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The holiday season is a time for families to get together, enjoy each other’s company, and share their experiences. And turn up the volume on the television because it’s World Juniors time.
In this under-20 hockey championship, the game’s future top players compete for international glory.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for some. Watching those who were recently drafted rise to stardom and the next crop participate on such a large stage is the best gift of all for NHL Draft aficionados.
The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship is scheduled to begin on December 26 and run through January 5, concluding on January 5.
Even though all of the rosters have yet to be finalized, we can predict how the tournament will unfold.
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Who will win the World Junior Championships in 2022?
Canada’s Pool A standings
- The Czech Republic
Without a doubt, Canada should be the top team in this division. They’re a perennial powerhouse in this tournament, and based on their roster, they should be heavy favorites to win. Canada has the best offensive and defensive groups in the tournament. Goaltending isn’t as good as in Sweden or Russia, but it’s better than the rest. This pool is fairly predictable overall. I currently have Finland at No. 2, but I have a soft spot for the Czech team and would like to see them rise. The absence of Aatu Raty from this tournament is a significant loss for the Finns, but I believe their group will finish ahead of the Czechs. The bottom will be either Germany or Austria, and I’d bet on the Germans taking fourth place – but it’ll be close. Unfortunately, Austria could be the team to be relegated.
Sweden’s Pool B standings
This is going to be a lot of fun. I’m willing to bet that there will be a significant gap in who takes the top spot. Some would say Russia, others Sweden, and still others Team USA. But it’s difficult not to back Sweden. The majority of their roster is NHL drafted, and they’re loaded with talent. They will face Canada, who, in my opinion, is the most exciting team in the tournament. Russia, on the other hand, would be the team to take the top spot. In this tournament, I’m backing Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. It will be his final year of eligibility for the tournament, and I expect him to make the most of it. This is a strong team when combined with some of their powerhouses forwards. Russia does not have the same strong defensive group as Sweden. Every year, I seem to undervalue Team USA, and I’m not sure if I’m doing so this year, but I don’t think they’ll come out on top. Their skaters can compete with Russia (even without Thomas Bordeleau), and their defense is stronger, but goaltending will be an issue. I would love to see Slovakia do better than I have them doing in the final two spots, but this is the most likely spot for them. Unfortunately, the Swiss have a good chance of playing in the relegation game.
Predictions for the elimination round, medals, and relegation
- Q1 quarterfinals: 1A 4B is defeated by Canada. Slovakia
- Q2: 1B 4A is defeated by Sweden. Germany
- Q3: 2B 3A is defeated by Russia. The Czech Republic
- Q4: 3B The United States defeats 2A. Finland
There are no major surprises here, as the first three games are likely to be fairly predictable given the matchups. The fourth game, on the other hand, could go either way. This could be a close game, but Team USA’s skaters will easily defeat the Finns. The overall group appears to be superior, but never count out the Finnish groups.
- 1A 3B is defeated by Canada. USA
- 1B 2B is defeated by Sweden. Russia
While Canada should easily defeat the Americans this year, the Sweden-Russia game could be one of the tournament’s best. Jesper Wallstedt vs. Askarov? Please, yes. While this could be a goaltending duel, I believe Sweden will win. This team appears to be a gold-medal contender. However, by doing so, they avoid a gold medal match between Conor Bedard and Matvei Michkov, which I’m sure we’d never forgive the Swedes for.
This is Canada’s year, unless Wallstedt wins the gold medal. However, this could be a close, hard-fought game, and I am ready for it. The bronze medal matchup should be just as exciting, with Askarov likely able to shut down the American offense and add another medal to his collection. After winning gold in 2021, the Americans are likely to go home empty-handed this year.
5B Switzerland defeats and relegates 5A Austria
The Swiss group has just a smidgeon more talent this year, which should be enough to keep them in the tournament. This, however, could go either way.
Country Odds to Win Gold at World Juniors 2022
|Country||Odds to win gold|
According to Sports Interaction, Canada opened as +125 favorites to reclaim the gold medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship. Since 1977, the Canadians have won the tournament 18 times, nearly as many as all other nations combined (27).
The US currently has the second-best odds of winning in 2022. The United States won gold in 2021 and will attempt to repeat for the first time.
LIVE ODDS TO WIN THE WORLD JUNIORS IN 2022
Predictions for individual awards
- Canada’s Cole Perfetti was named MVP
- Canada’s best forward is Cole Perfetti
- USA’s best defender is Jake Sanderson
- Sweden’s best goalkeeper is Jesper Wallstedt
This was difficult. Perfetti and Holtz are the leading contenders for top forward – perhaps unsurprisingly. Unless we see a ridiculous goaltending performance, they’re also the leading candidates for MVP. Sanderson is my current pick on defense, with Power as a 1B option. In my opinion, the top goaltender is a tie between Wallstedt and Askarov, with the winner of the Sweden vs. Russia semifinal taking it.
Austria’s top three players on each team
- Kasper, Marco
- Wraneschitz, Sebastian
- Wallner, Leon
Sebastian Wraneschitz, who was a top-three player last year, should be the starter this year and could be a top-three player again. However, this could be due to the number of shots faced rather than winning games by stealing them. Marco Kasper, a draftee who has spent time in the SHL and has looked right at home this season, should be the team’s top forward. He’s reason enough to keep an eye on this group during the tournament. Finally, Leon Wallner didn’t have a single point in the tournament last year, but he’s been producing in the J20 Nationell and the HockeyAllsvenskan this season, so maybe this is his year. Keep an eye on Senna Peeters and Vinzenz Rohrer from the CHL.
