2012 WJC: A Wild Fan's Guide To The World Junior Hockey Championships

The 2012 World Junior Championships are almost here and with six Minnesota prospects (along with some Minnesotans whose rights are not owned by the Wild) playing in the December 26th - January 5th tournament, there is plenty to follow.

For those who need a primer on what the WJC entails, here's a quick introduction from last year. This year's tournament is being played in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta and features the top under-20 hockey players, including players who might be the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, from ten different countries competing against one another. Specifically for Minnesota fans, it's a rare chance to see the future of the Wild play now.

Mikael Granlund, Postage Stamp Hero

The ten countries playing in the WJC are split into two groups based on last year's results. However for Wild fans there are really only three teams which matter...maybe four if you are Canadian or want to cheer for or against the host country. Sorry Canada but that's what happens when both Minnesota prospects invited to the Selection Camp get cut.

Those three countries would be the United States (Group B), Finland (Group B) and Sweden (Group A). Along with Canada and 2011 gold-medalists Russia, they are the most likely teams to win the tournament.

Although the United States has not announced their final roster - the official announcement comes tomorrow morning (December 22nd) - both Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle appear to be returning to the American team. They join fellow Wild prospects Mikael Granlund (Finland) and Jonas Brodin, Johan Larsson and Johan Gustafsson (Sweden) in the tournament. Having a large contingent of prospects playing is great to see as it was only two years ago when Minnesota had three prospects* in the tournament and two of them were Eero Elo and Jere Sallinen (the third was Marco Scandella).

Along with the quality and quantity of Wild prospects increasing in recent years, television coverage in the United States continues to go up. This year the NHL Network recently announced they would be the American home of the WJC until 2018, which is great given just a few years ago it was almost impossible to watch the tournament.

From Puck the Media, here is the NHL Network schedule for round-robin play (all times Central and PM):
Monday, December 26
2:30 Canada vs. Finland
7:00 USA vs. Denmark

Tuesday, December 27
7:00 Denmark vs. Czech Republic

Wednesday, December 28
2:30 Finland vs. USA
7:00 Czech Republic vs. Canada

Thursday, December 29
7:00 Canada vs. Denmark

Friday, December 30
2:30 USA vs. Czech Republic
7:00 Finland vs. Denmark

Saturday, December 31
7:00 Canada vs. USA
There's good and bad news with the NHL Network's slate of games. While the United States and Finland are well-covered and their December 28th game is must-see TV for any Minnesota Wild fan, the same can't be said for Sweden. Unless Brodin and Larsson lead the Tre Kronor to the medal round, the only way American fans can see them play is through a Canadian TSN stream. As good as NHL Network is, TSN does a slightly better job with the Wold Junior Championships.

Online, there are quite a few great sources for WJC news. Friend of First Round Bust (and former communications/PR contact for USA Hockey) Chris Peters - the best source for Team USA news @chrismpeters - has a list on his United States of Hockey blog which features most of them. A few others to follow are Guy Flaming and Dean Millard of The Pipeline Show, which is a prospect radio show out of WJC host city Edmonton, Bruce Peter of Puck Worlds (the SB Nation international hockey site) and Aaron Vickers of Future Considerations and NHL.com.

That about covers everything. This year's WJC should be a great tournament for Wild and hockey fans alike with the number of Minnesota prospects having meaningful roles along with multiple teams having legitimate chances to win gold. However, as an American....

Not even close to being safe to work..

*Both Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker played in the 2010 tournament but the Wild did not hold their rights at that time.

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