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, January 2nd is when the quarter-finals take place. The second last game of the day sees Canada take on the Czech Republic.
2021 World Junior Predictions
Canada vs. the Czech Republic
The host country of this year’s tournament takes on the host country of last year’s tournament. Canada has steamrolled every opponent they have faced outside of an oddly tight game against Slovakia. The Czechs beat the Austrians as expected. But then lost handily to Sweden and the United States. However, they were the only team to beat the Russians and did so for the second straight year. However, Canada is the favourite. Nearly their entire team is made up of NHL first-round picks. The Czech Republic doesn’t have one first-round pick. However, the Czechs have proven if they play a perfect defensive game, they can beat the top teams. Something that Canada has to be aware of.
In a weak group A, Canada had their first test against a medal contender on New Year’s Eve versus Finland. They won 4-1 and outshot the Finns 40-19. It was a near-perfect game for the Canadians and shows that they can be as good as they look on paper.
There is no shortage of Canadians who can score, but one player the Czech Republic needs to key in on is Dylan Cozens. Cozens is the second-leading scorer in the 2021 World Junior Championship with six goals and five assists for 11 points. He also averages four shots per game. Cozens isn’t just padding his stats against lower-level teams. Against Finland, he scored two goals and recorded five shots. Cozens is a 6’3″ 198-pound centre who is fast, has an excellent shot, good playmaking ability and is a hard worker. He will be tough to contain.
Canada may be without centre Alex Newhook. Newhook collided with Finland’s Eemil Viro on a shoulder to shoulder hit and left the game. Newhook has five points in four games. However, his absence shouldn’t be too costly. Canada has nine players who have five points or more. Depth is definitely their strength
The Czechs can compete against anybody. In their games against the big countries such as Sweden, Russia, and the USA, they’ve held their own, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Against the Swedes they were outshot 41-25, the Russians only bested them by one shot (30-29) and they had a strong game against the Americans too with the shots 30-22 in favour of the Americans. Even though the Czechs have faced much tougher competition than what the Canadians have dealt with, the Czech Republic has one more shot than Canada in this tournament. Canadian fans may look at the scores and see that the Czechs lost 7-1 to Sweden or 7-0 to the United States, and think they will have an easy win, but that won’t be the case. The Czechs can hold their own.
The obvious players to create some offence are Jan Mysak and Michal Teply, both drafted into the NHL. Mysak is tied for the team in scoring with four points and is known for a deadly shot. Teply has two points and is a threat both as a shooter and playmaker. But a few undrafted players have also made some noise. Martin Lang has four points in the tournament and is the Athletic’s prospect reporter, Scott Wheeler’s pick as the standout player from the Czech Republic. Jakub Rychlovsky looked dangerous against the Russians. He was using his speed to create scoring chances, and he assisted on their first goal.
While the Czech Republic will battle hard against Canada, Canada’s skill will prevail and win this game. With all the firepower the Canadians have, there is no reason to think they can’t score seven goals against the Czechs like the Swedes and Americans did. However, if Canada has a sub-par game, or makes mistakes, the Czechs can make them pay. But I don’t anticipate that to happen.
Prediction: Canada wins 7-1.