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The case for following the U18s

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You would probably need to be past a certain age to be nostalgic for the bad old days when Canada typically fought the current in interenational hockey.

Since Follow Friday is a staple of Twitter, this is an appeal to make some time for the world under-18 championship, where Canada plays the U.S. and presumptive Windsor Spitfires goalie in waiting Jack Campbell today (12 ET/9 PT, fasthockey.com). Brock Otten at the essential OHL Prospects outlined recently how in addition to seeing prospective NHL first-rounders who will be playing in the world junior in a couple years' time, it's also a rare tourney where the boys in red, black and white are underdogs.

"Due to the fact that Canada does not often bring their best players (because most are tied up in the playoffs like Tyler Seguin), we have not fared incredibly well in the event over the years. Since the tournament came to fruition in 1999, we have only won twice (2003 and 2008). We've only medalled three times in total (with a silver in 2005). That puts us in fifth in total medals behind Russia, The United States, Finland and Sweden. This year is probably another uphill battle.

In a way, it sort of harkens back to the era when Canada sent a squad of amateurs to the Olympics and was somewhat cavalier about the world championship, since how could it be important if it was being held at the same time as the Stanley Cup playoffs? Twenty years or so ago, I can recall faking sick once becauce CTV was going to air a Canada-USSR game from the worlds. (My mom was wise to the ruse and made me stay in my room, not aware I could get the audio on FM radio.)

The U18s, in terms of expectations, are a good change-of-pace from when Canada is playing the Olympics or world junior, when the coverage tends to be over the top and second place is first loser. That adds another layer on top of seeing some of the best 17- and 18-year-old players in the world.

Canada, captained by Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Erik Gudbranson (the top-rated blueliner), is 1-1 in the round-robin thus far heading into today's game against the Americans. Sunday's tilt against Sweden (8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 PT, TSN) will be televised nationally,

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