Last Year – Latvia, a team that is a traditional fan favorite wherever they go, struggled at last year’s tournament. They were winless until their final game, where they managed to avoid relegation with a 2-1 OT win over Denmark. They ended the tournament ranked 9th of the 10 teams.
# Returnees – 12 (expected)- Rihards Cimermanis, Elvis Merzlikins, Kriss Lipsbergs, Kristaps Nimanis, Edgars Siksna, Pauls Zvirbulis, Toms Andersons, Teodors Blugers, Zemgus Girgensons, Nikita Jevpalovs, Arturs Kuzmenkovs, Roberts Lipsbergs,
Key Players – Zemgus Girgensons was drafted in the first round by Buffalo in 2012, and is playing in Rochester this season. He is the only NHL drafted player on the Latvian roster. He is talented and has shown the ability to compete at this level. Nikia Jevpalovs led the team in scoring last year with 5 points in the tournament.
Watch For – Rihards Bukarts will turn 17 on Dec 31, and is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2014. He was drafted in the KHL draft 9th overall last year.
Prediction – With so many players returning from last year’s team, Latvia could use the experience to likely avoid relegation, but would be hard-pressed to advance to the quarterfinals. A moral victory for the Latvians would be to improve on the 9th place finish from last year.