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. Thursday, December 31st is day seven of the tournament and will conclude with Sweden vs the United States.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Sweden vs the United States
Besides Canada vs Finland, everyone had the game between the United States and Sweden marked on their calendars to begin the 2021 World Junior Championship. This is a big game for both Sweden and the United States. It could determine whether a team finishes first, second, or third in Group B. Ideally neither team wants to face Canada or Finland in the crossover quarterfinals. A regulation win for either the United States or Sweden win in regulation or overtime gives them the top spot in the group. Things get a little more complicated after that. Russia is guaranteed no lower than third in the Group.
Sweden’s winning streak in the preliminary round came to an end at the hands of Russia on Wednesday night in overtime. Team Sweden is led by the terror twins of Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. Both are starting to heat up. Holtz got two points in the loss to Russia. Raymond is right there and could break out at any moment. With other teams focused on them, this has allowed Noel Gunler, to shine along with Simon Holmstrom. With Sweden starting to click, they are going to be a tough team to beat. And facing adversity will help them once the quarterfinals start.
Sweden’s offence continues to get the attention as it should, but it is their defence that is their real strength. Led by their captain Philip Broberg, the team has been stout defensively in front of their goaltenders. In addition to Broberg, they also have a roster of first-round picks which includes Tobias Bjornfot, and Victor Soderstrom. While their D-core can shut teams down, they have also been a significant source of Sweden’s offence. Broberg has three assists through one game, and Soderstrom has four assists through two games. It will be interesting to see how Broberg plays in this game after ending the game against Russia with an injury and not skating at 100 percent. Jesper Wallstedt gave Sweden every chance to win. And Hugo Alnefelt has been no slouch either.
The United States
After losing their opening game to Team Russia, the United States finds themselves in the driver seat with a quarterfinal berth already locked up. However, the United States knows it is better to finish first or second than finishing third. American goaltender Spencer Knight got back on track in a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic. Knight made the saves when he needed to. Though he wasn’t tested much, he did face 22 shots. The Czech Republic came out strong and Team USA faced some adversity especially in the first period. Even though they outshot the Czechs, the Americans only had one goal to show for it. Just like in the Austrian game, Team USA stayed with their system and did not try to cheat the game. They remained patient and their hard work paid off.
As you saw in their first game against Russia, Team USA did not get pucks deep and behind the opposition’s defence. That is something they need to do against a good Swedish team. Team USA will need to continue to drive the play to the net. While it may not mean much, but Cole Caufield and Arthur Kaliyev are finally on the scoresheet. But this is Trevor Zegras‘s team. He has 10 points thus far in the tournament. And it is the role players like Matthew Boldy, Bobby Brink, John Farinacci, and Brett Berard who are picking up the slack and making life difficult for the opposition. Cam York and Jake Sanderson have been outstanding for Team USA, it is the play of Brock Faber that has caught the attention of those watching. Key an eye on him in this game.
Another tough game in Group B that can go either way. The Americans are playing well, but so are the Swedes. If the Americans want to get a position, they need to take advantage of a team that is playing on back to back nights. There is a lot on the line in this game for both teams. Whoever sticks to their system the best will win this game. And we have seen in one game already Team USA under pressure not sticking to their system. Despite the loss, Sweden will be ready to go, but it is anybody’s game.
Prediction: USA Wins 3-2
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