Lockout be damned – how many times have you heard “…but we don’t have any hockey to keep us entertained!” Not so fast, ladies and gentlemen. Sure, America doesn’t include hockey in their top three professional sports, but that doesn’t mean that there are some rabid, hockey-obsessed fans here in America, just as there are in countries (I’m really only looking at you, Canada…) where citizens eat/sleep/breathe the sport. For over 35 years, the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under 20 Championship (more simply known as the World Junior Hockey Championship – WJHC) has taken place in late December and spills into the new year. The main tournament is comprised of the top ten ranked hockey countries in the world. Last year saw Sweden beat out Russia in the gold medal match. Luckily for you, the puck just dropped a few hours ago in Ufa, Russia for the 2013 WJHC. The better news, though? NHL Network will provide live broadcasts, including all medal-round games.
You can be bummed out that Santa didn’t bring the lockout to an end and that Bettman didn’t get run over by a reindeer, but you can revel in the glory of young prospects getting their chance to shine and play for the pride of their country. You can also get excited for the future, when things may not be locked out, by watching St. Louis Blues prospects light the lamp and stack their pads. The Blues have had a number of exceptional draft picks see success in the WJHC. In fact, the Blues have seen talent in droves out of young WJHC-alumni like Alex Pietrangelo and (even younger) Vladimir Tarasenko. Thankfully, Blues prospects have outstanding in recent WJHC play, and this year looks to be the same. With the lockout in full effect, these players have a chance to shine even brighter as all eyes are on them.
Team Canada goalie and all-around Twitter goofball, Jordan Binnington (19), has the potential for some starting gigs and will back up Boston Bruins’ 2012 first round pick Malcom Subban. Binnington was drafted 88th overall in 2011 and has been on fire this year, boasting a 2.31 GAA and .930 SV% for the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. Binnington has impressed coaches near and far, especially after he elevated his game in response to being left off of Canada’s roster during their summer Canada-Russia Challenge. To match his impressive save-percentage, Binnington’s record this season is a striking 17-6-3.
Binnington won’t be alone, though, as he’ll be joined by forward Ty Rattie (19), the Blues’ 2011 second-round draft pick. Despite racking up 121 points in 69 regular-season games last season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, Rattie was left off of Canada’s WJHC team. Much like Binnington, Rattie took his disappointment and turned it into pure determination and is tearing up the WHL again this year. With 19 goals and 28 assists, Rattie has helped push the Winterhawks to first in their division.