The 2009-2010 World Junior Championship begins on Saturday in Saskatchewan, Canada. Games will be split between Saskatoon and Regina. Team Canada is once again the favorite to win the tournament, a victory that would be their sixth in a row. They took the gold last year when John Tavares and Cody Hodgson led the way, beating Victor Hedman, Jacob Markstrom, and the Swedes in the final.

Tavares and Hodgson, Canada’s top two players from last year, have moved on, but there is still plenty of firepower to go around. Defensemen Ryan Ellis and Alex Pieterangelo return to the team in enhanced roles, leading a blueline that also includes high draftees Colton Teubert, Calvin deHaan, and Jared Cowen. The offense is anchored by the electrifying Taylor Hall, projected as a top three pick in next June’s NHL Draft. Jordan Eberle, another returning player, had a strong tournament last year. Nazem Kadri and Greg Nemisz are OHL stars who will look to make a splash internationally.

The United States boasts a little talent of its own. The American defense is headlined by Cam Fowler, who is widely regard as Hall’s greatest competition for the top spot in next year’s draft class. What makes their match-up intriguing, not alike to Tavares-Hedman and Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin in years past, is that the two are junior teammates with the OHL Windsor Spitfires. This week, they will find themselves lining up against each other. There are also offensive horses like Jeremy Morin, Jordan Schroeder, Chris Kreider, and Kyle Palmieri that, for a change, give the U.S. comparable scoring ability to Canada.

The games begin Saturday on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. For American viewers, the television schedule for the tournament will be as follows:

Saturday, December 26
Latvia vs. Canada 4:00 pm
Czech Republic vs. Sweden 6:00 pm
Slovakia vs. USA 8:00 pm

Sunday, December 27
USA vs. Switzerland 4:00 pm
Czech Republic vs. Finland 6:00 pm

Monday, December 28
Canada vs. Switzerland 4:00 pm

Tuesday, December 29
Latvia vs. USA 4:00 pm
Sweden vs. Russia 6:00 pm
Canada vs. Slovakia 8:00 pm

Thursday, December 31
USA vs. Canada 8:00 pm

Saturday, January 2
Quarterfinal #1 5:00 pm
Quarterfinal #2 9:00 pm

Sunday, January 3
Semifinal #1 5:00 pm
Semifinal #2 9:00 pm

Tuesday, January 5
Bronze Medal Game 4:00 pm
Gold Medal Game 8:00 pm