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. Saturday, December 26th is Day Two of the tournament with the last game of the day being the United States vs. Austria. Click to check out the predictions for other games today such as Sweden vs the Czech Republic and Germany vs Canada.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
The United States vs. Austria
This match-up seems to be pre-determined before the puck is dropped. The United States are a powerhouse with nine NHL first-round draft picks on their roster. Austria on the other hand is back in the tournament for the first time in ten years. They only have one drafted player on their team, Marco Rossi. The odds are stacked against the Austrians and it will be a miracle if they win.
That mentality is why team USA needs to be ready to play. The Austrians will be excited to be up in the top tournament again and they will be giving the Americans everything they got, with no fear of losing because that is what everyone expects. The Americans can’t enter this game thinking of it as a guarantee because they will be surprised.
The United States
The United States is playing their second game in two days after playing Russia last night. It is a quick turnaround for them, but they can handle it. Because of Covid, these players haven’t played a lot this year, so their bodies should be fine.
Expect Dustin Wolf to get the start in this game after Spencer Knight played last night. Knight’s back-up is no slouch, he would be the starting goalie for almost any team in this tournament except for Russia. Wolf is the reigning Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year, with a 1.88 goals-against-average, a .935 save percentage, nine shutouts, and was second in the league in wins with 34. He’s formidable in the net.
Team USA also has a strong forward group. Their top line has Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte, two top-ten picks in the 2019 NHL draft, and Arthur Kaliyev who is one of the top snipers in this tournament. Challenging him for that crown is sniper Cole Caufield on the second line. Caufield is joined with fellow first-round picks Matthew Boldy at center and Brendan Brisson on left-wing. At the time of writing, the outcome of the USA and Russia is unknown, but the Americans outshot Finland 45 to 16 in their pre-tournament game. Highlighting their puck possession and offensive game.
The American’s defence is raw. They only have one returning player in Cam York, but they have two other first-rounders in Ryan Johnson and Jake Sanderson. All three of them are excellent defenders, skaters, and puck-movers, making them difficult to play against.
Austria has one of the most skilled players in the 2021 World Junior Championship in Marco Rossi. Rossi was drafted 9th overall in the 2020 draft and led the Canadian Hockey League in scoring with 120 points in 56 games. He is a dynamic offensive player who is fast and shifty, with excellent hands, shot, and playmaking ability. His ability to go anywhere on the ice quickly and be a threat as a playmaker, scorer, or dangler makes him a handful for defenders. He is competitive in all areas of the ice and plays well defensively.
Another player to watch is Senna Peeters. Peeters was third on the Austrians in scoring last year in the World Junoir Division 1 tournament with six points in five games. He also played last year with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL where he led the team in goals with 23 in 57 games. He should be able to finish scoring chances that Rossi sets up for him.
On defence, the Austrians have three returning players from last year’s team, Luis Lindner, Timo Pallierer, and Jacob Pfeffer. Linder will be the player to watch. He scored three points in five games in last year’s World Junoir Division 1 tournament and scored 42 points in 38 games for the Boston Jr. Bruins of the National Collegiate Developmental Conference. He is a good skater, walks the blue line extremely well, and has a good wrist shot. He will run Austria’s power play.
Sebastian Wraneschitz appears to be the team’s starter in goal. He plays for the Vienna Capitals in the IceHL, Austria’s top league. He’s played well with a 2.30 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage in nine games.
Austria is highly outmatched. The Americans have stars at every position, and if Austria gets good scoring chances, Wolf will be there to stop them. The Austrians may get one or two goals because of the greatness of Rossi, but I expect the Americans to overpower them.
Prediction: USA wins 6-1.