World Juniors Reboot
In most years the NHL Draft prospects get to play In U-20’s or U-18’s. In some cases, there needs to be a tournament of champions of each age bracket. However, the tiers that contain the powerhouses like USA Hockey, Russia, Hockey Canada, Finland, Sweden, Czechia, Switzerland, and even Germany. The growth of the game internationally has grown but it would be healthy to see other countries in a second-tier have to fight their way up and try to prove and become the first-tier team.
The next step would be having U-18’s for the holidays and again before the NHL Draft Combines are held. For example, you have Group A: USA, Russia, Sweden Slovakia, Switzerland. Group B: Canada, Finland, Germany, Czechia, Austria.
Tier 2 & Tier 3
Tier 2 for example the next 10 teams theoretically Group A: Latvia, Norway, Denmark, Kazakhstan, and Belarus become one group. Group B: France, Great Britain, Italy, South Korea, and Slovenia would all be fighting to win gold, silver, and bronze and having their three best teams try and jump into the first tier next December. However, the best U-18 players from tiers 1 and 2 should play in a summer tournament showcase in front of all 32 NHL teams to gain exposure.
What Tier 3 would consist of in Group A” Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Romania. Group B: Japan, Estonia, Ukraine, Netherlands, and Serbia. Every 3 tiers who have their three medalists can try and get teams from tier 2 to be demoted, while the three winners get promoted trying to prove they can stay and try to go up to tier 1.
From a scouting perspective, it should be about encouraging tiers 2 and 3 to not only play better hockey but also make it more interesting for more NHL scouts to find some hidden gems. There have been players like Anze Kopitar who have come out of Slovenia a country along the Balkans that will eventually start churning out players. Poland has had success with Mariusz Czerkawski in the NHL being the Polish Gretzky. Krzysztof Oliwa was the first Polish-born player to win Lord Stanley’s Cup as an enforcer. Lithuania had Darius Kasparaitis and Dainius Zubrus who all had very successful careers for their homeland of Lithuania.
It would be a major success in seeing more countries getting every birth year ready for the NHL Draft and helping find the best available players writers, hockey fans, and even NHL franchises trying to find not only the next stars of the game, but also looking to draft or sign the best steal in each draft, and undrafted players. This would also create a ton of rivalries between pools of hockey teams. For example, one of the favorites besides Finland vs Sweden or the USA vs. Canada is Poland vs. Ukraine.
Rivalries & Growing the Game
The Polish and Ukrainians get along as neighbors to their borders but when it comes to soccer it can be a big rivalry which would be very fun to watch how both ice hockey teams play each other. 15 to 20 years ago people would think that this kind of format wouldn’t attract future potential NHL talent. This should be proven to help market the game of hockey and also help new emerging hockey markets become die-hard fans that love their teams, and will support their countries. These countries can move up and down based on their play during these tournaments and this will help to grow the game of hockey worldwide.
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