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2022 World Junior Championship preview and predictions

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Ryan Pike
11 months ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, friends. In addition to holiday revelry and good weather for skating, skiing and sledding, it’s time for the 2022 edition of the IIHF World Junior Championship. Ten teams will vie for under-20 hockey world supremacy.
Let’s take a look at this year’s event!

Group A

Austria
NHL prospects: None
Keep an eye on: Marco Kasper, who plays with Calgary Flames prospect William Strömgren with Rögle BK in Sweden’s J20 Nationell. He’s eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft.
Rooting interests: Austria’s a marginal World Junior team that’s in danger of relegation. They’re going to be trying to play spoiler in every game they’re in.
Canada
NHL prospects: All but three of the Canadian players have been drafted by NHL clubs. Shane Wright (2022) and Connor Bedard (2023) are expected to be top NHL Draft prospects.
Keep an eye on: Everybody on this team is good. Edmonton Oil Kings forwards Jake Neighbours and Dylan Guenther will be leaned on to drive the bus for Canada and both have the potential to take games over.
Rooting interests: Well, it’s Canada. You probably keep your stuff there. (But Edmonton draft choice Xavier Bourgault plays for Canada, so you might find yourself in the awkward situation of cheering on an Oilers prospect.)
Czechia
NHL prospects: About half of the Czech roster are NHL picks.
Keep an eye on: Czech captain Jan Mysak, a Montreal Canadiens pick who’s been superb in the OHL with Hamilton.
Rooting interests: Czechia is a classic scrappy underdog. They’re not a medal threat, but they have enough talent that they’ll be a tough out in basically every game.
Finland
NHL prospects: Most of Finland’s roster (14 players) are NHL picks.
Keep an eye on: Brad Lambert, a projected 2022 NHL Draft first rounder and dual Finnish/Canadian citizen who’s been playing pro hockey in SM-Liiga for the past two seasons.
Rooting interests: The Finns might not be a world-beater at this year’s event because they lack higher end depth, but they have good players at every position and could easily steal games based on puck luck and hard work. They’re an outside threat for the medals.
Germany
NHL prospects: Germany has two NHL picks.
Keep an eye on: Luca Munzenberger, an Oilers prospect, is one of their two picks.
Rooting interests: They have an Oilers prospect. Their team is otherwise going to be relying on an unyielding adherence to systems to avoid getting caved in.

Group B

Russia
NHL prospects: About half of Russia’s roster are NHL picks, but they weirdly took zero players currently playing in North America.
Keep an eye on: Nashville prospect Yaroslav Askarov looks to be Russia’s starting goalie and he’s capable to taking over games on his own.
Rooting interests: Russia has a bunch of guys who have played together along with some good forward and goaltending talent. Their defensive group is a bit iffy, but they’re going to be a threat to take home a medal.
Slovakia
NHL prospects: Slovakia has three NHL picks on their roster.
Keep an eye on: Columbus defensive prospect Simon Knazko is wearing the C for Slovakia, and he’ll be leaned on for big minutes in all situations.
Rooting interests: Slovakia’s a classic underdog in this tournament, with a few NHL picks, a couple 16-year-olds, and a bunch of fun-looking prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft (defender Simon Nemec might be their best one). They won’t win a medal, but they could be the most fun team to watch because of their roster and the sheer lack of expectations for them.
Sweden
NHL prospects: Sweden only has four players on their team that haven’t been NHL picks.
Keep an eye on: Take your pick! Fabian Lysell (Boston), William Eklund (San Jose) and Alexander Holtz (New Jersey) are my names to watch, but the entire Swedish roster is full of good players.
Rooting interests: Sweden has strong players from top to bottom, including in goal. Russia might have slightly better “star” players, but Swedish is arguably better top to bottom. As usual, they’re a medal threat.
Switzerland
NHL prospects: The Swiss have just two NHL picks.
Keep an eye on: Simon Knak, a Nashville prospect, returned to Switzerland after playing in the WHL for the previous two seasons. He’s good and will need to be a difference-maker for his team.
Rooting interests: Switzerland is similar to Slovakia – scrappy, full of youth and pep – but arguably has less exciting players than Slovakia does. They’re not a medal threat, but they’ll try to be a tough out.
United States
NHL prospects: All but four of America’s players are drafted.
Keep an eye on: Matt Coronato is the lone Flames pick in this entire event, but Ottawa pick Jake Sanderson, Seattle pick Matty Beniers and New Jersey pick Luke Hughes are all quality players.
Rooting interests: The big thing worrying me about the USA is their goaltending. Drew Commesso is no Dustin Wolf or Spencer Knight, and if he falters they don’t really have a safety net and will have to score their way out of any jams. They’re a medal threat, but that’s a big weakness.

Schedule

Dec. 26
  • Noon MT: Germany vs. Finland (TSN1/4)
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Russia vs. Sweden (TSN4)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Czechia vs. Canada (TSN1/4)
  • 7:30 p.m. MT: USA vs. Slovakia (TSN1)
Dec. 27
  • Noon MT: Finland vs. Austria (TSN1)
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Russia vs. Switzerland (TSN1)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Germany vs. Czechia (TSN1)
  • 7:30 p.m. MT: Slovakia vs. Sweden (TSN1)
Dec. 28
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Switzerland vs. USA (TSN1)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Canada vs. Austria (TSN1)
Dec. 29
  • Noon MT: Czechia vs. Finland (TSN1)
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Slovakia vs. Russia (TSN1)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Canada vs. Germany (TSN1)
  • 7:30 p.m. MT: Sweden vs. USA (TSN1)
Dec. 30
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Austria vs. Czechia (TSN1)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Switzerland vs. Slovakia (TSN1)
Dec. 31
  • Noon MT: Austria vs. Germany (TSN1)
  • 2:30 p.m. MT: Sweden vs. Switzerland (TSN1)
  • 5 p.m. MT: Finland vs. Canada (TSN1)
  • 7:30 p.m. MT: USA vs. Russia (TSN1)
(Sorry, gang, the relegation games aren’t televised.)
The quarterfinal games are 12:30, 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m. MT on Jan. 2. The semi-finals are 1 and 5 p.m. MT on Jan. 4. The medal games are 2 (bronze) and 6 p.m. (gold) on Jan. 5. (Yes, the medal games are on a Wednesday.) All the medal round games are on TSN1.

Projected standings

Group A:
  1. Canada
  2. Finland
  3. Czechia
  4. Germany
  5. Austria
Group B:
  1. Russia
  2. United States
  3. Sweden
  4. Switzerland
  5. Slovakia
Relegated: Austria (loses to Slovakia)
Bronze Medal: Sweden (over Russia)
Silver Medal: USA
Gold Medal: Canada
Who do you think will capture medals at the World Juniors? Which team or players are you most excited to watch? Sound off in the comments!

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