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. Thursday, January 2nd featured game is Finland vs. the United States. This is day seven of the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships.
2020 World Junior Hockey Championships Predictions
Kazakhstan vs. Germany
Records: Kazakhstan (0-4-0) Germany (1-3-0)
For the second straight year, Kazakhstan will be in the best of three relegation series. This time their opponent will be Germany. Last year they were able to defeat Denmark to advance to this year’s tournament. However, the Germans will provide a hefty challenge. In the first two games of the tournament, Kazakhstan was tied heading into the period against Switzerland and Slovakia. Unfortunately, they could not close the deal. Those two games were their best chance of winning a game and avoiding the relegation stage. The only bright spot for Kazakhstan has been Andrei Buyalskiy. Despite only having one goal in four games, he has been the most noticeable player out there for Kazakhstan. For Kazakhstan not to be relegated Buyalskiy will have to produce.
On the other side, after scoring an upset win over the host Czech Republic, the Germans could not score another victory. In a must-win game against Russia, Germany fell short and will be playing to stay in the tournament next year. Someone had to lose in Group B and it was the Germans. The Germans are producing NHL quality talent. Their lineup includes NHL prospects Dominik Bokk, Moritz Seider, and Justin Schutz. Bokk has been solid for the Germans in this tournament. Germany has the talent to defeat Kazakhstan, but don’t be surprised to see this series go the distance.
Prediction: Germany Wins 3-2.
Switzerland vs. Russia
Records: Switzerland (3-1-0) Russia (2-2-0)
In the first quarterfinal matchup of the day, we see an upstart Switzerland team takes on a Russia team that has underperformed, to say the least, to start this tournament. Switzerland knew what it took to get to this stage as they had 1o returning players from last year’s team that fell short of winning a bronze medal. The Swiss are primed to pull another upset against the Russians. Closing out Group A competition with a win over Finland, allowed the Swiss to finish second in the group. The Swiss are playing as a team as they continue to manufacturer goals. Leading the way is Valentin Nussbaumer with seven points (two goals and five assists). Right behind him is David Aebischer and Matthew Verboon with six points. They will give Russia a tough fight.
Despite Switzerland’s good fortune they will have to play a Russian team that can turn it on at any moment. Russia finished third in Group B after wins over Canada and Germany. However, they lost to the United States and the Czech Republic. They have yet to find their top game. While they did handle Germany and Canada pretty well, the Russians continue to remain undisciplined. Despite having the number one penalty kill, they need to stay out of the box. Head coach Valeri Bragin has not been happy with the way Yaroslav Asakrov so he has gone to Amir Miftakhov. After not having Nikita Rtishev, who was suspended for head butting, for the final preliminary game, he will be back for the medal round. Vasili Podkolzin has been outstanding and will need to be for Russia to win.
Prediction: Switzerland Wins 4-3.
Canada vs. Slovakia
Records: Canada (3-1-0) Slovakia (1-3-0)
In the second quarterfinal of the day, Slovakia will take on Canada. Slovakia finished fourth in Group A. Outside their win over Kazakhstan, Slovakia has been outmatched in this tournament. Out of 10 teams in the tournament, they are 10th in shooting efficiency. This will be an uphill battle against a star-studded Canadian team. Robert Dzugan leads Slovakia with four goals and David Mudrak leads the team in assists with three. This will be a tough game for Slovakia. The only chance they have is to stay out of the penalty box. Canada has such a lethal power play.
On the other end, Canada finished first in Group B. Even without Alexis Lafreniere, Canada has looked dominate in wins over Germany and the Czech Republic. Canada has so much talent, they could win this tournament even without the projected number one pick in the draft. However, Lafreniere will return for Canada in this quarterfinal game. Picking up the slack in Lafreniere’s absence has been Nolan Foote, Liam Foudy, Joe Veleno, and Barrett Hayton. On defence, Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl along with Bowen Byram and Jared McIsaac have been solid too. Head coach Dale Hunter has gone to Joel Hofer after the struggles of Nico Daws. Canada should not have a problem with this game. Their march to another gold medal will continue to the semifinals.
Prediction: Canada wins 6-1.
United States vs. Finland
Records: United States (3-1-0) Finland (2-1-1)
This our World Junior Hockey Championships featured game of the night.
In the third quarterfinal of the day, it is a rematch of the gold medal game from the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championships as Team USA takes on Finland. Finland squeaked out a victory last year and will look to do the same this year. Team USA did everything right to avoid Finland in the quarterfinals. However, Finland’s loss in their final preliminary game to Switzerland sets up the game of the night. The defending gold medalists could be gone after to one game. They have yet to play their best hockey. So Team USA needs to be prepared for that. Patrik Puistola is tied with Kristian Tanus for the points lead on the team. Puistola leads the team in goals with four, while Tanus leads the team in assists with five. This is when Finland normally steps up.
The United States has looked decent to start the tournament. Their best game to this point came against Russia on Sunday. Coach Scott Sandelin will want his players to go to another level. With two days off in between games, the United States will be fresh for Finland. With Cole Caufield is finally on the board for Team USA, look for him to be productive as the medal round begins. Trevor Zegras leads all players with points and assists with nine. Shane Pinto is having one hockey of a tournament, he has seven points (four goals and three assists) through four games. And don’t forget about Arthur Kaliyev who is tied for the goal-scoring lead for the Americans with four goals. A key for Team USA is staying out of the penalty box. They will also need Spencer Knight to be solid in net.
Prediction: Team USA Wins 3-2.
Sweden vs. Czech Republic
Records: Sweden (4-0-0) Czech Republic (1-2-1)
In the final game of the day, Sweden will take on the host country the Czech Republic. Sweden continues to dominate round-robin play. They have now won 52 straight games, but have nothing to show in terms of gold medals. The team’s last gold medal came in 2012. They have been to the finals two other times falling short. Entering the tournament, it was their defence everyone was talking about. Through four games their top line of Nils Hoglander, Alexander Holtz, and Samuel Fagemo are the talk of the town. Even though the Swedes are a one-line team, they have other players contributing. If the Czech Republic can shut down this line, they will have a chance. However, that will not be an easy task.
Two things the Czech Republic have going for them. First, they are playing at home. The crows will be into this game. The Czech Republic already picked up one upset in this tournament. They came close against the United States falling in overtime. The crowd will be into this game. Besides, having the home crowd, Sweden tends to choke in the medal round. The Czechs are hoping that happens in the quarterfinals. Even though the Czech Republic has a depleted lineup, Patrik Elias on the will have these guys prepared. Already without Jan Jenik, Jakub Lauko, and goaltender Lukas Dostal, captain Libor Zabransky will look to carry his team to another upset on Thursday.
Prediction: Sweden Wins 4-2.
This does it for 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship Predictions for January 2nd, check back tomorrow for another edition.