The 2022 World Junior Championships open with a bang on Boxing Day. Especially during a time when NHL fans have been without hockey for a little longer than expected, this tournament will be closely watched by many looking to get a grip on their teams’ future. The 2022 edition of the tournament kicks off with a match between Finland and Germany, the first of a four-game slate today.
2022 World Junior Championships Predictions
Finland vs Germany
The World Junior Championships are back! The first game of group play pits a dark horse gold medal candidate in Team Finland against a much weaker Team Germany. Last tournament the Germans had a trio of great prospects on their roster. JJ Peterka, Lukas Reichel, and Tim Stutzle are all playing in the American and National Hockey League, respectively. That puts a lot of emphasis on returning forward Florian Elias to step up and provide a powerful punch for the German offence. For Finland, however, this is another chance to prove their dominance in the international hockey dominance at the World Juniors. Fresh off of a bronze medal at last year’s games, Finland looks to capture hardware for the second straight tournament. Led by 10 returning players from their bronze-winning roster, Team Finland is ready to go on another deep run.
This Team Finland roster has a lot of experience playing together. If there’s one thing that separates good teams from great teams at this tournament, it’s their ability to feed off of each other. Top Toronto Maple Leafs defence prospect Topi Niemela, who scored two goals and eight points last year, will lead the blue line this game for the Finns. He’s been a force to be reckoned with in the Finnish Liiga this year and will look to play some of his best hockey against Germany. Defensive teammate Ruben Rafkin, another returner to the roster, will look to factor into the team’s defensive play as well.
Up the roster is high skilled forward Brad Lambert. Lambert, despite struggling this season in Finland, is one of the top prospects available for the upcoming NHL Draft. He’s been playing against grown men in the Liiga. Playing against other under-20-year-olds should boost his confidence and bring out the best in his game. Teammate Joakim Kemell, who’s played well for JYP, could play a strong role as well for Finland to open their tournament play.
The Germans might be without their best forwards from the last tournament, but have plenty of power to make this game a statement game for them against Finland. Captain Florian Elias will be relied upon heavily to create offence against the solid blue line that Finland has rostered. Outside of Elias, however, there aren’t that many notable players on this roster who stand out.
There are plenty of sneaky good players, however. Alexander Blank is one of those players. One of the few players on this year’s team who play in Germany’s top professional league, Blank will make his World Junior Championship debut this year. He’s got three goals and 10 points for Krefeld Pinguine in 28 games. The 5’11” centre will be a nice piece to the forward group and will likely factor into Germany’s tempo against Finland. The blue line for Team Germany is good at one thing; shutting down their opponent. Not many of their defencemen are high-efficiency scorers, which is fine. As long as their forwards produce how they’re supposed to, the defence will be their ticket to a win.
It’s the first game of the tournament, both teams need time to adjust and get their legs under them. Although both sides have the ability to make it a high-scoring contest, it likely won’t be. German goaltender Florian Bugl will be tested, but ultimately won’t stop the power that Team Finland brings.
Prediction: Finland wins 2-0.
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