Welcome to the 2021 World Junior Championship predictions. From all of us at Last Word on Hockey, it’s been a pleasure to cover this one-of-a-kind tournament this year. Today is Tuesday, January 5th the tenth and final day of the tournament. The day concludes with Canada taking on Team USA for the gold medal.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Canada vs USA
This was the most anticipated matchup heading into the 2021 World Junior Championship as Team Canada will battle the United States. Team Canada is back in the gold medal game after a dominating 5-0 win over Russia in the semifinals. Nobody expected that type of game from Canada. Everyone thought it would be a closer game, but Canada was too much for the Russians. Team Canada will be looking to be the first repeat gold medalists at the World Juniors since Canada put together a string of five gold medals from 2005-2009. Standing in their way will be Team USA who beat Finland by a score of 4-3 in the semifinals. Team USA holds a 3-0 lead in gold medal games at the World Juniors since 2000. Can Canada flip the script or will the United States take home their fifth gold medal?
From the beginning of this tournament, Canada was the outright favourite to win the gold medal. Before Kirby Dach went down to injury, 20 of their 25 players were first-round picks. Now that number is down to 19 because of the Dach injury. Because of the talent on the roster Canada has been able to dominate the competition. Leading the way for Canada is Dylan Cozens. Cozens has recorded 16 points (8 goals and 8 assists) thus far and was named along with Bowen Byram and Devon Levi as Canada’s best players of the 2021 World Junior Championship. There is just so much depth on the Canadian roster. And they keep coming in waves. Every player down the lineup is making an impact. In addition, every skater has recorded at least one point. After missing a game because of a shoulder injury Alex Newhook returned against Russia and scored the game-winning goal when he opened the scoring for Canada.
Canada is so gifted offensively. Not only does the offence come from the forwards, but from the defence too. Bowen Byram and Jamie Drysdale have been the best pair of defenceman in the tournament. Not only do produce points, but they can lock it down defensively. Like with the offence, defensively there isn’t a weakness. Every guy goes out there and produces. Whether it be in the offensive zone or defensive zone. And then there is Devon Levi. He was a relative unknown last year and comes in and wins the starter’s job for Canada this year. Levi has been the best goalie in the tournament and heads in the gold medal game recording back to back shutouts. Not only that he has made the big save when Canada needed him too. You saw how calm and cool he was in the net during the Russia game. He will be tough to beat.
The United States
Team USA had to grind out a win against Finland. They got revenge on Finland for the last two World Junior tournaments. However, the job is not complete. The past two games have shown the United States what it will take to win a gold medal. However, they will need to clean up some things heading into their game against Canada. One of which is the penalty kill. Again it was exposed to by Team Finland and with all the firepower on Canada’s roster, they need to stay out of the penalty box. Another thing is Team USA cannot take their foot off the gas pedal. They let Finland control much of the play and if that happens against Canada, the game will be over in the first period with the offence Canada has.
However, Team USA has been through a lot of adversity this tournament. Having to grind through two games when they didn’t have their best will make them battled tested for Canada. And like with any rival they will be up for to the task. We know about Canada’s offence, but what about Team USA’s. Trevor Zegras is tied for the lead in points at the tournament with 16. He and Cozens will battle for the points lead. And what about Arthur Kaliyev who recorded the game-winning goal against Finland. And let us not forget the line of Brett Berard, John Farinacci, and Bobby Brink. Farinacci has goals now in back to back games and that line sets the tone for Nate Leeman’s team. Spencer Knight will have to be at his best. Like Levi, he has made the big stop when the team needed him to. Does he have it in him one more time?
It is always fun when rivals meet. Team Canada is a tough team to play against especially at this point in the tournament. They do not have a weakness. And what makes them so dangerous is when they play with a lead. They just keep attacking. As Canada has proven all tournament long, they can go to another level. Especially against better competition. They will head into this game against Team USA as a heavy favourite. However, do not underestimate Team USA. This group is on a mission to win. Unfortunately, it may not be enough against a highly skilled Canadian team.
Prediction: Canada wins 3-2
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