The standard plug for the annual World Junior Hockey Championship is that it showcases the NHL stars of tomorrow: the best under-20 players in the game.
But that's not as true as it used to be.
The 18 or 19-year-old NHL player is no longer a rarity, as evidenced by the list of those who won't be available when the 2012 World Junior begins on Boxing Day.
Justin Faulk could have led the defense corps for Team USA. But he's busy playing a top-four role with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Gabriel Landeskog and Adam Larsson are arguably the two best juniors Sweden has to offer. But we'll never know, because Landeskog has a job in Colorado and Larsson leads all New Jersey defensemen in ice time.
As usual, the Canadian juniors take the biggest hit. If not for NHL obligations, Canada's roster would be bolstered by up to half a dozen under-20 stars.
The top forward lines would potentially be manned by Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes), Tyler Seguin (Boston Bruins), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton Oilers), Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers). Erik Gudbranson (Florida Panthers) would log big minutes on the blue line.
So who will be there?
Plenty of great players you've never heard of, plus a handful of guys who qualify as World Junior veterans.
Later we'll look at three of the more intriguing stories to watch at the 2012 World Juniors, featuring three players who know the highs and lows of one of hockey most entertaining events.
- 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship: Complete Schedule
- World Junior Hockey Championship Explained
- World Junior Hockey All-Time Medal Standings
- 2011 World Junior Review: Russia's Miracle on Ice
(Photo: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)