One of the most exciting and prestigious hockey tournaments in the world is reportedly coming to Minnesota. The Athletic's Corey Pronman and Michael Russo reported on Wednesday that the 2026 IIHF World Junior Championship will be held in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The tournament will likely start in late December 2025, meaning the State of Hockey has two years to prepare for the event.
The World Junior Championship (WJC) -- specifically, the Under-20 WJC -- draws a lot of eyes every year. Most of the biggest prospects in the sport partake in the tournament, with most of them being affiliated with an NHL team. For example, the Minnesota Wild's 2022 first-round pick Liam Öhgren is representing Team Sweden in the semifinal this year, and 2022 sixth-rounder Servac Petrovsky of Team Slovakia is tied for second in the tournament in scoring.
The World Juniors has not been held in Minnesota since 2005, a year when games were split between Thief River Falls, Minn., and Grand Forks, North Dakota. That year saw future Hall-of-Famers Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Patrice Bergeron, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel partaking in the event. Future Wild players included Ryan Suter, Alex Goligoski, and Cam Barker.
Minnesota also shared hosting duties in 1982, with games being held in Bloomington and Duluth in the United States, and Winnipeg and Kenora in Canada. 2026's WJC tournament will mark the first time Minnesota has held sole hosting duties within its borders, and also the first time the Xcel Energy Center has hosted the World Junior Championship.
It will also be an opportunity for Team USA to win the tournament on home soil for the first time in the tournament's history. The United States' first victory came in 2004 in Helsinki, and they have since won three times in Canada (2010, 2017, and 2021) and once in Russia (2017). Wild alumni who have won gold medals for Team USA include Suter, Zach Parise, Patrick O'Sullivan, Jake Dowell, Jason Zucker, Mike Reilly, Alex Galchenyuk, Ryan Hartman, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, and Boldy.
As for which Wild prospects may play in the 2026 tournament, we do not know that yet. Players born in 2005 or prior will be ineligible, meaning that no one in the Wild organization will potentially be eligible until the 2024 NHL Draft this summer. The Wild do have first and second-round picks in both 2024 and 2025, with 11 picks total in those seasons. They'll likely send someone to that tournament, but we're in wait-and-see mode until then.
Regardless of who will be representing the Wild, the tournament should still draw interest locally. It's a fantastic chance to see the top prospects in the world playing high-level, high-stakes hockey. Minneapolis and St. Paul will be a destination for those who want to glimpse the future of the sport.
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