2016 World Juniors Preview


The world of international hockey is an interesting one as every country sees every international tournament in a different light.

For some the World Championship is the peak of international hockey with the best players from around the world competing for the title.

Then again it is in the middle of the NHL playoffs and many of the best players, especially in the USA and Canada are unable to go to the tournament.

That makes the tournament results somewhat skewed as it is not necessarily the best against the best.

Some turn to the Olympics to determine the best in the world as the best players, namely NHL players, are given time off to attend the tournament.

Only the best of the best play in the Olympic tournament but that is a tournament that only happens every four years and not everyone likes that a team is considered the best for four years.

The new kid on the block has yet to be determined in terms of importance as the return of the World Cup could be considered the measuring stick but is certainly far from it right now.

Every country has varying opinions about every major tournament and there is no one tournament that can truly state that they are the peak of international hockey.

The World Juniors are not the same type of tournament as they are certainly not considered the best of the best but the varying opinions of its importance are still there.

The Juniors are not the best players in the world but to some countries it is the measuring stick and an important piece of the international game.

For others it is a forgettable tournament that means little in the grand scheme of things in international hockey.

The latter is a mistake that a lot of nations make when thinking of the U20 tournament though as the best way to build is from the bottom up.

In sports that means building youth before concentrating on those in their prime.

Building a strong foundation allows a country to produce better players down the road but more often than not that is forgotten in international hockey as teams look to find talent right now.

The proof of that concept is in the IIHF where the best and most consistent teams on the international stage are those who are successful in the Junior tournament.

Chief among them is Canada as they represent what many consider to be the golden standard in hockey development.

It is not perfect but Hockey Canada has produced more champions than most other countries and their biggest success is often in the World Juniors.

In all the Canadians have won 16 Gold Medals at the Juniors and a total of 29 medals since the tournament began in 1977.

There have been some strong showings from Canadian teams that have regularly put together multiple championship years including two different periods where they won five golds in a row.

Other countries have modelled their systems after Canada and success in this tournament along with other tournaments has followed.

It is no mistake that the World Juniors shows improvement before other tournaments as this is where the hard work of building a minor system pays off.

In recent years that focus on minor hockey has paid off for the best countries and the World Juniors is perfect evidence with five different teams winning the gold in the last five years of the tournament.

The work is paying off and it should be a sign for the other teams that success in the Juniors can and often does lead to success in bigger international tournaments.

Every team in the Juniors will look to find that success as they try to show that they have the best of the next generation of great hockey players in Helsinki for the 2016 version of the World Juniors.

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