The World Juniors start on December 26th, so it’s time to dig in and start making predictions on who will win this year’s gold medal.
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Canada won the gold medal last Summer in that redo World Junior tournament…thingy. Sure it was hockey, but it felt wrong. Nonetheless, a gold medal is still a gold medal, and Canada will be looking to repeat as Champion.
Tournament Low Down
We have two groups, Group A and Group B. In the preliminary round, each team plays three times in their group. Once the preliminary round is over, the top four teams from each group advance to the playoff round. The top four placed teams from the preliminary round will play a cross-over quarter-final game: 1A vs. 4B, 1B vs. 4A, 2B vs. 3A, and 2A vs. 3B. The winner of each quarter-final moves onto the semi-finals and the winner of each semi-final game will move on to the gold medal game. The losers play for the bronze medal.
“Canada is far too stacked at this year’s World Juniors, and anything less than a gold medal will be a massive disappointment.”
World Juniors Prediction
Above is how we think the preliminary round standings will shake out. Like every year, you have four powerhouse teams in Sweden, Finland, the USA, and Canada. You can add Czechia and Slovakia to the mix as competitive, but ultimately, those four teams are expected to medal. Outside of that, you’ll have Germany, Austria, Latvia and Switzerland all battling it out for fourth place in their groups.
We could see the following matchups in the quarter-finals or something similar.
Canada is icing their most explosive team since 2005 (Crosby, Bergeron, Carter, Getzlaf, Perry) and 2008 (Stamkos, Tavares, Giroux). They are considered the team to beat. No matter who their quarter-final matchup is, it shouldn’t be a close contest.
The same could be said for the USA if they faced Germany in their quarter-final matchup. The U.S. team has high-level prospects like Logan Cooley, Luke Hughes, and more. They should make quick work of Germany.
Sweden is also stacked and is going into this tourney with great goaltending in Carl Lindbom. Slovakia could be a tough matchup, but I don’t see them getting past the Swedes. The real question is, who would win between Finland and Czechia?
Czechia has a few returning players. Recently, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced they would loan their prized rookie defenceman David Jiricek to the international team, which will boost Czechia’s back line.
Typically Finland is a team that should be able to make their way to the semi-finals, but it appears they will have the least amount of returnee players and will be putting together a much younger roster. This will be a tough matchup that could probably go either way. But we’ll stick to our guns and go with Finland.
Finland might get out of the quarter-finals, but they would have their hands full with Canada in the semis. The Fin’s potential first line of Brad Lambert between Ville Koivunen and Joakim Kemell will get their chances, but Canada will be rolling four lines that should be able to overpower Finland.
A USA vs. Sweden semi-final might be the most exciting matchup because it would be a coin flip on who we think could win. Leo Carlsson will lead Sweden at center, and their defence and goaltending will make it tough on the U.S. That said, this American bunch of kids are fast and looking to right the wrong of last summer; they’ll be motivated. In what will be a close game, I see the U.S. winning in O.T. or shootout and punching their ticket to meet Canada in the finals.
A USA vs. Canada gold medal final at the World Juniors isn’t new, but it will likely be Canada’s most formidable competition at this tournament. The U.S. has a lot of players who have been playing together at the U.S. National Development Program. So there is some ingrained chemistry, like Cooley reuniting with Jimmy Snuggerud and Cutter Gauthier. Team play over individual play will give the U.S. their best chance at winning.
But I don’t expect there to be an upset here. Canada looks poised to run through this tournament and dominate. Maybe the final might be a tighter game. Still, Canada, led by Connor Bedard, Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann, and Adam Fantilli, has the firepower and the goaltending to win one of the most convincing gold medals in the history of this tournament.
Canada is far too stacked at this year’s World Juniors, and anything less than a gold medal will be a massive disappointment.
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