The current iteration of the 2022 World Junior Championship Tournament has begun. All teams have played at least one game, and the tournament is in full force. Thursday, Team Canada will face Team Slovakia. This will be the second of three games that day.
2022 World Junior Championship Predictions
Canada vs Slovakia
The matchup between Canada and Slovakia will be a great one. On Wednesday, Canada faced Latvia and won in a commanding 5-2 win. However, Slovakia is a stronger team. Slovakia lost 5-4 against a strong Czechia team Tuesday. This will be both teams’ second game of the tournament, with Canada completing a back-to-back. Slovakia is getting a day of break in-between games. Both teams consist of significant top-end talent, which will surely make this game exciting.
While Canada is still assuredly one of the best teams in this tournament, it is necessary to recognize that this is not the team Canada from the first iteration of the 2022 World Junior Championship last year. Losing a long list of impactful players, such as 2021 1st overall pick Owen Power, former WJC captain Kaiden Guhle, Winnipeg Jets Cole Perfetti, and 2022 4th overall pick Shane Wright, this team is weaker than it was. Despite such, Canada has the luxury of having among the youngest players, and the roster is still stacked. The two-way game that Canada has established for itself over the past few championships has remained the same, and we face, while not the most experienced, one of the most dynamic teams we’ve seen in a while.
Players to Watch
There is a long list of important players to watch on Team Canada, with several top-drafted players and several top-draft-eligible players filling the roster. On forwards, superstar Connor Bedard is the main guy to watch. Entering his draft year, he will assuredly continue to make waves at every level he plays at. At the first iteration of the 2022 World Junior Championship, he had a four-goal game against Austria. Additionally, against Latvia Wednesday, he had two points. The third overall pick from 2020 Mason McTavish is equally an important player to watch.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 8, 2022
Filling the coveted first-line center role right now, he is among the most talented on the team, as well as being among the most likely to play full-time in the NHL this upcoming season. Outgoing WHL MVP Logan Stankoven could equally be a name to watch, although his performance against Latvia wasn’t anything too special. 2021 150th overall pick Joshua Roy completes the first line of Bedard and McTavish. Roy, a former 1st overall pick of the QMJHL found his game again in his D+1 season and doesn’t look out of place with the two superstars.
On defence, Owen Power’s absence is felt. If there is one defender to watch, it is absolutely 2021 34th overall pick Oren Zellweger. After a monstrous season in the WHL, Zellweger is Canada’s top defenseman at the tournament and was by far the best defenseman against Latvia Wednesday.
In the net, there has been some contention around the starter. B0th Dylan Garand and Sebastian Cossa are more than worthy of the role, but ultimately Cossa took the spot against Latvia. Cossa, the 11th overall pick from 2021, put up a .917 against Latvia.
It has been a fantastic year for Slovakia. The home country of both the first and second overall picks from the 2022 draft (Juraj Slafkovsky, and Simon Nemec), Slovakia is in the spotlight. Unfortunately, neither Slafkovsky nor Nemec will play in this tournament. After a close 5-4 loss against Czechia, Slovakia will be back with a vengeance, hoping to stay alive in the tournament.
Players to Watch
While top-end Slovakian talent in Slafkovsky and Nemec won’t be there, there will be no lack of skill on the Slovakian team. 2022 draft day faller Adam Sykora is a key member of the roster, while 2023 top-eligible prospect Dalibor Dvorsky has come out of the gate with a boom, among the best players against Czechia. Intriguing defender Maxim Strbak will also be an important member of the roster, and could be a first-rounder in 2023.
Despite the fact that Slovakia has been so generally successful in all things hockey lately, their World Junior Championship team is underwhelming. Although Slovakia has Dvorsky, Sykora and Strbak, Canada has an entire roster of strong players, and are the clear favourites for the win. Despite looking a little confused against Latvia, Canada still pulled out a commanding win, and as this group grows more dynamic with each other, expect even bigger results.
The question lies completely in defence and goaltending. If Slovakia can’t get it done on the blue line, their goaltending isn’t strong enough to slow down Canada. If Canada’s goaltending gets flustered, Slovakia could have some sneaky chances. All in all, Canada is the better team suiting up Thursday, although until the clock runs out, we never know who truly has the edge.
Prediction: Canada wins 7-3