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Monday, December 20, 2004

The Red Line Predictor: WJHC


Christmas is in the air, and for most Canadians, the holiday season brings with it more than the anticipation of turkey and stuffing. Yes sir, it's World Junior Hockey Championship time.

Most of the hockey pundits are picking Canada to take home the gold. Despite the meltdowns that the team has gone through in recent years, I can find no reason to disagree with that prediction.

So, here are the offical Red Line Predictions:

1. Canada - this may be the most solid and well balanced team that Canada has ever iced at the tournament. Any team that cuts Ryan Stone and Eric Fehr from their line-up obviously has some big-time depth. Pack that with a rather large yet mobile defense, and this team is poised to break the gold medal drought. The only thing that may be slightly unclear is the goaltending.

2. Russia - The Russians are the most accomplished junior hockey team in the tournament's rich history. Russia sports 23 medals since the tournament began in 1977, with 12 of those being gold (compared to Canda's 10). And besides, they have Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin. That's all I have to say about that.

3. U.S.A. - I don't quite understand why Team USA is pretty much being left off the radar by many hockey gurus. They will not benefit from the return of players such as Zach Parise and Patrick Eaves, but they will still boast eight returnees from last year's gold medal performance. Ryan Suter, Al Montoya and Patrick O’Sullivan will lead the way.

4. Czech Republic - they are my pick for the tournament darkhorse. As I type this, I don't think that they are strong enough to go further than battling the USA in the bronze medal game. However, first round goaltender Marek Schwarz could provide enough of a boost to power the Czechs into the medals.

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