The 2023 World Junior Championship continues on into the semi-finals. Winners get a chance to play for gold, while the losers get sent to the bronze medal game. Sweden and Czechia are two teams who remain, with two very different outcomes in the quarterfinals. Who will advance?
2023 World Junior Championship Predictions
Sweden vs Czechia
After finishing first in their group, Czechia got a date with Switzerland in the quarterfinals. In that game, they absolutely dominated. Despite the strong start of the tournament for Switzerland, this was expected. Meanwhile, Sweden had to face Finland, where they got out-played for much of the contest. However, they were able to squeak out a win in the end.
The story of the tournament for Sweden is their goaltending. Carl Lindbom (Vegas Golden Knights) has arguably been the best goalie in the tournament. He has the best save percentage (.942) and the second-best goals against average among goalies with 100+ shots faced (1.79). Additionally, he leads the tournament with two shutouts. In the quarterfinals, Sweden was not the better team, getting out-shot 35 to 20. Lindbom stopped 33 of those 35 to steal a game away from the Finns.
Leo Carlsson, a projected top-10 pick in the 2023 NHL draft, potted two goals in the game against Finland, making a statement in this tournament. Those were his first goals of the tournament. Filip Bystedt (San Jose Sharks) added two assists in that game as well, improving his point total to seven on the tournament. That ties him with Ludvig Jansson (Florida Panthers) on the team for most points.
Player To Watch
The last time Sweden played Czechia, it went to overtime. Jansson led the way with two goals en route to a Sweden 3-2 win. But, similar to their quarterfinal game, it was Lindbom who led the way. He made 33 saves on 35 shots against Czechia that day. The player to watch remains the goalie, Lindbom, as he has just been fantastic all tournament long. Also, keep a close eye on Fabian Lysell (Boston Bruins) as he has yet to score, and is one of two Swedish forwards without a point thus far.
Czechia got to take on Switzerland in their quarterfinal match, and they made quick work of them. Winning 9-1, they outshot the Swiss 28 to 18. Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) had four points, including two goals, while Marcel Marcel had three points, also with two goals. Marcel has been quite the surprise in this tournament, with six points thus far.
Additionally, Tomas Suchanek maintains his high level of play in the tournament. Suchanek ranks fourth in save percentage (.935) and first in goals against average among goalies with 100+ shots faced (1.39). He’s also one of four goalies with at least one shutout.
With 17 goals in their last two games, albeit against Germany and Switzerland, Czechia has become one of the most efficient scorers in the tournament. With arguably the second-best goalie in the tournament and strong special teams, they may be the most balanced team in the tournament.
Player To Watch
There are a lot of players to choose from. But it is hard not to choose Czechia’s goalie as well. Suchanek had his worst performance against Sweden the last time they played, allowing three goals on 24 shots. He was outplayed by Lindbom. With scoring trending up, players like Marcel and Kulich heating up, and strong all-situations play, it’s hard not to keep an eye on their goalie. He needs to outplay Lindbom if they want a chance to play for gold.
2023 World Junior Championship Matchup Prediction
Czechia is well-balanced. So is Sweden. These are arguably the two most complete teams in the tournament. With excellent goaltending on both sides, big names at both forward and defence, and some dominant games on the scoresheet early in the tournament, they will meet again.
Sweden got the better of Czechia last time out. But confidence looks high for Czechia’s squad, and Sweden is coming off of a game where they were out-played by a Finnish squad that had not out-shot an opposing team up until that point. Do you smell that? Because I do.
Prediction: Czechia upsets Sweden, 2-1.