To many hockey fans, the IIHF World Junior Championships creates some of the most exciting games of the year before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Whether it's fans whose favourite team is in the running for the top talent in the upcoming draft, fans of teams with prospects in the tournament, or the sheer excitement that comes from a tournament of young men representing their nations at what might be the highest level they will do so. Some of my fondest and most heartbreaking memories in hockey come from the stories that sprout from this tournament. Benjamin Conz saving 50 of 52 shots to eliminate the Vladimir Tarasenko-led Russians, Marc-Andre Fleury's own goal that handed the United States their first goal, or Kasperi Kapanen sealing the 2016 tournament in overtime, it's some of the wildest hockey you'll see.
The 2019 installment begins on December 26 in Vancouver, almost assuredly a fanatical host city. The story of the tournament will likely be the Jack Hughes/Kappo Kakko show, with a potential coming out party for Canadian 2020 eligible Alexis Lafreniere. For those unfamiliar, Jack Hughes is the unanimous selection for 1st overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft, also to be held in Vancouver. Hughes is a somewhat small, but incredibly skilled centreman currently playing with the U.S. National Program. He's extremely skilled, extremely smart, extremely fast, and has only gotten better as the year has progressed. Kappo Kakko is a bigger, heavier player currently playing professionally in Turku, Finland. Kappo gets by on his ability to protect the puck with speed, creating open space with his agility, and both create scoring chances and score goals himself. He started the season extremely hot, but has cooled to a much more reasonable profile, still indicative of a top draft pick. Lafreniere is a winger who is extremely highly regarded as a top pick in 2020. He is just a few days too old to be eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, and his metrics point to what very likely would be a Top-3 pick in this year's draft. His 41.5% INV% and 28.64 NHLeScore is a remarkable achievement for a prospect of any age, and I'm hoping he makes the Canadian team and plays a significant role. His NHLeScore (an age, position, and league adjusted metric to examine the value of a player's production) sits 2nd on a fully loaded team.There will be some very high level at this tournament on a few different teams, and in the World Juniors, a few great performances can be the difference between an early elimination and a gold medal.
The preliminary rosters have been released, and the player data has been compiled into a spreadsheet that will be linked at the bottom of this article, so feel free to peruse but only once you've finished the little profiles thrown together for each team's camp roster.
We're going to look at each team in ascending order of average NHLeScore. Our 10th ranked team is the team saved in relegation last year: Denmark.
#10 - Denmark - 1.98 NHLeScore