The 2022 World Junior Championship is back! With three games on file today, Last Word on Hockey is here to give you predictions for each game of the tournament. The second game of the day has Latvia facing off against world-hockey powerhouse Finland.
2022 World Junior Championship Predictions
Latvia vs Finland
Our second game of the day sees two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum battling it out. Latvia, stepping in as a replacement for what would have been a strong Russian team, will go up against a tough opponent in Finland. Finland doesn’t have that much roster turnover from the winter and even gains a key forward in Autu Raty. This game will be incredibly one-sided, with Finland having the clear advantage on each part of the ice.
Latvia is seeing its first action in the top division since 2017. They came runner-up in the 1A field, which qualified them for the top division. There’s one thing that benefits them, the lack of relegation. Playing without the stress of dropping out of the top division should allow the Latvian squad to open up their game and have a little fun with the tournament. In terms of player skill, there isn’t too much they have to be excited about. Only three players have been drafted by NHL organizations, significantly less than a lot of the top countries they’ll compete against.
Players to Watch
The three NHL draftees playing for Latvia are all forwards. Boston Bruins prospect Dans Locmelis, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Klavs Veinbergs, and Florida Panthers forward Sandis Villains will be expected to provide scoring for Latvia. Outside of those three guys, there’s a slew of players with connections to other North American clubs. For example, there are seven players playing in the United States and another four in Canada.
The Finns will most certainly ice a strong team for their first game of this summer’s tournament. Riddled with some of the sport’s top prospects, Finland will come out and dominate. Sure, this game might count for group play, however, it may as well be another warm-up game for the strong Finnish team. Finland will have no problem showing Latvia what it takes to play with the top dogs.
Players to Watch
In between the pipes for Finland are goaltenders Leevi Merilainen and Jani Lampinen. Neither guy stand out as the true number one, so expect play from both of them. It’ll be interesting to watch the goalie battle unfold during group play, as this team should find themselves in the playoffs of this summer’s tournament. Similarly, keep an eye out for Autu Raty. The young forward brings some much-needed offensive power to the roster, and he will be a highlight for the team all tournament long.
This game only has one realistic outcome, and that’s with Finland coming away with a win over Latvia. The skill gap is far too great between the two for Latvia to come anywhere close to beating Finland. The game will be controlled entirely by the Finns, and not even for one second will they let their foot off the gas. Expect high scoring affair for Finland.
Prediction: Finland wins 9-1.