It’s the most wonderful time of year for hockey fans, especially those who have been denied access to the league in recent days. The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship will begin on Sunday, with all five tournament favorites set to compete.
The World Juniors is an annual hockey tournament that pits the world’s best U20 players against one another. There is no other tournament like it in any other sport, and it is something that many hockey fans look forward to every year.
It is traditionally considered Canada’s tournament. Canadians are the most enthusiastic about the event, which is held every other year, with the other countries rotating the off-year. However, no country has won more gold medals since 2010 than the United States. Russia, Sweden, and Finland are also perennial contenders in this tournament.
Elite Prospects has the complete rosters for this year’s teams. Most importantly, finding ways to bet on the WJC has become increasingly simple over the years.
Canada (+125 points)
Every year, Canada enters this tournament as the favorite, especially when playing on home ice. However, this does not guarantee that they will always win.
Since 2010, Canada has won three gold medals, but only one of them has been on home soil. Furthermore, capacity will be limited to 50% this year, so Canada’s home-ice advantage will be somewhat diminished.
Canada returns only three players from last year’s team, which stormed through the competition before losing 2-0 to the US in the gold medal game—Kaiden Guhle, Cole Perfetti, and Dylan Garand.
However, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Owen Power, is not included. The 6-foot-6 defenseman is a sophomore at Michigan, and he has 23 points in 18 games this season.
It’s not often that you get to see the No. 1 pick in the previous year’s draft at the World Juniors because they’re usually already in the NHL. Shane Wright and Connor Bedard are potential first-round picks for Canada in the 2022 and 2023 NHL Drafts, respectively.
This team is the tournament favorite for a reason.
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(+400) United States
The US has never won back-to-back gold medals in this tournament, and they will try to change that this year, despite the fact that the majority of last year’s team has moved on.
The entire coaching staff and six players from last year’s team are back: Matty Beniers, Jake Sanderson, Brett Berard, Landon Slaggert, Brock Faber, and Tyler Kleven.
Beniers and Sanderson are two notables. Beniers was the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and he’ll have to carry the offensive load for the United States. Sanderson, who led the team in ice time in last year’s gold medal game, will captain the team and serve as a defensive stalwart.
With Sanderson, Faber, and Kleven all returning, the United States is expected to have the best blue line in the tournament. They also have Luke Hughes, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft.
Russia (plus 500)
The Russians have never missed the podium in consecutive years, but they are in danger of doing so this year after missing out on a medal the previous year.
Matvei Mitchkov is the team’s player to watch. He is not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2023 and has only recently turned 17, but he is still expected to be Russia’s leading scorer.
The Russians have a formidable offensive group, but if they are to advance in this tournament, it will be due to their goaltending. Yaroslav Askarov, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is arguably the best goalie in the field and has plenty of tournament experience. This will be his third season starting for the Russians, which is extremely uncommon for a goalkeeper.
Russians will follow Askarov wherever he goes, but if he performs well, they will have a legitimate shot at a gold medal.
Sweden is always a formidable opponent, and this year is no exception, with 21 NHL draft picks on their 25-man roster. Only Canada and the United States have more (22 each).
The Swedes, like the Russians, will rely on a rising star to lead their effort in 2021. The Minnesota Wild selected Jesper Wallstedt 20th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. In the Swedish Hockey League, he has a.923 save percentage and a 1.82 goals against average.
The Swedes will also have one of the tournament’s best first lines. Oskar Olausson, William Eklund, and Alexander Holtz were all first-round draft picks, with Eklund and Holtz both finishing in the top ten.
This is a team that possesses the necessary firepower to compete for a gold medal.
Finland is always one of the scarier teams in the draft, not because they have a lot of top draft picks—this year’s team has no first rounders—but because they have a consistent style of play in this tournament.
Aatu Raty, a second-round pick of the New York Islanders, was expected to be Finland’s top player, but he was unable to compete due to the COVID protocol for his club team in Finland.
They will have to rely on two young players, draft-eligibles Joakim Kemell and Brad Lambert, to provide scoring. Lambert, one of the tournament’s youngest players, had four points in seven games last year.
Don’t underestimate the Fins.
This is always the point at which the difference between contenders and countries attempting to sneak onto the podium becomes clear.
Slovakia has caused numerous problems in the past, particularly for the United States, and is a team that should never be underestimated.
There is definitely some talent on this team. Offensively, they will be led by LA Kings draft pick Martin Chromiak. Chromiak has 32 points in 23 games for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
On defense, they’ll lean on 17-year-old Simon Nemac. Nemac has already played for Slovakia’s senior team and is expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Keep an eye on winger Juraj Slafkovsky, who could go in the top five of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Slovakia hasn’t had this many exciting prospects in a long time, and they’re not a team to overlook.
Czech Republic (+5000)
The Czechs are constantly conversing with the Slovakians. They’re good enough to steal a game or two from the top teams, but they’re not a gold medal contender.
One top prospect to keep an eye on is defenseman David Jiricek. In the upcoming draft, he could be the first defenseman taken.
If they are to advance in this tournament, they will be led by goalkeeper Jan Bednar. Bednar was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Draft and has previously competed in this tournament.
Germany has quietly improved as a hockey country in recent years.
However, the team is missing three of its top three eligible players, including 2020’s third overall pick Tim Stutzle, who is currently playing for the Ottawa Senators.
Without those players, this German team will struggle, but their only goal will be to avoid relegation.
Keep an eye on goaltender Nikita Quapp and defenseman Luca Munzenberger, the team’s only two drafted players.
Switzerland finished fourth in this tournament just three years ago. But they don’t have the same firepower they did back then.
They were also drawn on the tougher side of the draw, as they were placed in the same group as the United States, Russia, Sweden, and Slovakia.
I don’t see how they could beat one of those teams.
The odds show a significant drop-off from Switzerland and Germany to Austria. Austria is the team most likely to be relegated.
However, Marco Kasper is a very exciting prospect for the first team in a long time. In the upcoming draft, Kasper is expected to be a first-round pick. This season, he has six points in 24 games in the Swedish Hockey League.