Starting Today: Three LA Prospects to Play in 2015 World Junior Championships

Attention North Americans: Your second, third, and fourth favorite teams will be Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. (In some order.)

The 2015 World Junior Championships are under way, with Denmark and Russia currently facing off in the tournament's first game. Most readers are probably rooting for the United States or Canada, but if you're a Los Angeles Kings fan who wants to watch guys that might be wearing the black and white in the future, here's who to watch out for! (Valentin Zykov, by the way, is injured and will not have the chance to participate in his second WJC for Russia.)

Adrian Kempe, SWE

The Kings' 2014 first-round draft pick makes his first appearance at the World Junior Championships this season, and he does it for a Sweden squad which has won a medal at six of the last seven competitions. Only one of those (2012) was a gold medal, and when Sweden hosted last season, they went down to their hated rivals in overtime. He saw a lot of time with MODO teammate and heralded Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander in the leadup to the WJC, but it looks like he'll start off skating off the first line, with Victor Olofsson (Detroit) and Leon Bristedt. His schedule:

26-Dec-14 Czech Republic 17:00 Sweden Air Canada Centre
27-Dec-14 Sweden 13:00 Denmark Air Canada Centre
29-Dec-14 Russia 17:00 Sweden Air Canada Centre
31-Dec-14 Sweden 13:00 Switzerland Air Canada Centre

Alex Lintuniemi, FIN

The defending champions feature the Kings' second round pick from 2014. Despite their success in last season's tournament, Finland certainly isn't the favorite this season, with Canada playing on home ice. Having said that, Finland is almost certainly going to advance out of their group and will compete with Canada and the USA in their group. Lintuniemi has a huge opportunity to prove himself on Finland's top pairing with 2014 first-rounder Julius Honka. Not surprisingly, Lintuniemi provides the size on that pairing. His schedule:

26-Dec-14 United States 15:00 Finland Bell Centre
27-Dec-14 Finland 16:00 Slovakia Bell Centre
29-Dec-14 Canada 20:00 Finland Bell Centre
31-Dec-14 Finland 20:00 Germany Bell Centre

Dominik Kubalik, CZE

Kubalik is easily the least heralded of the Kings' three WJC competitors, and he plays for the least heralded team of the three as well. The Czechs have not medaled since 2005, and they haven't won the tournament since 2001. (In fact, they're the only team aside from Canada, Finland, Sweden, Russia, and the USA to medal in this century.) However, the Czechs have emerged as a bit of a dark horse in this tournament and should finish in the top 3 of their group. (I also have some Czech roots, so GO GET 'EM, BOYS.) As for Kubalik, he signed a two-year contract to play in his native country for HC Plzen, and being a seventh-round pick with limited upside, he's not likely to appear in LA at any point. If curious about him anyway, here's his schedule:

26-Dec-14 Czech Republic 17:00 Sweden Air Canada Centre
29-Dec-14 Denmark 13:00 Czech Republic Air Canada Centre
27-Dec-14 Switzerland 17:00 Czech Republic Air Canada Centre
31-Dec-14 Czech Republic 17:00 Russia Air Canada Centre

Today features Lintuniemi facing the Stars and Stripes at noon Pacific, followed by the only group stage match featuring multiple Kings prospects. We'll provide updates here; chime in on what you see!