The Hot List: Pavel Zacha and other prospects from the world juniors

Pavel Zacha (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

Another world junior tournament is in the books and it was a dandy, with Canada holding off the Russians 5-4 in the gold medal game. Next year, the holiday classic shifts over to Finland, where the host nation will hope to rebound from a sub-par outing in 2014. There was a ton of talent in Montreal and Toronto, so here’s a wrap of some players that caught my eye. As always, only prospects who have yet to play an NHL game were eligible.

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Benoit Groulx takes page from Sochi and ‘tic-tac-tao’ to lead Canada to gold

Zach Fuchale, Madison Bowey, Eric Comrie  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

As it turns out, we may never learn what Curtis Lazar looks like without a smile on his face. This one, you would think, will last a pretty long time.

Shedding five years of ignominy for your country will tend to do that to a guy, particularly one as optimistic as Lazar. The kid who came into Canada’s camp late, was named captain and provided much of the spark for the Canadian team was talking about filling his junior resume with a gold medal, which came when Canada defeated Russia 5-4 in yet another classic game between these two hockey superpowers. Read more

Canada-Russia gold medal matchup a clear-cut case of role reversal

Curtis Lazar (left) and Connor McDavid  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

When Canada faces Russia tonight in the gold medal game for the 2015 World Junior Championship, it will mark one of those few times in this great rivalry that convention is turned on its ear.

Most times when Russia faces Canada in international competition, it comes into the game with a bunch of wildcard players who are mysterious and unknown. That will not be the case tonight. These two teams have all kinds of familiarity with each other, dating back to the 2012 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in Windsor, during which the Russians defeated an Ontario team with Darnell Nurse, Max Domi and Nick Ritchie in the semifinal before beating team USA in the final.

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Connor McDavid leads the charge in Canada’s quest for gold

Connor McDavid  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

With exactly five minutes and 20 seconds remaining in Canada’s 5-1 manhandling of Slovakia Sunday night, Connor McDavid collided at center ice with a Slovak player and fell to the ice. He got up, grabbed both sides of his head, struggled to get back to the bench and didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game.

For the Canadian side, it could have represented a disaster. But there McDavid was after the game answering questions and not even hinting there was anything doubt concerning his status for the gold medal game against Russia Monday night. No quiet room, no concussion, no need for worry.

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IIHF says Toronto could be sole World Junior host in 2017

Rene Fasel (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On the heels of experiencing an attendance disaster in Montreal, the International Ice Hockey Federation is open to suggesting to Hockey Canada that the 2017 World Junior Championship be held exclusively in Toronto.

Both IIHF president Rene Fasel and Frank Gonzalez, an IIHF council member and WJC tournament director, acknowledged at a news conference Sunday that the Montreal numbers did not reach expectation and would consider the possibility of holding the entire tournament in Toronto.

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What makes a great fan base? It’s a lot more than just noise

WC Crowd

When we were building the formula for our NHL Fan Rankings, the notion of noise was tabled. Should we try to concoct a volume measurement and weave that into the calculations?

The suggestion fell on deaf ears, for a couple reasons. For starters, we couldn’t think of an objective methodology. There is no decibel-per-game average available anywhere. Secondly, and more to the point, loudness doesn’t necessarily equal good fandom. Read more

Here’s why Red Deer getting the Memorial Cup is awesome for junior hockey

Ryan Kennedy
Red Deer Rebels captain Conner Bleackley (Dave Brunner Photography)

Brent Sutter is on the phone with me and he’s in a great mood. No lie.

Of course, the coach-GM-owner of the Western League’s Red Deer Rebels is still bathing in the glory of winning the right to host the 2016 Memorial Cup, and that explains why one of the most intimidating figures in junior hockey is all sunshiny.

“On a personal level, I felt this community deserved it,” he said. “Hockey is our culture, and the support we get is phenomenal. It will be the event in the city and in central Alberta. I’m tremendously excited.” Read more

Hockey Canada badly misjudged the hockey fans in Montreal

Auston Matthews  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

MONTREAL – A few random thoughts as your correspondent packs up and heads back to Toronto for the medal round of the World Junior Championship:

* The next time our friends at Hockey Canada and TSN remind us how important this tournament is to Canada’s hockey identity and cultural fabric – and that should happen in say, the next 30 seconds or so – it might be relevant to point out that only one in 10 Canadians actually watched Canada’s preliminary-round games on television and, in Montreal at least, that patriotism has definitive limit. Read more