The World Junior Championship (WJC) will get underway on Boxing Day, Dec 26, and with it, the annual custom of gathering with household and pals to observe the event returns. Another custom is Canada coming into the event as a gold medal favourite. As the defending gold medal champions, it’s onerous to not put them in that class. Having the likes of Shane Wright, Adam Fantilli, and Connor Bedard solely cements that standing.
Being the host for the second event in a row hasn’t precipitated added stress for the Canadians, because the expectation for that workforce is all the time to win the gold medal; something much less is seen as a loss. Players, particularly in Canada, put aside the pressures of their membership groups and their draft aspirations as they give attention to merely enjoying:
“No, I don’t think so, I’m not thinking about that sort of stuff, I’m just thinking about trying to win a Gold medal. We’re too busy with practices and game to get wrapped up in that stuff.”
– Connor Bedard (on the stress to carry out in his draft 12 months )
Which nation will embrace the stress as Bedard is doing? There are a number of sturdy hockey nations collaborating, however which nations might use that lack of stress to surpass expectations and even make a run at a medal, incomes the “Cinderella” tag?
Coming off of a 2022 WJC that noticed them qualify for the quarterfinals, expectations are usually not excessive for the Austrian membership. Led by 2023 draft-eligible defenseman David Reinbacher and Montreal Canadiens’ 2022 third-round choose Vinzenz Rohrer (who missed the first game attributable to sickness), Austria might want to enhance their offensive output of solely 4 targets within the final WJC. Their efficiency within the opening sport versus Sweden, the place they have been crushed 11-0, makes them look as if they may change into the ugly step-sister and never Cinderella.
Germany lacks the star energy to be thought-about a menace to dethroning Team Canada. However, a well-structured workforce can beat a talented one, and in a event format, upsets can happen. Now that he’s fully recovered from a fracture in his backbone, Julian Lutz, an Arizona Coyotes second-round choose in 2022, would be the offensive catalyst for the Germans.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship
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The key to their success will depend on the play of their 6-foot-4, 19-year-old goaltender Nikita Quapp, a sixth-round choose of the Carolina Hurricanes. Quapp has a .910 save share in his restricted time paying within the DEL, Germany’s high skilled league. The expectations they place on themselves to be extra than simply contributors is actual, but, with none star to steer them, they may depend on construction to compete. With that mentioned, they’re thought-about an outdoor hope for a medal spherical.
After a disappointing finish to their 2022 WJC, Czechia can be on the lookout for redemption. However, they may have a tough path to achieve preferable seeding into the quarterfinals as they’re anticipated to complete behind Canada and Sweden. This would set them on track to play both Finland or the United States, two favorites to earn a medal.
Their potential to play a bodily sport can be essential to create area for his or her expert gamers by way of intimidation, however it can take much more. Czechia has a well-coached and well-structured workforce that may play a defensive fashion and hold the rating low, however they do want to search out consistency in the event that they hope for that fashion to pay dividends. They have all of the items essential to have the ability to change into a Cinderella workforce. But the possibilities Czechia can problem for a medal and never flip right into a pumpkin early just like the final event will relaxation on their offense. Their offensive sport will stream by way of Buffalo Sabres’ first-round choose Jiri Kulich and Columbus Blue Jackets’ sixth general choose David Jiricek.
Switzerland will be the best suited selection as a Cinderella. They have some underrated expertise, similar to Attilio Biasca, captain of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Halifax Mooseheads; he has 27 factors in 28 video games performed within the QMJHL. Defensively they’re led by a tandem that can deliver equal elements grit and mobility in Philadelphia Flyers prospect Brian Zanetti and 2022 Dallas Stars first-round choose Lian Bichsel. They can be relied upon to play plenty of minutes in all conditions, and if they’ll achieve this successfully, they might be the rationale Switzerland wins a medal.
No workforce can stay impartial in opposition to Switzerland, particularly in the event that they need to beat them. The Swiss additionally confirmed some ability and skill to play a structured sport in the course of the pre-tournament matches after which of their opening match against Finland with an upset win in additional time on a objective by Biasca. They’ve proven early on that they’ll compete with one of many world’s high hockey packages. Now they might want to proceed that strong play all through the event in the event that they need to advance previous the Quarterfinals. But to upset Canada or the United States, they’ll additionally want some luck.
Whether a glass slipper will get minted or a carriage turns right into a pumpkin, it received’t matter for followers as they’re all having fun with a return to regular after an extended two years of a pandemic that precipitated delays and cancellations. The 2023 WJC does have the potential to supply followers with a fairy story ending, however Canadian followers would reasonably see the hometown workforce repeat as champions.
Blain is a daily contributor as a THW Writer. For over 7 years he has been a component time journalist and podcaster overlaying the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and its associates. He has made appearances on varied tv and radio stations in addition to podcasts to debate the Canadiens, and the NHL. Blain has taken the teachings on integrity, ethics, values and honesty that he has discovered as a 29 12 months veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and utilized them to his work as a journalist with the objective to be a trusted supply of knowledge and leisure.