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 28th is Day Four of the tournament and ends out with Slovakia vs Germany.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Slovakia vs Germany
This game is among the most meaningless of this tournament. Slovakia is 1-1 and Germany is 0-2, with a modest -15 goals separating their goal differential. With the 0-2 Switzerland team in between, the odds of Slovakia making the Qualifying Round are all-but-guaranteed. So Monday’s bout is a bit menial but hockey nonetheless. A Slovakia team that surprised will face off against a Germany team that’s struggled, in a game that surprisingly has a very clear favourite.
And that favourite is Slovakia. They’ve looked really well in the Group Stage so far, after a very disappointing exhibition loss to the Czech Republic during the exhibition round. But Slovakia has boarded down the hatches and is competing now. The Slovakian team ground down every second of their match against Team Canada and, as a result, only lost by two goals. That’s a frankly incredible margin, coming a day after Canada put up 16 goals against Team Germany. It goes to show the effectiveness and capability of a fairly modest Slovakian lineup.
A group of unsuspecting names holds up the lineup. Los Angeles Kings prospect Martin Chromiak has held the reigns of their offence but players like Roman Faith and Oleksii Myklukha. Defencemen Simon Nemec is also establishing himself as a plenty-capable talent, with two assists through the two games they’ve played. Even 16-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky has looked good, even in the light of an incredible Team Canada. The thoroughness of the whole lineup is a testament to how well the coaching is in Slovakia. They’re simply built to succeed, with thorough play in their own end building up to offensive-zone opportunities.
Their goaltending staff is perfectly helping the patient, sound style Slovakia has flexed. In their first game, Simon Latkoczy filled in for Samuel Hlavaj, who was hurt in warmups. And Latkoczy played incredibly well. He shut out Team Switzerland and made it seem like he had taken full advantage of the opportunity Slovakia gave to him. But Hlavaj was back in net for Slovakia against Canada and made it very clear why. He was absolutely terrific against Canada, serving as the clear backbone of Slovakia’s lineup.
They are not a team that’s going to score five goals in a game. They’re not a team that’s overly flashy. But simply put, Slovakia is showing that they’re a mature, worthy team on the back of awesome goaltending and sound defence. They have plenty of potential if they can get their offence going but against Germany, that won’t be the biggest concern.
But that’s not to say Germany is a bad team. They’ve played really, really well. But they’ve also played both games with, at most, 14 skaters. It is insane that they are even still playing, quite frankly.
But in the wake of this, and despite playing almost 25 minutes a night, Tim Stuetzle and John-Jason Peterka are playing incredibly. Stuetzle has two points so far and Peterka has managed three. But neither lead the team in scoring. Undrafted forward Florian Elias holds that style instead. He is a bit unsuspecting of a name but is establishing his ability as a hard-working, offensive presence. This is a bit surprising given that Elias has yet to play in more than one game outside of the 2021 World Junior Championship this year.
The power-three of the German offence has been really impressive so far. But their defence, and even worse their goaltending, has been awful to start the tournament. Even if they had a full lineup to roll out, it’s very likely these weaknesses in the German lineup would still be around.
It’s been fun to watch Germany but their situation is frankly upsetting. Their offence has been impressive, their defence and goaltending anything but. Thanks to their situation, though, they’re not able to really rival any wins. There’s not much potential in the German lineup at all, simply because only 14 skaters are playing.
This all leads to a pretty easy prediction to make. Slovakia has been defensively-sound and has a chance to become very strong offensively as well. Germany simply has not been on the level of anyone else. Slovakia will need to play hard to beat a determined German top-line but that shouldn’t be a worry for them. At the end of the day, it should be an easy Slovak win.
Prediction: Slovakia wins 2-1.