For a high latitude small scale map like this, you're definitely going to want to get an idea of your projection and extent early on. This isn't something that can easily be fudged under these conditions.
Given it's roughly the same extent as Canada, I'd suggest taking a map of Canada in a Canada specific projection and using that as a template. Statistics Canada Lambert Conformal Conic (EPSG:334 is my usual choice of projection for maps of the whole country. (As in this map Picture 1 of 5 from Contest Entries)