Throughout this week, the DobberProspects’ team is going to be bringing you a full World Junior Championship preview! From team breakdowns to hot takes and picks and predictions to cap off the week on opening day and Christmas! Be sure to check back all week for more World Juniors preview and coverage!
Monday, December 21: Team Breakdowns: Group A/Group B
Tuesday: World Juniors Players to Watch
Wednesday: World Juniors Sleepers
Thursday: World Juniors Hot Takes
Friday: World Juniors Picks and Predictions
Dobber’s DraftCast World Juniors Preview with Cam Robinson and Danny Tiffany
DPR Episode 96: USA WJC Preview with Chris Peters
DPR Episode 97: WJC Preview Team Canada with Craig Button
DPR Episode 98: WJC Sweden Preview with Jimmy Hamrin
DPR Episode 99: WJC Preview Finland with Marco Bombino
Who doesn’t like a good hot take? Let’s dive into some of the DobberProspects’ writing and scouting staff’s hot takes for the World Junior Championships! From defeats to victories, big goal scorers to disappointing performances, we have a bit of everything!
Canada Misses the Podium
Before you revoke my citizenship and take away my passport, hear me out. We have seen this movie before. Many times. Canada comes into the World Juniors with an ELITE offense. A good but not great defensive group that often has one or two big anchors. On the back end, they have a goaltending situation that is questionable if we are putting it kindly. Pair that with the fact that Canada is in the weaker group of the two with only Finland from the “Big Five” in the group with them. To add to that, Finland has a good but not great roster in most aspects and they may not have the firepower that they’ve won with in the past outside of Anton Lundell and Roby Järventie. All in all, Canada looks to have it pretty easy as even the upstart German’s lost two of their best players in Moritz Seider (SHL) and Lukas Reichel (COVID).
Now I don’t doubt that Canada will win their group. As I said, they have a fairly easy path. Where I grow concerned is once we get past the quarter-finals. Canada will likely have to face either the Czech Republic or Austria with neither likely presenting much of a fight against a team who is as loaded upfront as the Canadians are. The question becomes, what happens when Canada’s offense winds up facing a Russia or U.S. team in the semi-finals, both of which have an elite goaltender who could mute the Canadian attack. The sudden step up in competition could be detrimental for the Canadians after likely rolling through their group. If that happens, can the Canadian defense insult their netminder enough against an offense that is almost equally high powered? Can they do enough to win a low scoring affair? Can Taylor Gauthier or Devon Levi stand on their head and match a Yaroslav Askarov or Spencer Knight for a game? If not, they could wind up in the bronze medal game against any of the Russians, Americans, or even the Swedes, who also have excellent goaltending in Hugo Alnefelt and 2021 NHL Draft star Jesper Wallstedt.
The glaring hole in the Canadian’s roster just happens to come in net, like it does many years. Will this be a year in which we find a guy who can go on a Joel Hofer-esque run or are we working with the 2020 version of Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood? If Canada can’t figure out a way to keep the puck out of their net when they finally face the upper echelon competition at this tournament, they could certainly be on the outside looking in at the podium in early January.
Roby Järventie leads the tournament in goal scoring
Järventie has started the season well in Ilves, notching seven goals and seven assists in 19 games. He’s on pace for 21 goals, which would be the 2nd highest number of goals scored in draft+1 season in Liiga (since 2000). And yeah, that would more than Patrik Laine scored in his final Liiga season, that was his draft year though. Järventie definitely still has some flaws in his game but he is progressing well, and his +9 rating tells you that he’s also been a better player defensively. Also, he doesn’t need to worry about the defensive game as long as he’s playing with Lundell – the best two-way forward in the tournament. Järventie is very skilled, creative, and has a lethal shot. He has a great ability to sneak in on good scoring chances and he finishes them with a good percentage. Even though he’s been usually seen as a sniper, he also has good playmaking instincts. He is a solid skater with good balance. I think that he’s going to play in the first line with at least Lundell and should definitely be in the 1st PP unit.
Why is Järventie going to be a top goal scorer? Because he’s the best sniper of the tournament alongside Alexander Holtz and because he can focus on offense when he plays with Anton Lundell. As I said, Lundell is the best two-way forward in the tournament and he is one of my MVP-candidates of the tournament also. That will be one of the keys to Järventie’s potential to be the top goal-scorer. He can concentrate on offense and gets a lot of good scoring chances with Lundell creating them. I also see Järventie as a player who doesn’t get nervous very easily and can play relaxed in key moments. He was already graded highly based on his skill before the draft and there were other things that dropped him a bit. Now he’ll show his worth, as a top goal scorer of the tournament.
