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Will Canada Win Gold at World Juniors?

Can Canada three-peat?

Canada has been dominant at the World Juniors, having won gold four times over the last six years, and is looking for three in a row starting December 26th in Gothenburg, Sweden. Like always, many great NHL prospects are taking part, who’ll be looking to win a medal and improve their draft rankings.

So let’s get to it: like we did last year, we predict this year’s World Juniors gold medal winner.

World Juniors Gold Medal Prediction

Team Canada

Canada will always be a gold medal favourite and should never be overlooked. But countries like the USA, Sweden, and Finland can easily spoil the party, especially this year.

Canada recently announced their World Juniors roster, and they’ll have a plethora of undersized centers and wingers, with some most likely having to play out of position or a checking role they aren’t necessarily accustomed to. But that’s the beauty of this tournament: seeing players and lines finding chemistry quickly and playing for each other.

When it comes to the forward group, players like Conor Geekie, Nate Danielson and Brayden Yager are all excellent players on their respected clubs, but to be honest, none of them is the ideal number-one center you’re looking for in a tournament of this magnitude.

Let’s not forget the Macklin Celebrini factor. It will be interesting to see how the projected number-one pick in this year’s NHL draft performs in his first World Juniors. He’s the lightning rod, and based on how he’s playing at Boston University right now, get ready for the show. He’ll be the X factor for this group.

Where Canada shines this year will be on the back end. They have size, mobility and puck-moving d-men who should be able to get the biscuit to the forwards and look deadly on the powerplay. The big question is, who will start between the pipes? Their goalies must be capable of stealing them a game, or the dream of a three-peat might quickly become nightmare fuel.

And that could be courtesy of Team USA

Team USA

In our minds, they are the team to beat. They are stacked, and although we don’t have their final roster as we write this, the coaches will make some tough decisions, as there are only so many spots. The controversy won’t be who they take but who they leave off the team, like possibly a projected top-three pick in this year’s draft. We shall see.

What we do know is when you have the likes of Will Smith reuniting with Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault, and they might not even be the US’s first line, look out! This team is going to have four scoring lines that can hurt you. They have the speed and skill to burn; now imagine that on a bigger International ice surface. You add a strong defence led by a dynamic Lane Hutson and some high-level goaltending; the US is easily the odds-on favourite to take home gold. Sorry, Canada.

The Fins and the Swedes

Obviously, team Sweden packs a punch, especially on the blue line, and don’t forget they’ll have a home-ice advantage. People shouldn’t sleep on the Swedes because momentum and getting hot at the right time are key in a competition like this. Take the recent U18 tournament, where Swedish expectations were low, and they won gold anyway. They’ll be deep on forward and defence, with three legit scoring lines and quality puck-moving defensemen. Their returning high-profile first-line of Ohgren, Ostlund, and Lekkerimaki could single-handedly win the blue and yellow games.

Meanwhile, Finland is never a team to take lightly. They’ve also won their fair share of Gold at this tournament. They like to blend speed with toughness, but due to some key injuries, they’ll likely have to assemble a very young lineup of players making their World Junior debuts. So it’s that unknown factor that makes us weary of anointing Finland a gold medal favourite.

In the end, Canada and Sweden will be in the mix, but in our mind, it’s the USA’s tournament to lose.

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