Photo: Gatineau Olympiques forward and 2014 prospect Vaclav Karabacek is comepting for the Czech Republic at the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship in Finland (courtesy of Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)
Twelve months ago in Sochi, the Czech Republic's U18 squad was at the beginning of what could be a beautiful ride that could see the Czechs finally grabbing a medal at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship. This year's U18 team from this Central European nation has grown and matured since last year's competition, and is now looking more like a medal contender.
Photo: HC Litomerice forward Martin Prochazka (L) was one of the more effective offensive performers for the Czech Republic at the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
At the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmö, Sweden, the Czech Republic had a simple goal of reaching the quarterfinals, at the least. That mission was accomplished and it was a successful tournament for the Czechs, even though it looked at times like they could have gone farther.
Photo: Karpat forward and Nashville Predators prospect Saku Maenalanen (R) has been the top goal-scorer for Finland at the 2014 World Junior Championship (courtesy of ANDREAS HILLERGREN/AFP/Getty Images)
The second quarterfinal contest taking place on Thursday at the 2014 World Junior Championship features Finland facing off against the Czech Republic. Finland was probably the more accomplished of the two teams during the preliminary round, but not by so wide a margin that a Czech victory is unthinkable.
Photo: The host country for the 2014 World Junior Championship, Sweden, has performed well so far at this WJC, going undefeated in three games including a 5-3 win over Switzerland on opening night (courtesy of LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
It has been an interesting 2014 World Junior Championship so far, with one major upset plus a fair amont of offense being generated, albeit with a couple of teams proving to be far more generous than most of the field competing in Malmo, Sweden.
Photo: Kitchener Rangers forward and Dallas Stars prospect Radek Faksa is the most established player on a Czech Republic WJC squad that features mostly younger or unheralded talent (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The 2014 World Junior Championship is set to begin Thursday in Malmö, Sweden with the Czech Republic squad looking to surprise some observers. The Czechs performed well last year in Ufa, Russia, beating Latvia, Switzerland and Finland before being eliminated by the United States in the quarterfinals following a 7-0 victory for the Americans. The Czechs ended last year's WJC in fifth place, but may be hard pressed to equal that accomplishment this year.