2021 World Junior Championship Predictions: Germany vs Finland

2021 World Junior Championship
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Welcome to the 2021 World Junior Championship predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will take a look at each game and give our predictions of the results. Friday, December 25th is Day One of the tournament and includes Germany vs Finland. Click to check out the predictions for Slovakia vs Switzerland and Russia vs the United States.

2021 World Junior Championship Predictions

Germany vs Finland

This matchup bodes to be one of the many David vs. Goliath type games in Group A at the 2021 World Junior Championship. With Team Canada and Team Finland as heavyweights, Teams Slovakia, Germany, and Switzerland will struggle to gain traction. This differentiation is exaggerated by Team Germany’s COVID situation. They will be down to just 14 skaters for this game, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Their other roster skaters are still in quarantine due to recent positive tests. They have a tough first opponent in Finland. They kept themselves within striking distance of the United States in a recent 3-2 loss in a tournament warm-up game. They’re also just recently removed from winning at all, as they took home the gold medal in 2019. A powerhouse nation, they’ll have virtually another warm-up game to open the tourney against Germany.

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Team Germany

Team Germany is making their second straight appearance in the WJC after being promoted from Division 1 play in 2019. They’ll be here for at least another year, as the IIHF has eliminated relegation for this year’s tourney. Thankfully for Germany, their two big stars are eligible to play in today’s match.

Tim Stuetzle will be playing his first hockey in a while after being sidelined with a hand injury. The third overall pick in the 2020 Draft by the Ottawa Senators will be the cornerstone of Germany’s offence, and he’ll need to be at his best if they want any chance of knocking off the Finnish. He’s point-per-game in various international appearances for Germany so far in 2020-21, and he’ll need to be better than that now. It’s Stuetzle’s second World Juniors, having posted five assists in five games at last year’s tournament.

Another crucial piece of Germany’s offence will be John-Jason Peterka. The forward was just drafted 34th overall by the Buffalo Sabres and is looking to prove teams that passed over him wrong. Peterka has lit up the top Austrian league on loan this year, posting 16 points in 12 games with EC Salzburg. Peterka will drive Germany’s forecheck in this game, and his skating and overall attitude will likely set the tone for this German team. If he comes out flying, he’ll give Germany a chance at the upset.

And while no starter for Germany in goal is for certain, Florian Bugl will likely assume the role against Finland. He’s done well in 13 games so far in the Austrian junior league, posting a .926 save percentage and an 8-5-0 record with the RB Hockey Juniors. He performed well in international play for Germany last year too, with a .944 save percentage for Germany’s U18 team in three international appearances. He’ll need to continue those numbers against Finland for Germany to be on even ground, although it’s unlikely.

Truthfully, aside from Stuetzle and Peterka, there isn’t much reason for optimism with this German team. With no real depth on defence and unproven goaltending, it could be a long round-robin.

Team Finland

Finland enters as the heavy favourite in this matchup, making three straight playoff appearances in the WJC.

On offence, there’s a lot to like about this Finnish squad. They’ll be captained by Anton Lundell, a 12th overall pick by the Florida Panthers in 2020. He’s an incredible two-way centre who’s over a point-per-game this year in the Finnish top league and looks for retribution after missing last year’s WJC due to injury. Another name to focus on is Brad Lambert, a just-turned-17-year-old who’s a lock to go top-three in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. His seven points in 18 Liiga games so far this season are quite impressive for someone his age, and he looks to now make his mark internationally. Other important complements for this forward group are Kasper SimontaivalRoby Jarventie, Roni Hirvonenand Aku Raty. They’ve all been drafted by NHL squads and form a formidable attack.

Save for Lundell, the Finnish defence might be even stronger. They’re led by Ville Heinola, a former first-round pick who’s got NHL experience with the Winnipeg Jets. He’s a strong offensive defenceman who’s put up great numbers in the Liiga so far after a mediocre WJC last year. Also worth mentioning is Topi Niemela, who took home player of the game honours for Finland in their warm-up match against the Americans. Mikko Kokkonen and Eemil Viro round out a solid blueline for Finland.

Goaltending is this team’s concern, but still not a weakness compared to Germany. A trio of Joel BlomqvistKari Piiroinen, and Roope Taponen provide Finland with NHL-drafted talent and past WJC experience. They should be solid enough to ward off a weak German attack.

Prediction

While there’s always a chance at an upset, Germany has no advantage over the Finns in any area of the game. Finland has star power in net and on defence that the Germans don’t have, and Finland’s top-end offensive talent offsets the Germans’ offering of Stuetzle and Peterka. Despite a rising German hockey program, this game could very well be a blowout for the Finnish.

Prediction: Finland wins 7-1.

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