Welcome to the 2022 World Junior Championships predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will take a look at each game and give our predictions of the results. Sunday, December 26th, Boxing Day, is Day One of the tournament. With four games on the docket, Team Canada opens against Czechia.
2022 World Junior Championships Predictions
Czechia vs. Canada
The host country Canada opens the 2022 World Junior Championship in Edmonton against Czechia here on Boxing Day. Team Canada took out Czechia or the Czech Republic as they were known as last year in the quarterfinals. Canada is the overwhelming favourite to not only win the tournament but Group A as well. Their only competition is Finland for the top-seed in the group. We have not seen Czechia in action as their pre-tournament game was cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. However, we did see Canada play, and boy did they look dominant at times against Russia. Czechia usually starts the tournament off well and could still grab a victory early on. So Canada needs to be aware of this defensive team as Czechia will be up for this game. But Canada is the clear favourite heading in.
Czechia is trying to reclaim glory at the 2022 World Junior Championship. They have not won a gold medal at this tournament since winning back-to-back gold medals in 1999 and 2000. Czechia has not won a medal at the tournament since 2005 in Grand Forks, ND. Since then their best finish was fourth place in 2008 in Buffalo, NY. Czechia will be in a tough group that includes Finland and their opponent Canada in Game 1. While Czechia is expected to make the medal round, it will not be easy.
Over the past couple of tournaments, Czechia has been known for its defensive play. They are led on the back end by David Jiricek. During last year’s tournament, Jiricek recorded two points (one goal and one assist) averaging 16:11 of ice time in five games. He will be joined by Stanislav Svozil and Michael Krutil from the group of defencemen returning from 2021. Forwards Jan Mysak and Pavel Novak will be counted on to supply the offence for Czechia. The duo combined for six points in 2021, and they will need to do better if Czechia wants to get to the podium.
An area to watch will be goaltending for Czechia. Nick Malik the starter from a year ago, is not with the team this year. Therefore, they will rely on Jan Bednar and New Jersey Devils prospect Jakub Malek. Malek will get the start for Czechia against Canada.
Just like last year, Group A is weak and Canada has a lot of firepower. Just ask Russia. Mason McTavish led the way for Canada recording three points (two goals and one assist) in their pre-tournament game against Russia. McTavish has NHL experience playing with the Anaheim Ducks, where he scored his first NHL in his NHL game. Head coach Dave Cameron will rely heavily on the line of McTavish, Kent Johnson, and Mavrik Bourque during this tournament. Johnson, who was able to join the team after serving his quarantine after he tested positive for COVID-19, found instant chemistry with McTavish. That is a line to watch to open things against Czechia.
Canada’s backend will be something to watch with Owen Power. Power will use his experience in the men’s World Championships to his advantage. Power looked strong against Russia leading the attack for Canada. Kaiden Guhle played really well for Dave Cameron’s team. Though he was not spectacular, he just played his game and looked solid. Czechia will be in tough against a strong Canadian team.
Shane Wright and Connor Bedard will be the two most talked about players on Canada’s roster. We can see why especially with Bedard. His goal was a thing of beauty despite being the extra forward. Cole Perfetti was able to find the 16-year-old. If Canada was able to score four goals in the first period against the best goalie in the tournament in Yaroslav Askarov, then who knows what this team will do against Czechia.
While Czechia will be tough to play against, Canada is just too strong. The only thing Canada will have to be aware of is taking its foot off the gas pedal. This is the kind of game where Canada can develop bad habits, but Dave Cameron will make sure that won’t happen.
Prediction: Canada wins 6-2
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