Welcome to the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions. Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down and give our 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships predictions for each game in the tournament. This will also include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. Friday, December 27th’s featured game is United States vs Germany. This is day one of the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions
Kazakhstan vs Slovakia
Records: Kazakhstan (0-1-0) Slovakia (0-0-0)
Kazakhstan put up a good fight against Switzerland but fell to them 5-3. Maxim Musorov led the charge for Kazakhstan in the opening-day, netting two goals on three shots. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, though. Musorov has dazzled in the MHL so far this year, with 23 points in 17 games. This leads his team, the Snezhnye Barsy Astana, in points-per-game.
The Astana is actually where most of Kazakhstan’s lineup plays when they’re not on international duty. The team’s head coach, Sergei Starygin, is even Astan’s head coach, giving an overwhelming sensation of familiarity to the team.
Kazakhstan surpassed expectations on opening day. While they never come into the tournament with high hopes, there was a clear glimmer of hope for the team against a much better, on paper, Switzerland team.
If they can keep this fire up, they could very easily topple an inexperienced Slovakia team. Only two members of the Slovakia lineup are returning from last year’s tournament and only one has been drafted into the NHL. Slovakia’s lineup is fairly lacklustre. While there’s no counting any team out in this tourney, it’s hard to get behind their group. Starting goalie Samuel Hlavaj is likely the team’s brightest spot. One of the two players returning, Hlavaj has an admirable track record. Before leaving for the tourney, he led the QMJHL with the lowest goals-against-average (2.14) and the highest save percentage (.925) in the league among goalies with 10+ games played.
With not much of a threat being boasted by the rest of Slovakia’s roster, Friday’s matchup will be a battle of a relatively potent offence, with players like Musorov and Oleig Boiko bringing plenty of firepower, versus a very strong goaltender in Hlavaj. While neither team is very high on fans’ “to-watch” list, this game could prove to be an exciting way to start day two. If they can match their play from Thursday, Kazakhstan could just squeak past an inexperienced Slovakia team in their first outing of the tournament.
Prediction: Kazakhstan wins 3-2.
Germany vs United States
Records: Germany (0-0-0) United States (0-1-0)
The United States played Canada in day one’s action and to say it was dramatic would be an understatement. The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period but ended up squandering it. Alexis Lafreniere proved far too much to handle for the US and, despite their valiant effort, helped push Canada to a 5-4 victory.
Still, the United States proved why they were a favourite for the tourney in the first period of Thursday’s game. They were a solid core of players, boasting tremendous depth and cohesion. While there was expected stardom from goaltender Spencer Knight, it was Shane Pinto who stole the show. He was ultimately awarded ‘Player of the Game’ for the United States roster. He netted two goals and was the overall catalyst for the red-white-and-blue. Arthur Kaliyev and Nicholas Robertson also scored for the Americans.
Interestingly, Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte were fairly unproductive in Thursday’s match. The duo was absolutely incredible for the 2018-19 UNTDP and were high draft picks in the 2019 NHL Draft as a result. They’ve kept up this strong play with the University of Wisconsin this season, with Caufield leading the team in goals (12) and points (20) in 18 games. Turcotte is two spots behind him on the leaderboard, with 15 points in 16 games.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that the United States have a significant amount of firepower that didn’t perform on Thursday’s game. This isn’t limited to Turcotte and Caufield. The United States roster is amazingly strong and will have a fire under them in Friday’s contest.
They’ll face off against a fairly strong Germany roster. Their roster features many highly-anticipated prospects, effectively creating a team with a terrific offence and shut-down defence. All eyes will be on Moritz Seider, the questionably-picked sixth-overall draftee from the 2019 NHL Draft who has outperformed in the AHL this season. He currently has 12 points in 28 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins, second among the team’s defensemen.
While this tournament will be a great chance for Seider to show the world his worth, fans shouldn’t let him steal the show. The German top-six is dazzling. It boasts Dominik Bokk, Tim Stutzle, Lukas Reichel likely to be the keys behind their potent offence. In a similar, albeit heightened, vein to the Slovakia versus Kazakhstan game; the United States will look to dominate a similar-strength Germany roster in their first game of the tournament, following a heavily hard-fought loss on Thursday. It’ll be a very exciting game but it’s hard to bet against a lineup as talented as the US’. They should easily steal the show on Friday.
Prediction: United States wins 5-3.