The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship will begin play on December 26th 2019, running through January 5th 2020 and is held in Czech Republic. There are ten Countries competing in two groups as follows:
There is no country more consistent at winning a medal at the World Junior than Russia who have won a medal in 13 of the last 15 tournaments. However, in that time, they have only laid claim to the Gold once in 2011. Playing in Group B with Canada, USA, host Czech, and the up and coming Germans, Russia is in a very difficult pool. They do have the horses to win the race to win their group though.
Perhaps the most interesting roster decision for Valeri Bragin will be which goalie to start. Amir Miftakhov is perhaps the favorite as a 19-year-old and he played well for Russia in the Canada Russia series a month ago. 2020 Draft eligible prospect Yaroslav Askarov has been dominant for Russia internationally winning a Gold at the U17 and a Silver at the U18 in 2019 and another Gold for Russia at the Hlinka Gretzky. Askarov could use the World Junior to become a household name and raise his draft stock all the way into the top five or ten of the Draft. He is that good.
Russia will be counting on two returning players that dominated for them last year. Winger Grigori Denisenko who tied for the tournament lead in scoring with nine points, and defenseman Alex Romanov who lead the tournament in defense scoring with eight points. While these two will be relied upon for offense, the next wave may come from Minnesota Wild prospect Alex Khovanov. During the Canada-Russia series in Quebec, Khovanov was exceptional on a dominant line with Flames prospect Dmitri Zavgorodny. Unfortunately, Zavgorodny is injured and will not be available to rekindle the magic they share while torching team QMJHL. The third member of that dominant line was big Yegor Sokolov, who despite not being drafted is an offensively gifted winger with 24 goals and 51 points through 30 games for the Cape Breton Eagles in the QMJHL. The 6-4 winger will hope to impress scouts and management enough to earn an NHL contract. Filling in for Zavgorodny will be Vegas prospects Pavel Dorofeyev and Ivan Morozov, along with Columbus picks Kirill Marchenko, and Dmitri Voronkov.
One of the more intriguing players to watch will be Vancouver first-round pick Vasili Podkolzin. Canucks fans are excited for Podkolzin despite his lackluster stat production in the KHL in his post-draft year. He has been given limited ice time and has made the most of what he has had to play with. Look for the versatile and pesky Podkolzin to play an important role for Russia and make an impact in this tournament, endearing himself to Canucks fans.
Supporting Romanov on the back end will be Yegor Zamula. He is a fast rising prospect, who was overlooked in the NHL Draft but signed by the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent after impressing at their rookie camp this past summer. The Flyers look to have found money as the 6-3 defender is scoring at a point per game pace with 28 points in 28 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Two more NHL drafted prospects on the Russian blue line will be New Jersey Devils Danill Misyul and Danill Zhuravlyov of the Colorado Avalanche.
Russia will need to make some roster cuts before the tournament begins as they are currently carrying three goalies, ten defense and 15 forwards.
While the Russians are known for being an offensive and skilled team, this year they may be challenged to score in comparison to previous editions of their roster. This does not mean they are going to be challenged to score, simply that they may lack a stand out offensive star that they usually can deploy.