Welcome to the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions. Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down and give our 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships predictions for each game in the tournament. This will also include a featured game that should be must-watch hockey. Friday, December 29th’s featured game is United States vs Russia. This is day four of the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions
Kazakhstan vs Finland
Records: Kazakhstan (0-2-0) Finland (1-0-1)
After Day Three came to an end, Kazakhstan was left as the only team in the tournament without a win. Their goal differential is a dramatic four goals-for to eight goals-against. They’ve been expectedly lackluster, with only five players on the team even tallying a point through their first two games. Maxim Musorov has been the only bright spot, as he’s netted three of the team’s four goals so far. This is fairly in line with his play in the MHL this season, as he netted 23 points in 17 games before leaving for the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Many thought Finland would also struggle, after their disappointing overtime loss to Sweden on Opening Day. They turned the tables, though, with a dominant 8-1 win over Slovakia on Day Three. Of their roster, Justus Annunen has truly stood out as a star. He’s been the clear-cut best goalie in the tournament, with a .946 save percentage and 1.92 goals-against-average. While Finland has clearly bounced back to form after a day one loss, Annunen still stands out as the team’s catalyst.
With the Kazakhstan offence clearly struggling to score in the face of high goals-against. Against a red hot Annunen, there’s virtually no way the Kazakhstani can come out on top. Finland will look to have another heyday in the face of a clearly weak Kazakhstan team.
Prediction: Finland wins 7-2.
United States vs Russia
Records: United States (1-1-0) Russia (1-1-0)
The United States rebounded from a hard-to-swallow loss to Canada in their first game, with a dramatic 6-3 win over Germany in Day Two. The game featured a bit of added scoring from the United States depth but the player head-manning the team stayed the same. For the second game in a row, Shane Pinto tallied three points, bringing his total up to a tournament-leading six points; three goals and three assists.
Many of the Americans have stayed quiet, though. The highly touted Cam York and Cole Caufield have both remained point-less, as have five other members of the United States roster. This comes as a surprise as coming into the tournament, their lineup was considered as the deepest in the tournament. While their high goal totals reflects their potency, seeing such promising players like York and Caufield stay fairly unproductive is disappointing. At the same time, though, it shows the added punch that the United States can boast. With so many players yet to score, and five more with only one point, there’s plenty of potentials still left untapped.
Some of this potential may need to come to the surface against Team Russia, although maybe not. Simply put, there’s no way to truly break down the Russians so far this year. In their Opening Day matchup, they lost to the Czech Republic 4-3. It was a close-fought game in which the Czech’s exceeded expectations and Russia fell tremendously short. Russia rebounded in jaw-dropping fashion, beating Canada 6-0. Nikita Alexandrov and Grigori Denisenko carried the load for Russia, each tallying a goal and an assist. While it’s a modest stat line, they showed their true worth on the ice and will clearly continue to carry the load.
If the Russian team that showed up against Canada stays around against the United States, the matchup will be beyond interesting. If the team that faced the Czech Republic is the one to show up, though, the United States could be in for an easy ride on Sunday. Both rosters have tremendous offensive potential and are coming off of strong, high-scoring wins making a prediction hard to decide. Yet, with a more well-rounded, albeit still bleak, performance from the Americans, their depth could pull them ahead.
Prediction: United States win 5-3.