2022 World Junior Championship Predictions: Czechia vs Slovakia

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Let’s try this again, shall we? After cancelling the tournament in the wintertime, the men’s 2022 World Junior Championship is back! Our first game of the tournament pits a fresh-faced Czechia against an equally turned-over Slovakia. This game will be the first of three on tap for the day’s schedule.

2022 World Junior Championship Predictions

Czechia vs Slovakia

Had this matchup happened in December there’d be significantly more star power on both teams. However, with the 2022 draft behind us, both teams see a lot of turnover in their rosters and lost some key players to the 2022 draft. Whatever the case, both teams are evenly skilled and should make for a closely contested game to open this summer’s tournament.

NHL free agent frenzy

Team Czechia

Good news: Czechia returns both of their highly ranked 2022 draft prospects. Expect them to rely heavily on David Jiricek and Jiri Kulich to bring their team to their peak potential. Jiricek will be the workhorse of the Czech’s defence, and Kulich will have a slight age advantage over his teammates and opponents to rest on in terms of his on-ice production. Outside of those two, however, there’s a lot of turnover. This Czech team will have to get creative early and control the game to beat a well-run Slovakia in their first game of the tournament.

Players to Watch

Jiricek is a no-brainer for fans to keep an eye on. The highly touted blue liner has a lot of skill on the backend of his game. He’s a defence-first player with strong skating ability and great vision of the ice. Considering the competition and the need for Czechia to rely on his play, expect to see the best parts of his game come out against Slovakia, and throughout the tournament. The sixth overall pick in this summer’s draft, Jiricek played for his country in this summer’s World Championship grabbing a goal and an assist through five games.

Team Slovakia

Slovakia is most hurt but the adjusted timing. They lose first and second overall picks in the draft Juraj Slafkovsky and Simon Nemec, as well as the twenty-sixth pick in Filip Mesar. The offensive upside of this team isn’t nearly what it should be, and they’ll rely on their younger players to carry the production through the tournament. For this game especially some players will need to take a massive step forward and present themselves as leaders early.

Players to Watch

A couple of players stick out on this Slovakian team. 2023 draft prospect Dalibor Dvorsky and defenceman Maxim Strbak. Dvorsky is a highly skilled forward with a quick shot and decent speed He’ll need to be an offensive workhorse to give Slovakia a chance at picking up some crucial wins in this summer’s tournament. Strbak, who played in Finland, will provide defensive efficiency and look to bring the noise from the blue line for this Slovakian side.

Prediction

Both teams are equally underwhelming in their own right. Considering it is the first game of the tournament and the lack of star power for either side, expect the game to be sloppier than usual. Both teams will struggle to find a good rhythm and coast through the early part of the game. Once the sides settle, however, Czechia’s offensive advantage will come through and put the team ahead. Lead by the offensive skill of David Jiricek, Czechia will take their first win of the tournament.

Prediction: Czechia wins 3-0.

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