It’s time, to sum up, the hockey year 2016.
Perhaps I am a bit unusual in this but I am that kind of person who wants always to aim at positive things, even if I do question a lot of things from time to time.
The latter I do when I find it necessary and I do it to be fair to the sport and to all involved, from fans to media.
However, I will skip the negative list and begin by saying that the world junior ends and starts another great hockey year as it has become a great tradition every year.
First of all, before I continue to speak a little more about the WJC, I’d like to share with you the international list of highlights from this year of 2016 I had in mind:
- Finland: An incredible year for the lions on the highest levels of the international hockey. First the WJC gold in OT against Russia at home in Helsinki, one of the most thrilling finals I’ve experienced. Then the U18 gold in the USA, although they were superior and there was no question who was going to take the shiniest medal of them all. And, then the senior worlds in Russia, a silver medal after being defeated by Canada. But overall, 2 golds and 1 silver beats a lot of the previous seasons in the Finnish hockey history.
- Magnitogorsk, Gagarin-Cup: The powerhouse from the East geographically and in the Eastern Conference of the KHL showed once more their strength but also how they are able to steal the bucket from under of the nose of their opponents. The battle against CSKA Moscow is already a classic final in the KHL’s history we won’t forget in many years.
- San José Sharks, almost Stanley Cup Champions: An incredible achievement when we look at it afterward, but I had a feeling somehow during the mid-season that they might be dangerous. Might? They showed that their home venue is “The shark tank” and was an inch from shocking the whole NHL and the rest of the hockey world. But, as we all saw it, Crosby & Co in Pittsburgh were too strong in the end.
- Well, this is actually a hard one and I had to think this through carefully. But, I have to say Kunlun Red Star. The first Chinese team at the highest pro-level ever, though with a lot of imports. Nonetheless, this was a big and brave move by the KHL organization in taking a step to China and creating a hockey atmosphere there. The team had a bit of a shaky start and some lack of attendance when they were in Shanghai instead of Beijing for some months during this fall. But, now they are rolling on and have a hand on a spot in the playoffs.
- Also, the NHL has a new member, Las Vegas, who start their journey next season but it was clear during this season that they’ll join the league. Even if I would rather see a city such as Quebec in the circus again, I think it will be a good thing to have Las Vegas.
- Canadian teams like Montréal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg have a far better position for reaching a place in the coming Playoffs than they had last year. That fact makes my hockey heart happy.
Now I let the world juniors end this year and embrace the new year of 2017.
The WJCs are back in Canada, in the Meccas of hockey: Montréal and Toronto.Not so much big hype or big talk as last year when several young prospects were in the same tournament.
Yes, precisely, these following names we’ve heard so many times already.Matthews, Laine, Puljujärvi and Aho were on everyone’s lips last year even if Kasperi Kapanen was the player that closed the WJC by an extraordinary goal in OT against Russia.
We can look at the goal from Kapanen over and over again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkJYXGXZjP8
Well, the WJCs are always an open story.
Of course, Canada is one of the big faves as always, certainly now when they are the host nation and will have a huge crowd behind their backs.
Besides that obvious fact, I can only repeat myself, I keep it open, as it is hard to predict, harder than the senior worlds for many reasons.
I recall that I gave the hosts of the last WJC, Finland a semi-final but nothing more, but they proved me wrong big time and brought the gold instead.
Not that as many players have been in vogue in media as last year, but I can recommend keeping an eye on Kirill Kaprizov from Salavat Yulaev Ufa. He’s been tremendous the autumn part of this season.
Kaprizov has all the possibilities to become a great sensation with his incredible technical skill and he might be the main key for a Russian triumph this tournament. His numbers so far say a lot about his skill: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=265645
I wouldn’t be surprised if he became one of the big sensations in the Gagarin playoffs either later on for his Salavat.
Now it is high time for me to take a Christmas break a couple of weeks, but, by all means, enjoy the most fun hockey tournament we have I think, and I think it is a great tradition that WJC ends and opens up a new tremendous hockey year.
Hereby, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with my Christmas and New Year’s wish as a gift to you, my dear reader:
- A new champion in the KHL and the NHL
- Better terms and agreement between the leagues and associations
- Club owners in the KHL and the NHL who really care about the game and its development and not only think about the profit or think shortly and narrowly.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.