File photo courtesy Matthew Murnaghan, Hockey Canada

Road to the World Juniors leads through B.C.

Finland plays Denmark on Wednesday, United States takes on Czech Republic on Saturday

The games may not count in the standings, but there will be plenty at stake when the puck drops for a pair of exhibition junior hockey games this week at Langley Events Centre.

Finland battles Denmark on Wednesday at 7 p.m. while the United States battles the Czech Republic on Saturday at 7 p.m. as part of the Lordco Auto Parts Road to the World Juniors.

“Langley Events Centre has a long resume of international sports, including hockey, but the World Junior Tournament is a huge part of Canadian culture and to be involved with this and bring it to our community in any capacity is really the icing on top. We couldn’t be more excited for these games,” said Tyler Dinwoodie, Associate Director, Production Services for Langley Events Centre.

A dozen games in nine different communities are being held from December 19 to December 23 as the 10 competing teams get a few last looks at their respective players before finalizing their rosters ahead of the U20 championship.

“The support and involvement from our sponsors, like Lordco, ensures that we’re able to deliver this unique event to communities throughout B.C. while also showcasing the future stars of the game to fans around the world,” said tournament director Riley Wiwchar.

“This series of exhibition games will give thousands of British Columbians the opportunity to see top notch international junior hockey in their home communities,” said Lisa Beare, minister of tourism, arts can culture. “The Province of British Columbia is committed to hosting events like these to help inspire more people to get physically active and to boost local businesses.”

Finland vs. Denmark

The Finish roster includes highly-touted forward prospect Kaapo Kakko, who is currently ranked second for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, as well as Rasmus Kupari, a first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings.

Also aiming to crack the Finnish roster is Vancouver Canucks draft pick Toni Utunen. The defenceman was a fifth-round pick of the Canucks in 2018.

Their opponent, Denmark, has one NHL draft pick on their roster, forward Jonas Rondbjerg, a third-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Young players skate with Kazakhstan National Team in Langley

United States vs. Czech Republic

Judging by both teams’ respective preliminary rosters, there is plenty of high-end talent which could be on display. Twenty-five of the U.S. players have been drafted or signed into the NHL while 16 members of the Czech Republic have also been drafted. This also includes four first rounders for the Czech squad – Filip Chytil (New York Rangers), Martin Kaut (Colorado), Martin Necas (Carolina) and Filip Zadina (Detroit) – and seven on the American roster – Cayden Primeau (Montreal), K’Andre Miller (New York Rangers), Joel Farabee (Philadelphia), Josh Norris (Ottawa), Jay O’Brien (Philadelphia), Ryan Poehling (Montreal) and Oliver Wahlstrom (New York Islanders).

And the other first round pick hoping to crack the American roster is a name familiar with Lower Mainland hockey fans, defenceman Quinn Hughes. Hughes, who plays for the University of Michigan, was picked seventh overall last June by the Vancouver Canucks. He is also the older brother of expected first overall pick this June, Jack Hughes, who is a good shot to land a spot on the final American roster.

The American team also features another Canuck prospect, forward Tyler Madden, a third-round pick in 2018. This could also be the only time for Lower Mainland hockey fans to see the U.S. side as the Americans are playing all of their preliminary round games in Victoria.

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