Belarus | Group B | Roster | THN odds to win: 200:1 As the new kids coming up from the second tier of the WJC, the Belarusians will be given a big boy dose when they take to the ice in Helsinki. There is some talent held over from the squad that won the Div. I promotion last year, though many of the top scorers have since aged out, as have their goaltenders, so finding an ace fast will be key. Gigantic defenseman Stepan Falkovsky of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s will be one to watch, for sure. At 6-foot-7, 224 pounds, Falkovsky is impossible to miss, and he has really upped his offensive game, with a four-game goal-scoring streak in November. Belarus also sent an invitation to Calgary Flames pick Pavel Karnaukhov of the WHL’s Hitmen. But the big center is a dual citizen (Russia) and chose not to play for Belarus.
Another notable returnee is right winger Dmitri Buinitski. He has spent almost the entire season in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk, but otherwise there will be many newbies. What the Belarusians lack in high-end skill, they may make up for in unity. Like other nations, Belarus has a hot-house program now. Theirs is called Dinamo-U20, and the team plays in the nation’s top league against men, taking its lumps in hopes of getting battle-ready for international play against other teens. Like all minnows at the world juniors, Belarus’ main objective will be to not get blown out of the building by Russia, the Czech Republic and host Finland in preliminary play. Really, the tournament begins at the end, when Belarus will inevitably face either Denmark or the Swiss in the relegation round. Should they survive for another year, the Belarusians will have at least met their expectations, if not surpassed them.