Day 5 of the tournament features three of the most marquee teams in international hockey history: the United States, Canada, and Russia. All three will enter as heavy betting favorites, but the oddsmakers don’t decide what happens on the ice. Let’s take a look at the matchups. All times listed will be Eastern.
United States vs. Czech Republic (2:00)
United States: Team Preview
Czech Republic: Team Preview
The United States bounced back from a rough opening defeat by archrival Russia by drubbing Austria 11-0. Now, after a day of rest, the Czech Republic will have to find a way to slow them down. Trevor Zegras, a ninth overall pick and the future of the Anaheim Ducks, has led the attack, with three goals and two assists. Matthew Boldy, who was one of the last players cut from the 2020 WJC team, also has five points and notched a hat trick against the Austrians.
The Americans have been further bolstered by goaltender Dustin Wolf, who has yet to allow a goal in 86:35, but who has only faced 21 shots in that time. Wolf’s presence in net at all is a bit of a surprise, as Spencer Knight entered the tournament as the expected American starter. But he struggled against Russia and Wolf hasn’t let go. It’s a story eerily similar to the 2020 WJC breakout of Canadian goaltender Joel Hofer.
To try and stem off the American attack, the Czech Republic will likely turn to Lukáš Pařík, a 2019 third-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings. He managed an upset shutout of the Russians in their second game. Even with that victory, the Czechs are still fourth in Group B. They need to win and make up goal differential to climb the ranks. And while they are probably safely clear of Austria, another upset against the United States seems unlikely. If it happens, Pařík will have to be the difference.
Favorite: United States
Players to Watch: Trevor Zegras, F [ANA], Matthew Boldy, F [MIN], Dustin Wolf, G [CAL] (USA); Lukáš Pařík, G [LAK], Jan Myšák, F [MTL] (CZE)
Canada vs. Switzerland (6:00 PM)
Canada: Team Preview
Switzerland: Team Preview
Canada had a dominant first showing in the tournament but played a much tighter game with Slovakia on Sunday. They got goals from their less celebrated forwards, including Jack Quinn, the eighth overall selection of the Buffalo Sabres, Philip Tomasino, a 2019 24th overall pick of the Nashville Predators, and Jordan Spence, a 2019 fourth-round pick of the Kings. Dylan Cozens contributed an assist, but was otherwise quiet, as were many of the other marquee forwards.
Canada has found consistency in net, using Florida Panthers prospect Devon Levi in both games. He’s only allowed two goals in five periods of play. Assuming he gets the start against Switzerland, the Swiss attack, which has only managed one goal in two games, will need to find a solution for him.
After a strong showing in the 2020 tournament, Switzerland is the only team this year without an NHL-drafted prospect. Goaltender Thibault Fatton has been strong for them, and Attilio Biasca has notched their only goal so far. Will either one do enough to overcome the heavily-favored Canadians? Probably not, but anything can happen in the WJC.
Players to Watch: Jack Quinn, F [BUF], Devon Levi, G [FLA] (CAN); Attilio Biasca, F, Thibault Fatton, G (SUI)
Austria vs. Russia (9:30 PM)
Austria: Team Preview
Russia: Team Preview
Austria currently has a minus-15 goal differential in the tournament and has yet to score. Now they have the monstrous task of trying to overcome a Russian team that will be angry after an upset at the hands of the Czech Republic. If they are going to have any chance of causing Russia’s second-consecutive disappointment, they’ll need their lone NHL-affiliated player, Marco Rossi, to step up. A ninth-overall pick of the Minnesota Wild and a top OHL scorer, he’s certainly got the skills, but he’s yet to show it at this tournament.
The Russians will be looking to Hurricanes’ prospect and team top-scorer Vasili Ponomaryov to pick back up where he left off. And top netminder Yaroslav Askarov, a Nashville Predators’ draft pick, will need to steady himself. He’s allowed 5 goals on 55 shots so far, which isn’t terrible but is far from the skills that made him the 12th-overall pick in this draft and possibly the best goalie prospect in the world.
The Russians have every reason to win this game and likely cement Austria’s place in the relegation round. It would take a miracle to prevent them. And if that miracle happens, its name will likely be Rossi.
Players to Watch: Marco Rossi, F [OTT] (AUS); Vasili Ponomaryov, F [CAR], Yaroslav Askarov, G [NSH] (RUS)
Day 5 Summary
Day 5 features three of the top teams in the tournaments entering against three heavy underdogs. But the WJC was made for upsets. Each of Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic will be looking to make a name for themselves and avoid the relegation fight by toppling a giant. Are there any Davids amongst these Goliaths?
All the 2021 World Junior Championship Team Information:
All Your THW 2021 World Junior Championship Coverage
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.