2022 World Junior Championships Predictions: Slovakia vs. Sweden

2022 World Junior Championships

The 2022 World Junior Championships are upon us. This incredible and highly-anticipated best-on-best tournament of the next generation of hockey players has arrived, and there are some really good teams and players to pay attention to. In the second slate of games, team Sweden gets a date with team Slovakia.

2022 World Junior Championships Predictions: Slovakia vs. Sweden

Slovakia and Sweden had very different starts to the World Junior Championships. For Sweden, a great special teams performance helped them past Russia, while the Slovaks saw the opposite. Sweden scored 10 seconds into their first, and only, power-play opportunity in the first period, while Slovakia failed to convert on two early power plays. They followed that up with two penalties of their own and conceded a goal on one such opportunity. One team has to stay the course on day two, while the other has to take a hard look at themselves and find a solution.

Team Slovakia

Slovakia has a lot to clean up. Taking two penalties in the first period and conceding two quick goals to the United States was bad enough. Add in three failed power-play opportunities in that first period, and the start could not have been much worse. But, it got worse. In the second period, they were massively out-shot 22-2. Had it not been for netminder Simon Latkoczy, this game could have been much, much worse than 3-0 after two periods. 

Team USA looked faster, stronger and smarter than the Slovaks, keeping constant pressure and forcing Latkoczy to carry his team. The Swedes are faster and pose a massive threat to repeat, or even surpass, what the Americans accomplished against Slovakia if the Slovak defence does not improve. For Slovakia to stand a chance against Sweden, they need to clean up their neutral zone play and their discipline. Improvement is needed everywhere – and fast. Simon Nemec and Samuel Knazko (Columbus Blue Jackets), we’re looking at you!

Team Sweden

Sweden took on a very strong team Russia in their first contest. They came out on top, with a score of 6-3. As mentioned, the Swedes took advantage early with a first-period powerplay goal from Oskar Olausson. Then, in the second period, their penalty kill made their mark. A short-handed goal from Simon Edvinsson gave them a two-goal lead. Later in the period, they received two more power plays, with Emil Andrae coming through with a goal on the second opportunity. Jesper Wallstedt looked solid through those 40 minutes, which was mentioned as an x-factor for the Swedes. At the other end, Yaroslav Askarov was pulled before the third period, and replaced by Yegor Guskov. 

In the third period, team Sweden scored yet another power-play goal, this time thanks to Alexander Holtz. That goal was followed by two Matvei Michkov goals from Russia, with both being strange in their own ways. In fact, all three goals from Russia proved to take some strange bounce to beat Wallstedt. If the Swedish netminder can continue to be reliable between the pipes, and the Swedish special teams can keep the momentum going, it could be a long night for team Slovakia.

2022 World Junior Championship Prediction: Team Slovakia vs. Team Sweden

Similar to the Sweden versus Russia contest, the goaltenders will likely be the x-factors. If the Slovaks can play more disciplined hockey, especially in their own end, that’ll go a long way. Latkoczy will pose a challenge to the Swedes, but he can only do so much. Meanwhile, if the Slovaks do improve and generate better scoring chances, Wallstedt is absolutely good enough to step up. At the end of the day, however, Sweden has a better team on paper. 

Prediction: Sweden wins 4-1

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