Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nick Schmaltz and Team USA open its 2016 World Junior Championship play against rival Canada on Saturday at Helsinki Ice Hall.
Schmaltz, the Blackhawks' 2014 first-round pick, posted one assist in five tournament games for Team USA, who finished a disappointing fifth in the 2015 tournament. The 19-year-old North Dakota sophomore has tallied three goals and 23 assists in 20 games this season. He will center the third line.
Palos, Ill. native Christian Dvorak will be the man in the middle for the second line. Dvorak, Arizona's 58th overall pick in 2014, has 28 goals and 65 points in 27 games for the London Knights of the OHL this season.
Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, will center the top line. Matthews had a goal and two assists in five games in the 2015 tournament. He will be flanked by Alex DeBrincat and Matthew Tkachuk.
Alex Nedeljovic will start in net for the U.S. Nedeljovic is 11-8-1-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 22 games for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL this season.
Team USA will look to repeat the 2004 team's feat, winning WJC gold in Helsinki. Team USA has medaled in three of the last six WJCs, winning bronze in 2011 and gold in 2010 and 2013.
Canada and the U.S. have met in the preliminary round on New Year's Eve during the past two tournaments. Canada won both games, 5-3 in 2014 and 3-2 in 2013.
Canada, the defending tournament champions, look as strong as ever. They blew through their exhibition schedule with a 7-1 win over Belarus, a 1-0 shutout against Czech Republic and a wild 7-6 victory over Sweden. They held a three-goal lead before Sweden rallied to make it an entertaining contest.
Brayden Point (WHL), Lawson Crouse (OHL), Jake Virtanen (Canucks) and defenseman Joe Hicketts (WHL) return from the 2015 championship team. If there's one spot on the team that raises some eye brows it's goaltending with Mackenzie Blackwood out for the first two games after receiving an eight-game suspension from the Canadian Hockey League.
Here are the projected lines for Canada:
Game lines #CANvsUSA #WorldJuniors. Live stats: https://t.co/ALAPxdXaGB #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/RCz4kfJ1jE— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) December 26, 2015
How to Watch
When: Noon CT
Where: Helinski Ice Hall