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Who will capture gold? 2024 World Junior Championship tournament preview

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Photo credit:Kevin Light/Vancouver Giants
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
It’s the holiday season, friends, and for hockey fans, the winter break is typically filled with the annual World Junior Championship tournament. Hosted this year in Gothenburg, Sweden, the event pits teams of under-20 players from 10 different countries head-to-head to determine the best national junior team on the globe!
As we prepare for things to kick off on Boxing Day – super early, the first game is at 4 a.m. MT – let’s run down the teams we’ll be seeing and how the tournament stacks up.

Group A

Canada

2023 Result: Gold medal
NHL Draftees: 19
First-Rounders: F Matthew Savoie (9th overall, 2022; Buffalo), F Conor Geekie (11th overall, 2022; Arizona), D Denton Mateychuk (12th overall, 2022; Columbus), D Maveric Lamoureux (29th overall, 2022; Arizona), F Nate Danielson (9th overall, 2023; Detroit), F Brayden Yager (14th overall, 2023; Pittsburgh), F Matthew Wood (15th overall, 2023; Nashville), D Oliver Bonk (22nd overall, 2023; Philadelphia), F Easton Cowan (28th overall, 2023; Toronto)
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: F Macklin Celebrini
Odds to Win: +250 (Betway)
The two-time defending champions come in with the second-best odds to win (tied with Sweden, trailing the United States). They do have a lot of very strong offensive players, but the composition of their defensive group and goaltending could be a weakness. But they can score, and that’ll give them a decent chance to get some hardware.

Sweden

2023 Result: 4th place
NHL Draftees: 20
First-Rounders: F Jonathan Letterimaki (15th overall, 2022; Vancouver), F Noah Ostlund (16th overall, 2022; Buffalo), F Liam Ohgren (19th overall, 2022; Minnesota), F Filip Bystedt (27th overall, 2022; San Jose), D Tom Willander (11th overall, 2023; Vancouver), D Axel Sandin Pellikka (17th overall, 2023; Detroit), F Otto Stenberg (25th overall, 2023; St. Louis), D Theo Lindstein (29th overall, 2023; St. Louis), F David Edstrom (32nd overall, 2023; Vegas)
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: None
Odds to Win: +250 (Betway)
Sweden’s tied with Canada for the second-best odds to win, trailing only the United States, and it’s easy to see why. They’re not quite as stacked in terms of forwards as Canada is, but their defensive group is more balanced. Aside from perhaps some minor qualms with their goaltending, the Swedes don’t have a ton of holes in their lineup.

Finland

2023 Result: 5th place
NHL Draftees: 13
First-Rounders: None
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: G Eemil Vinni, F Konsta Helenius, F Emil Hemming
Odds to Win: +500 (Betway)
Finland’s traditionally been a tough out at the World Juniors. Heck, they’ve won medals at this event fairly frequently (and captured gold in 2019). But this year’s group is a bit lean in terms of high-end talent, and they feel like a group that will lose a lot of close games to stronger teams like Canada and Sweden.

Germany

2023 Result: 8th place
NHL Draftees: 3 (Arizona 2022 second-rounder F Julian Lutz, Detroit 2023 fifth-rounder F Kevin Bicker and Buffalo 2023 seventh-rounder D Norwin Panocha)
First-Rounders: None
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Paul Mayer
Odds to Win: +8,000 (Betway)
On one hand, Germany has never medalled at the World Juniors. On the other hand, they always seem to give one of the big-name teams a scare during the round robin. German teams usually only have a handful of NHL-drafted players on them, but they also seem to overcome that deficit through sheer feistiness.

Latvia

2023 Result: 9th place
NHL Draftees: 2 (Boston 2022 fourth-rounder F Dans Locmelis and Florida 2022 fifth-rounder F Sandis Vilmanis)
First-Rounders: None
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: F Kristers Anons, D Darels Uljanskis, D Ingus Locmelis, D Kristers Urbanovics, F Rauls Ozollapa, F Eriks Mateiko
Odds to Win: +50,000 (Betway)
Latvia has the longest odds to win this tournament. They likely won’t win a single game during the round robin segment. It’ll likely be a battle between them and Norway to avoid relegation.