Sweden’s 13-year, 52-game round-robin streak comes to an end but they still win Gold
After 13 years and 52 consecutive games, Sweden enters the 2021 World Juniors with the goal of extending their impressively long winning streak in pool play. However, the unlucky draw of both the Americans and Russians into their pool puts the Swedes’ streak in serious trouble. Not to mention the loss of players such as William Eklund, Albin Grewe, and William Wallinder hinders the squad’s depth of talent, making them vulnerable in early tournament matches. While the Swedes still have plenty of high-end talent on the roster, the fact that the three powerhouse teams of Pool B seem to match up quite evenly leads me to think that it is unlikely they can hold off both the Americans and the Russians, especially on back-to-back nights (They play Russia on the 30th and USA on the 31st).
Despite the likelihood that Sweden drops at least one of those pool play matches, this team still has all the tools to provide a tournament-winning performance. Although they lost a couple key forwards, they still have tons of high-end talent upfront, primarily through Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz. The “Terror Twins” have been known to wreak havoc on international tournaments before, posting 7 points each in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup two seasons ago and a combined 15 points in 7 games at the IIHF U18 Championships. Not to mention some of the sneaky good talent around them, such as Theodor Niederbach and Noel Gunler, who are looking to make massive names for themselves on the international stage.
Opponents are also going to have a challenging time scoring goals on this team. The Swedes are bringing over one of the strongest defensive cores in the tournament, highlighted by a dominant pairing of Philip Broberg and Victor Soderstrom. Both players have not only had a fantastic start to their professional careers, but also bring experience in the tournament after participating last year. Not to mention the borderline unfair goaltending crew, headlined by Hugo Alnfelt (0.924 SV% in last year’s tournament) and Jesper Wallstedt (0.920 in 9 SHL games as a draft-eligible prospect this year).
The good news for this Swedish team is that there is little pressure to finish first in the pool. Pool A is significantly weaker in-depth than Pool B, with a second-place finish by the Swedes meaning a likely matchup with either a weak Slovakian team or a depth-deprived German team. Even a third-place finish that results in a likely matchup with Scandinavian rivals, Finland, should favor this highly talented Swedish roster. Once teams reach the semi-finals, anyone is capable of winning. The final four will be looking for their stars to put up strong performances, while also locking down opposition threats as much as possible. What the electrifying talent up front, combined with the lockdown experience and poise and the back end and in net, Sweden has a roster with the potential to lock up a gold medal for the first time since 2012.
Hot Take Rapid Fire
DobberProspects’ Editor Pat Quinn (not that one)
Quinton Byfield will only record three points all tournament.
He only recorded one point in last years’ tournament and was maligned for it, despite no one realizing he had no real ice time. This year he will triple that total but still not put up a lot of points due to bad luck and minimal ice time.
Shakir Mukhamadullin will be in the running for tournament MVP
Somehow the NHL draft prognosticators who predicted he should be a late pick will be proven wrong in this tournament. On the back of 30 minutes a night from Mukhamadullin the Russian defense will be carried, and the team will win the gold medal
The player to lead team USA in scoring will be Trevor Zegras, but he again will see the least ice time of all forwards
Team USA has made some incredibly odd coaching and roster decisions over the past couple of seasons and will continue to do so as they have a very good roster that can cover up roster inefficiencies
Simon Holmstrom will lead Sweden in scoring
The most forgotten Swedish prospect will outscore both Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz
All three of Canada’s goalies will have a save percentage below .890 and a goals-against average of at least 4.00, but Canada will still be undefeated in round robin play
Canada’s goaltending is usually its Achilles heel of the tournament, and this year will really shine through. Despite Canada outplaying and out-chancing teams but a 3:1 margin all game will be high-scoring.
The Czech Republic will win its quarterfinal round
Lead by a hattrick from Jan Mysak, and an absolute steal of a goaltending show not seen since Jonas Hiller shut out Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics by either Lukas Parik or Jan Bednar, the Czech team will upset its opponent 3-1 moving on to the semifinals
Dustin Wolf steals the starters net from Spencer Knight
The USA are bringing two very talented goalies, and while everyone expects Knight to be a brick wall they often forget how talented Wolf actually is. In game three he will come in and shut the door and rock a save percentage of 0.930 the remained of the tournament
Cole Perfetti leads Canada in scoring by five points
The smart money is on Dach or Cozens to lead but they will face the best defenders on opposition teams. The Newhook line is planned to shut other teams stars down, so Perfetti will explode on to the scene facing weaker competition
I hope you enjoyed the Hot Takes as we prepare for the World Juniors to officially get underway tomorrow! Be sure to check back tomorrow morning as we release the staff’s picks and predictions for gold, silver, and bronze as well as all-star teams and an MVP! This should be a fun tournament, even in these strange times!