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2015 IIHF World Junior Championship Preview

The world's best 20-and-under players from around the world descend upon Helsinki, Finland to determine the planet's best junior team. Here's everything you need to know.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

International competition is so important to the world of hockey. Unlike other popular North American games like football, basketball, and baseball, which fail to entertain in Olympic or World Championship events due to lack of coverage or meaningful competition, hockey stands alone as our preeminent multi-national sporting outlet. Part of its success is how early these competitions are introduced to the future of the sport, and no event is more prominent than the IIHF World Junior Championship. The best 20-and-under players, many in this past summer's NHL Amateur Draft and quite a few that will highlight 2016's iteration.

What you need to know

Who: USA, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Finland, Belarus

What: Each country is divided into two round robin pools and will play every team in their pool once. Teams who win in regulation will be awarded three points, teams who win in overtime will be awarded two, an overtime loser just one, and a regulation loser will receive no points at all. The top four teams in each pool will move on to a single-elimination playoff format to determine the champion. The two teams excluded from the playoff will play in a relegation game to determine who qualifies to return to the event in 2017.

Where: Hartwall Arena and Helsinki Ice Hall -- Helsinki, Finland

Why: Because hockey, dammit.

When: December 26th, 2015 - January 5th, 2016 (Tournament Schedule - Games are 7 Hours ahead)

How: Well, they'll travel there and play. You will watch on either the NHL Network in the United States, TSN in Canada, and streaming online at both and FASTHockey.

Avalanche Prospect Participants

Mikko Rantanen: Colorado's 2015 1st Round draft pick is playing for his home country (and tournament host) Finland. More notable is that he was recently named captain and will he will look to improve on an impressive effort in 2014, where he scored four goals in five games to lead a talented Finland squad. The current San Antonio Rampage 1st-liner has had an impressive first professional season, scoring 26 points in 22 games.

Sergei Boikov: The Avalanche drafted Boikov in the 6th Round in 2015 (161st overall). The defenseman will take leave of his QMJHL junior team, the Drummondville Voltigeurs (where he has 4 goals and 12 assists in 26 games), to play for his native Russia. His team will kick off the festivities with a game against the Czech Republic at 7:00 AM MST on December 26th.