2022 WJC Day 1 Preview

It isn’t how anybody expected, but the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) is once again about to commence in Edmonton, Alberta. Hockey in August is a rarity, but moving the WJC away from the holiday season may give it an added spotlight to some in the hockey world who have missed out before. If you want a quick rundown on the tournament, or if this is your first ever WJC experience, we here at The Hockey Writers want to help you get prepared with daily previews.

Related: 2022 World Juniors Roster Breakdown by NHL Team

Each day of the tournament, we’ll publish this preview article, looking at each matchup that day, the players to watch, and the presumptive favorite heading into the game. We’ll give you the “at-a-glance” preview so that when you sit down to watch the action, you’ll have a quick idea of what’s going on. August hockey is a gift to all hockey fans, so let’s make the most of it, and let’s get started!

Czechia vs. Slovakia (2:00 PM)

Czechia: Team Preview

Slovakia: Team Preview

Slovakia is a hockey nation on the rise, and its coming out party was the 2022 NHL Draft in Montreal, where two Slovakian players were drafted first and second overall. Unfortunately for the national team, Juraj Slafkovský and Šimon Nemec, those same players, won’t be on the roster in Edmonton, as their new NHL teams are choosing to protect them for training camp. But they will have Dalibor Dvorsky, who analysts view as the #4 prospect in the loaded 2023 Draft. He’ll be looking to open some eyes and put Slovakia back at the front of everyone’s minds.

Juraj Slafkovsky Montreal Canadiens 2022 Draft
Slovakia will be without the #1 overall pick from the 2022 Draft, Juraj Slafkovský (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the other side of the ice, Czechia will get to utilize their top 2022 prospect, as David Jiricek, the sixth pick, will be joining his countrymen in Edmonton. The big defenseman will be manning the blue line, while up front, Jan Myšák, another Montreal Canadiens draftee, will be looking to lead the attack. Between them, they’ll make Czechia slight favorites in this showdown between two halves of what was once one nation. But don’t count out the Slovakians. Recent history shows that to do so would be a grave miscalculation.

Favorite: Czechia

Players to Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F (SVK); David Jiricek, D [CBJ], Jan Myšák, F [MTL] (CZE)

Latvia vs. Finland (6:00 PM)

Latvia: Final Roster

Finland: Players to Watch

The World Junior Championship traditionally has a relegation round, and, given they’re in a group with Czechia, Slovakia, Finland, and Canada, it seems likely Latvia is destined for that round. They’re hardly to be blamed since they’re late replacements for the Russian and Belarussian teams, both of whom were expelled from the competition due to the ongoing atrocities in Eastern Europe. Latvia hasn’t been in the competition since 2017, and they’ve only appeared five times in the history of the tournament. But they aren’t without talent. In fact, they have three NHL draft picks on their roster: Sandis Vilmanis, Klavs Veinbergs, and Dans Locmelis. Locmelis, a 2022 fourth-round pick of the Boston Bruins, will be the forward to watch in Game 1. But the entire team will be facing a monstrous challenge.

Finland is one of the traditional powerhouses of the tournament, and this year should be no different. They have two electric forwards drafted in the first round this season in Joakim Kemell (taken 17th by the Nashville Predators) and Brad Lambert (30th by the Winnipeg Jets). Lambert, in particular, has been a frustrating prospect: he’s shown the dazzling skill that once had analysts thinking he could go as high as first overall in the last draft, but his inconsistencies dropped him to the bottom of the first round. A strong tournament could be the launching pad he needs to prove that the Jets got a steal with the 30th pick.
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Unfortunately for Latvia, there isn’t much to debate in this game. Lopsided WJC games have a tendency to get very ugly, and barring a miracle, Latvia’s main goal will be to keep it close and avoid total embarrassment.

Favorite: Finland

Players to Watch: Dans Locmelis, F [BOS] (LAT), Joakim Kemell, F [NSH], Brad Lambert, F [WPG] (FIN)

United States vs. Germany (10:00 PM)

United States: Players to Watch

Germany: Players to Watch

The United States is never short on talent, but this year, they’ve got an especially loaded top-end of their roster. Luke Hughes, the 2021 New Jersey Devils’ fourth overall pick, will join Logan Cooley, who went third to the Arizona Coyotes in this year’s draft. The top-end center, who will be looking to earn a spot with the Coyotes this season, will hope to impress scouts by leading a loaded attack that features a ton of first-round picks, as well as Brock Faber, the team captain who was the prospect returned to the Minnesota Wild in the Kevin Fiala trade.

Logan Cooley Arizona Coyotes 2022 Draft
Logan Cooley, Arizona Coyotes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Germany, for their part, has made huge strides as a hockey nation in recent years. But while Moritz Seider may be winning hardware in the NHL, and Tim Stützle could be set to turn heads on a reloaded Ottawa Senators squad, the young players still playing with the WJC team are not quite of that caliber this season. They do have Luca Münzenberger, a defender taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round in 2021. He will be looking to silence critics ho argued the Oilers reached for him, and stimying the loaded U.S. attack would certainly be one way to do that. It’s a tall order, though, and one at which Germany will likely ultimately be unsuccessful.

Favorite: United States

Players to Watch: Luke Hughes, D [NJD], Logan Cooley, F [ARZ] (USA); Luca Münzenberger, D [EDM] (GER)

United States, Finland Looking for Statement Wins

Two potential gold medal teams are starting on Day 1 of the tournament, and both will be looking for statement wins. The United States have a tougher challenge in Germany, although they’ll be facing a less star-studded German team than we’ve seen in recent years. Finland should roll Latvia. The only question is by how much. The most competitive game of the day will almost certainly be the first, the showdown between Czechia and Slovakia. The action gets started promptly at 2:00 PM ET. It may be unusual, but hockey in August is a treat we should celebrate.

Team CanadaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team USAPlayers to WatchRoster
Team AustriaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team CzechiaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team FinlandPlayers to WatchRoster
Team GermanyPlayers to WatchRoster
Team LatviaRoster
Team SlovakiaRoster
Team SwedenPlayers to WatchRoster
Team SwitzerlandPlayers to WatchRoster

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