Cole Perfetti Canada
This is difficult because there are several players on this team who have the potential to be top-three scorers. Cole Perfetti is going to have a fantastic tournament and is a strong contender for MVP and top forward. Mason McTavish might be right there with him. On defense, this could be a coming-out party for Owen Power, who was passed over for the World Juniors last year. I believe he will be one of the tournament’s best defenders. Finally, we’ve seen Shane Wright step up his game when it matters, and with the tear he was on in the OHL leading up to camp, I’m hoping to see that continue. Other top candidates for this role include Olen Zellweger, Dylan Guenther, Kent Johnson, and Kaiden Guhle, and we’ll see how 16-year-old Bedard is used.
The Czech Republic
Last year, defender David Jiricek and forward Jan Mysak were both top-three players, and I expect that to continue this year. Jiricek has the potential to be one of the tournament’s top blueliners, while Mysak is the group’s top forward. The third position is up for grabs. Martin Rysavy is here, and he’s a player who always catches my eye, and I think he’ll have a good tournament. Other forward contenders include Jakub Kos, draft-eligible Jiri Kulich, and Pavel Novak, as well as defender Stanislav Svozil. Keep an eye on Jan Bednar in the net as well.
Raty is a strong contender to be the best player on this team if he is able to compete in the tournament. This was one of the more difficult teams to predict because I don’t see many of the players on the roster putting in standout performances. Topi Niemela may be the best player on the team right now and one of the tournament’s best defenders. Roni Hirvonen appears to be the best forward in the group, with Ville Koivunen, Oliver Kapanen, and Kasper Simontaival close behind. I’d like to see Brad Lambert develop into the player we all expected him to be, but Joakim Kemell may continue to outperform him here. In net, either Joel Blomqvist or Leevi Merilainen can hold their own, but I doubt they’ll steal games for the team.
After last year’s performance, there’s no doubt that Florian Elias is the team’s top player and will be heavily relied on. It will be interesting to see if he can match his output from last year without Tim Stutzle and JJ Peterka. After him, I like Nikita Quapp, and if he can keep the ball in the net, he’ll be a star for Germany. I considered two defenders, Maximilian Glotzl and Luca Munzenberger, for the final spot, but neither has a strong grip on it.
Yaroslav Askarov of Russia
This Russian group has a number of players who have the potential to be top players, but none of them will come close to what Askarov can do for the team. The team could rely on him to win the gold medal. I’m hoping and expecting an MVP-caliber performance. Nikita Chibrikov is a player who seems to shine on the international stage, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from him in this tournament. Finally, we’ve all seen Michkov’s performance. It’s one of the best shows on the market right now, and Russia could use him as a top forward in Edmonton. If that’s the case, he’ll be up to the task. Of course, Fyodor Svechkov, Marat Khusnutdinov, Vasili Ponomaryov, and Danila Yurov will want to be noticed as well.
Because I’m completely immersed in 2022 NHL Draft scouting, it was difficult not to include the entire Slovak trio, but at least Simon Nemec made the cut. Although Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar may be deserving, the team will rely heavily on Martin Chromiak, and I hope he answers the call. Defender Samuel Knazko is expected to lead the defense and impress from there. Goaltender Simon Latkoczy has previously caught my eye, but I’m not sure he’ll be used consistently in this tournament. Of course, I have to mention Dalibor Dvorsky, who is eligible in 2023. Many will be seeing him for the first time, and I know you’ll be even more excited for the 2023 class than you were with Bedard and Michkov.
Alexander Holtz and William Eklund reuniting? Oh boy, this could be the most exciting duo in the tournament, and the fact that they have proven chemistry together only adds to the excitement. I expect Holtz to finish near the top of the tournament, and Eklund is right there with him. Holtz has the potential to be an MVP contender. Eklund will be close behind him. Wallstedt will absolutely shine in net and with this defense, and he will be one of the best goalies in the tournament. Make a reservation. Aside from these three, there are numerous prospects who have the potential to be top-three players. This team has the potential to dazzle, with Emil Andrae and Simon Edvinsson on the back end and Fabian Lysell, Oskar Olausson, or Isak Rosen up front.
Simon Knak is the team’s top player, and he was a top-three performer last season. He’ll play a key role in ensuring the Swiss retain their place in this tournament. Lorenzo Canonica didn’t have the best performance in this tournament last year, but I expect him to improve this year. Noah Meier and Brian Zanetti should be top defensive players, with draft-eligible Lian Bichsel right behind them. Forwards to keep an eye on include Attilio Biasca, Ray Fust, and Louis Robin.
Last but not least, we all saw what Matthew Beniers did as a draft-eligible in this tournament. As a key member of this team, expect him to be a leader and a top forward in the tournament. Defender Jake Sanderson may be the best defender in the tournament, as he appears to be on his way to the NHL sooner rather than later. I’m expecting him to have a big tournament. Sasha Pastujov is having a breakout season in the OHL, and that should continue into this tournament. Matt Coronato, Chaz Lucius, Mackie Samoskevich, and Luke Hughes are a few more to keep an eye on.
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