The prep season is up and running. Colleges are going strong. And let’s not forget the relentless pace of the pros.
Foremost at this time of the year, however, is the upcoming World Junior Championship, which will include a stacked American team trying to defeat those pesky Canadians, who will be fired up after losing miserably (as in, they finished sixth) on home turf in January.
With all this action in play, we at New England Hockey Journal thought it would be a good idea to give you the skinny scoop on the hot topics in the area. In what we plan on being a regular feature, we’ll talk about the big news and what it means.
Without further ado, here’s at look at the three key things you need to know about in the world of New England hockey.
1. Stacked World Junior roster
USA Hockey announced its roster for the 2020 World Junior Championship on Monday, and it is stacked, with a total of eight NHL first-rounders and seven second-rounders. The tournament this year will be held in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. Team USA is coming off four consecutive medals, earning a silver in January, bronze in 2016 and 2018, and gold in 2017, and is considered with perennial favorites Canada as a main contender for gold. Boston College goalie Spencer Knight (Darien, CT), a first-round pick by the Florida Panthers in June, is expected to be the starter for the Americans. Knight got invaluable exposure to the atmosphere and pressure of the tournament as the third goalie for the 2019 World Juniors. As with any tight format like the World Junior tournament, goaltending can make or break a team’s fortunes in pretty short order. With Knight in net and playing well for BC, the Americans are in a good position to make a run for the gold. Trevor Zegras, a first-round pick by the Anaheim Ducks in June and Boston University standout forward, is among the other players with New England connections who will have an impact for the Americans, likely on the second line.
2. Goalie gain
You could say Cayden Primeau has some chops. Not only is his dad former Detroit Red Wing and Philadelphia Flyer Keith Primeau, but he also helped Northeastern to its third-ever Hockey East title in the spring. And to say he “helped” is putting it mildly: After winning an amazing 19 games and winning the title for lowest goals-against average in the conference as a freshman, Primeau followed that by winning a program-record 25 games and earning tournament MVP honors. His sophomore performance earned him the Mike Richter Award as top Division I goalie. These days, he’s now trying his luck with the Montreal Canadiens, who, contrary to what you might think given Carey Price is their No. 1, could use a little help from a hot goaltender. Primeau, 20, is tall (6-foot-3) and lanky (200 pounds) and out of the American college system, so naturally he’s (prematurely) earning comparisons to another famous Habs goalie who has similar qualities and background (hint: Ken Dryden). After a 7-4-1 start with the Laval Rocket of the AHL, Primeau made his NHL debut last week with the Canadiens against the Avalanche in a 3-2 loss. Putting Primeau in against one of the league’s highest-scoring teams and in front of the sellout and always-rowdy Montreal crowd wasn’t exactly putting him in a position to win, but Primeau emerged relatively unscathed. Considering backup Keith Kincaid has had a mediocre start, don’t be surprised if Primeau sees more action for the storied franchise.
3. Canadians eliminate “midget”
Next season, Hockey Canada’s affiliated leagues will fall in line with those of USA Hockey and others in the United States by instituting classification names for age groups that are more reflective of the ages included, instead of using nicknames. The main impetus behind this was a sensitivity toward using the term “midget” to describe one of the older age groups. Thus, no longer will there be novice, atom, peewee, bantam or midget classifications in Canada, replaced for 2020-21 by designations such as under-7 all the way to under-21. A form of this is common in New England and also falls in line with how the IIHF has done it for years.
Paul Grant is an editor and a writer for HockeyJournal.com and Seamans Media. He previously oversaw hockey content at ESPN.com and Sporting News. You can connect with him at [email protected].