Group B

Czechia

2023 Result: Silver medal
NHL Draftees: 8
First-Rounders: F Jiri Kulich (28th overall, 2022; Buffalo), F Eduard Sale (20th overall, 2023; Seattle)
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Tomas Galvas, D Adam Jiricek
Odds to Win: +1,400 (Betway)
Czechia won silver last year, their first medal since a bronze way back in 2005. They’re a tough group to get a handle on, because they have a bunch of NHL-drafted players, some high-end 2024 draft prospects, and a pretty rock-solid overall group. They’re not as flashy as Canada, the United States or Sweden, but you could reasonably expect them to be as team-oriented as Germany, except with a bit more star power (and therefore the ability to steal close games).

United States

2023 Result: Bronze medal
NHL Draftees: 23
First-Rounders: F Cutter Gauthier (5th overall, 2022; Philadelphia), F Frank Nazar (13th overall, 2022; Chicago), F Rutger McGroarty (14th overall, 2022; Winnipeg), F Jimmy Snuggerud (23rd overall, 2022; St. Louis), D Sam Rinzel (25th overall, 2022; Chicago), F Isaac Howard (31st overall, 2022; Tampa Bay), F Will Smith (4th overall, 2023; San Jose), F Ryan Leonard (8th overall, 2023; Washington), F Oliver Moore (19th overall, 2023; Chicago), F Gabe Perreault (23rd overall, 2023; NY Rangers)
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Zeev Buium
Odds to Win: +200 (Betway)
What can we say about the Americans? They’re good. They’re favoured to win. They have a deep team at virtually every position, and because of the prominence of USA Hockey’s development model, most of the players in this age group have played together in the past.

Slovakia

2023 Result: 6th place
NHL Draftees: 11
First-Rounders: F Filip Mesar (26th overall, 2022; Montreal), F Dalibor Dvorsky (1oth overall, 2023; St. Louis), F Samuel Honzek (16th overall, 2023; Calgary)
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Richard Baran
Odds to Win: +4,000 (Betway)
Slovakia is another interesting group. Slovak hockey has been on the upswing over the last few years, with many high-end NHL draft selections and a bronze medal at the recent Winter Olympics in Beijing. They last medalled at the World Juniors with a bronze back in 2015, but they could get a breakthrough this year. (Disclaimer: A “breakthrough” for them would be another bronze medal.)

Switzerland

2023 Result: 7th place
NHL Draftees: 1 (Anaheim 2023 fifth-rounder D Rodwin Dionicio)
First-Rounders: None
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Leon Muggli, D Daniil Ustinkov, F Jamiro Reber
Odds to Win: +6,600 (Betway)
Switzerland this year feels like a less-talented version of Germany. They’ll likely have a pretty consistent team and their structure and work ethic will frustrate opponents at times, but we don’t think they have the overall talent level needed to steal too many wins.

Norway

2023 Result: Promoted from Division 1A
NHL Draftees: None
First-Rounders: None
2024 NHL Draft first-time eligibles: D Ludwig Lafton, D Stian Solberg, F Michael Brandsegg-Nygard
Odds to Win: +30,000 (Betway)
The good news is that this tournament could be a showcase for Brandsegg-Nygard, who seems poised to become the first Norwegian ever selected in the first round at an NHL Draft. The bad news is that they really need him to have a monster tournament in order to avoid relegation. No pressure, Michael.
Over at Daily Faceoff, our pal Steven Ellis has a detailed deep-dive into the top 10 draft-eligible prospects at the World Juniors. Check it out!
Who do you think will win the gold medal at the World Juniors? Let us know in the comments!

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