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 28th’s featured game is Russia vs Canada. This is day three of the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions
Finland vs Slovakia
Records: Finland (0-0-1) Slovakia (1-0-0)
Finland and Sweden played out a thriller in overtime in both teams’ opening fixture, with the latter coming away with a 3-2 win in overtime. Justus Annunen came up huge for Finalnd, stopping a barrage of pucks in a 45 save effort. The 19-year old net minder from has been one of the most consistent at his position in Liiga this season, boasting a 1.26 goals-against-average and .947 save percentage over 13 starts. He will continue to be a force in net throughout this tournament and a key to any potential success. Third liners Patrik Puistola and Kristan Tanus both scored for Finland, also assisting on each other’s goals.
The Finns’ attack is possibly the weakest we have seen at this tournament in several years. Without stud prospect Anton Lundell (who was lost to injury before the tournament) and now first-line centre Rasmus Kupari (injured in the loss to Sweden) there will be more onus on the forward depth and their key guys on defence to carry the scoring.
One of the youngest and inexperienced teams in this championship, Slovakia started off well with a lackluster 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan. The game itself was rather dull, with both teams struggling to assert dominance. Slovakia broke the 1-1 tie with just three minutes left, later adding an empty-net goal. Sherbrooke Phoenix starting goaltender Samuel Hlavaj was solid in net stopping 22 of 23 shots. Defenceman David Mudrak lead the way offensively with two assists and eight shots on goal.
Even though Slovakia had a decent showing in game one, they’ll still be the underdogs in against a daunting Finland roster. Finland just has too many players who are of a higher quality. Hlavaj again will have to be outstanding and key forwards Robert Dzugan, Oliver Okuliar and Kristian Kovacik will need to be even more outstanding in order for a Slovak result.
Prediction: Finland Wins 3-1
Czech Republic vs. Germany
Records: Czech Republic (1-0-0) Germany (0-1-0)
Group B continues with what should be another competitive game. The Czech’s have started hot, claiming a 4-3 win over perennial powerhouse Russia. The home team chased top prospect Yaraslav Askarov out of the net after two periods and for chunks of the game, looked in control. Michal Teply and Jan Jenik lead the way for the hosts upfront and they got a very solid performance from Lukas Dostal in net, who made 33 stops in the win. Slovakia played with alot of first use, winning 63 percent of the faceoffs against Russia. They managed to control alot of offensive zone time due to this, managing to get alot of quick shots on net and allowed them to set to find a rhythm offensively.
The hosts will look to continue the good form as they come up against a Germany side that is trying to not lose two in a row.
The Germans were gallant in defeat to the United States in their opener, going down 6-3. led by Dominik Bokk (three points) and 2020 draft-eligible prospects Tim Stützle and J.J Peterka, Germany showed that they have an offence that is skillful and to be noticed. Peterka lit the lamp twice on the powerplay and Bokk scored on a beautiful breakaway, exposing the USA defence. As a team they may not have the depth other countries do, but they boast some high-end players. Stützle is a high-end player who will cause nightmares in this tournament. Players like Bokk and captain Moritz Seider are not far behind him talent-wise.
On an extra day’s rest, the host team has the advantage. The Czech team will look to get similar production from their high-end guys yet again and go 2-0. Germany is a desperate team, in search of that crucial first win. Newly promoted from Division 1A, the Germans will be out to prove they belong here. This game is of two evenly matched teams that will want to keep pace in the group. This game will be a good one.
Prediction: Germany wins 3-2
Switzerland vs. Sweden
Records: Switzerland (1-0-0) Sweden (1-0-0)
After a satisfactory opening-round win against Kazakhstan, Switzerland faces a tremendous all-around team in Sweden. Surrendering three goals off of 19 shots in their 5-3 win, Switzerland will have to tighten up on defence and get better support from the goaltender position. Switzerland doesn’t have an out and out star offensively but does have some handy contributors. These two teams have some history, with Switzerland stunning Sweden in last years edition with a 2-0 win. If that result is to happen again, captain Tim Berni and Janis Moser are going to have to lock it down defensively and hope for some goal support from the likes of Matthew Verboon and Valentin Nussbaumer.
Sweden put up 48 shots on net in their opener, only to be mostly thwarted by Finland’s Justus Annunen. It was a game in which Sweden dominated all aspects, but just couldn’t convert it into a bigger score. Still good enough for a 3-2 overtime win however. Nils Höglander pulled off yet another “Michigan Goal” to accompany his assist and was awarded best player for Sweden. Forward Samuel Fagemo had two points and 10 shots on goal and defender Victor Soderstrom also had two points in the victory.
On paper, Sweden should win this one comfortably. They have too much talent all over the ice for Switzerland. Expect potential top 10 2020 picks Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond to look to build off what was a good first game and for Rasmus Sandin and Philip Broberg to have offensive impact from the back end.
Prediction: Sweden Wins 5-2
Russia vs. Canada
Records: Russia (0-1-0) Canada (1-0-0)
Canada looked like the team to beat in their Opening Day matchup against the United States. After falling to a quick 2-0 deficit, Canada rallied to eventually win the game 5-4. This comeback was led by an absolutely dazzling, four-point outing from elite 2020 NHL Draft prospect Alexis Lafreniere. While the rest of the Canadian roster looked fairly sound, and as expected, Lafreniere’s performance was unparalleled. While it’s hard to put so much trust in a single player in a tournament like this, Lafreniere might be relied on to carry the torch for Canada moving forward. Yet, there is no better player to lean on in the entire tournament.
Russia, on the other hand, disappointed in their first outing. They lost to the Czech’s in a fairly unexpected performance. Despite so many dominant players on their lineup, the Russians fell to a weaker, on-paper, Czech team. This could be writing on the wall for Russia. Game One was held far too close considering Russia’s expected potency, ultimately losing 4-3. Against such a dazzling and deep Canadian roster, the Russians certainly aren’t in a position to rebound just yet. While Russia will surely pose a healthy competition, there’s seemingly no way to bet against Canada so far.
Prediction: Canada wins 6-4.