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. Wednesday, December 30th is Day Six of the tournament. In the middle game of the day, we see Switzerland back in action against Germany.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Switzerland vs. Germany
This is a massive game for both sides. If Germany loses in regulation they won’t be going to medal. Germany needs to win or get at least one point to move on. If they win in overtime, they’re tied with Slovakia but they have the tie-breaker because they beat them. Germany has to hope that Slovakia doesn’t pick up another point in their game against Finland. If Germany wins, and Slovakia does not pick up a point against Finland, Germany would finish third in Group A holding the tiebreakers.
With Switzerland losing to Canada 7-0, it is a must-win game for the Swiss. If they win in regulation they are off to the quarterfinals. However, a win in overtime or the shootout guarantees a fourth-place finish in Group A.
Switzerland’s strongest position is in the net. Switzerland’s goaltender Thibault Fatton has faced 75 shots over two games and stopped 70 of them, for a .933 save percentage. All of the goals Fatton has allowed were from scoring chances. He stops the shots he’s supposed to, so if the Swiss can slow Germany’s offence, they will have a great opportunity to keep the score down. Switzerland only scored one goal in their first two games of the 2021 World Junior Championship, so their offence is not their strong point. Keeping the score down will be their best pathway for success. But they will have difficulty stopping Germany’s top line of Tim Stuetzle, JJ Peterka, and Elias Floran.
Switzerland is going to have to generate some offence if they want to win. One player to watch is Lorenzo Canonica. He is a potential first-round pick in this draft and a dynamic player in the Swiss U20 league with 19 points in 20 games. A YouTube highlight package shows that he is a quick forward with an excellent wrist shot, stickhandling ability, and is a good playmaker. If he can find some room to get his shot off, he has a good chance to score. Canonica has five shots over two games but no points.
Switzerland’s captain Simon Knack is also a threat to score. He had eight shots on goal against Slovakia, but couldn’t get a goal. He had 34 points for the Portland Winterhawks last year. A dark horse offensively is Attilio Biasca. The 17-year-old was drafted 5th overall in the 2020 CHL import draft by the Halifax Mooseheads. Biasca led the Swiss with four shots against Finland and has Switzerland’s only goal.
How much gas does Germany have left? They haven’t played a game in this tournament with a full-roster because of Covid-19. They’ve played with only 14 players. Tim Stuetzle played 31 minutes in their overtime win against the Slovaks. They have an excellent opportunity to get themselves into the qualifying round with a win, so they better have gas left.
Germany has one of the tournament’s best lines. Elias Floran is third in the tournament in scoring with six points in three games. Stuetzle and Peterka are tied for fifth with five points. Stuetzle specifically has been dynamic. Of the five points he has, two were because he skated around the opposing team to create a goal. Peterka has an elite shot and the undrafted Floran complements them well as a hard-working player. Switzerland can slow them down, but it is unlikely they will be able to stop them.
The weak point for the Germans so far has been their defence and goaltending. Luckily for them, they are going up against a team that’s had trouble scoring. The Germans kept Slovakia to a respectable 32 shots for an overtime game. Their defence is expected to be solid enough to hold off the Swiss. However, some cracks still show. Slovakia’s first two goals were on breakaways where the opposing forward was able to outskate the defenders and score on unimpressive breakaway attempts. If Canonica, Knack or Biasca get those types of opportunities, they can bury them.
Using their games against Slovakia as a benchmark, both these teams are fairly even. They both kept close to Slovakia in shots, and Germany beat them by a goal while Switzerland lost by one. Germany’s offence is better than Switzerland’s but Switzerland’s goaltending and defence have been better than Germany’s. However, Switzerland can give up goals on shots that Fatton can’t stop and the dynamic ability of Germany’s top-line is guaranteed to create a few of those scoring chances. It is unclear how good the Swiss offence can be. For that reason, I have Germany as the winner.
Prediction: Germany wins 3-2.
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