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 27th is Day Three of the tournament and starts out with Finland vs Switzerland.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Finland vs Switzerland
At first glance, this matchup seems to heavily lean in Finland’s favour. They are always a team that can contend at the World Juniors. Switzerland is coming into this matchup as the clear underdog. Finland has already asserted its dominance in this tournament, taking a 5-3 victory over Germany while Switzerland is 0-1. The Swiss team lost a close 1-0 game to Slovakia on Christmas Day. This tournament will provide an opportunity for Team Switzerland to cause an upset, or for Team Finland to continue dominating.
As previously stated, Finland enters this matchup as the heavy favourites to win. They have a history of being a successful international team as well as a strong 2021 team.
Anton Lundell leads the Finnish group as the captain, scoring the first goal in the game against Germany in their victory. Aku Raty and Henri Nikkanen were able to post a goal and an assist in the first game. Finland will look to see continued offensive production from their talented offensive group. While he was held off the score sheet in the first game, youngster Brad Lambert still had a strong showing with four-zone exits and seven zone entries. He is a strong piece, despite being so young eligible for the 2022 NHL entry draft. Eyes will be on him as the tournament progresses to see how he fairs against older competition.
The Finnish defencemen are just as strong as the forwards, led by Topi Niemela, who also posted a goal and an assist in game one, Ville Heinola who is making another appearance for Finland at the World Juniors. Heinola is an exceptionally strong piece for Finland, as he is a smart player that was able to get time in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets over the 2019-20 season. These players are what makes Finland such an incredible force that will make it difficult for Switzerland to deal with.
The Finnish team has three solid choices for a goaltender with Joel Blomqvist, Kari Piiroinen, and Roope Taponen. After allowing three goals on 22 shots in game one, Piiroinen will need to turn things around for Finland and show a strong performance. He has proven through the 2020-21 season that he can play better than a 0.864 game, and he should turn it around with time.
The Swiss roster doesn’t stack up as well as the Finnish one. While no player on Switzerland was able to make it onto the game sheet in game one, Lorenzo Canonica, a 2021 draft-eligible prospect, was able to generate three shots on goal. He has been able to generate offence through the 2020-21 season in the U20 Swiss league. Hopefully, this can begin to translate to the 2021 World Junior Championship. The Swiss team will look to Simon Knak and Lionel Marchand to pick up the offensive slack. The two were able to get lots of chances in the first game against Slovakia, but neither were able to finish and put Switzerland on the board.
The strength for Switzerland was goaltender Thibeault Fatton, who was able to save 31 of 32 on Friday, keeping Switzerland in it until the very end. If Fatton can replicate the performance he had against Slovakia, the Swiss team may have a chance if the other players on their roster are able to convert on more chances. Posting a 0.969 save percentage in game one, Fatton could make Team Switzerland a legitimate threat if he is able to keep the same momentum going into game 2.
It will be difficult for Switzerland to overcome such a strong Finnish roster. It looks like Finland should dominate in every aspect of the game, and Switzerland will struggle to overcome the pressure Team Finland can apply. The Finnish team outclasses Switzerland in every regard going into this game. There should be no reason Finland can’t continue their offensive prowess to collect another win. Switzerland’s main hope will be on having their goaltending put up another stellar performance, and being able to finish their chances this time around.
Prediction: Finland wins 5-2.
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