 2
Finland 5, Kazakhstan 0

Friday, Dec. 28

Russia 2, Czech Republic 1
United States 8, Kazakhstan 2

Saturday, Dec. 29

Switzerland 4, Denmark 0
Finland 5, Slovakia 1
Canada 5, Czech Republic 1
Sweden 5, United States 4 (OT)

Sunday, Dec. 30

Russia 7, Switzerland 4
Slovakia 11, Kazakhstan 2

Monday, Dec. 31

Czech Republic 4, Denmark 0
Sweden 4, Kazakhstan 1
Russia 2, Canada 1
United States 4, Finland 1

Wednesday, Jan. 2

Kazakhstan 4, Denmark 3 -- Relegation Game 1

Quarterfinals
Switzerland 2, Sweden 0
Finland 2, Canada 1 (OT)
United States 3, Czech Republic 1
Russia 8, Slovakia 3

Friday, Jan. 4

Kazakhstan 4, Denmark 0 (Relegation Game 2)
United States 2, Russia 1
Finland 6, Switzerland 1

Saturday, Jan. 5

Bronze-medal game: Russia 5, Switzerland 2
Gold-medal game: Finland 3, United States 2

Pete Blackburn is from Boston, so there's a good chance you don't like him already. He has been a writer at CBS Sports since 2017 and usually aims to take a humorous and light-hearted approach to the often... Full Bio

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