2022 WJC Day 10 Preview

After nine grueling days of late summer action, the World Junior Championship is about to draw to a close, but not before crowing its medalists. Three of the four teams in action today will walk away with hardware, as Canada and Finland duel for gold (with the loser getting the silver medal), and Sweden and Czechia fight for bronze. It’s been a bizarre tournament with lackluster crowds amidst unprecedented circumstances, but the gold medal is still going to taste just as sweet at the end of it. Without further ado, let’s preview the medal games.

Bronze Medal Game: Sweden vs. Czechia (4:00 PM ET)

Sweden: Team Roster

Czechia: Team Roster

In our preview of their semifinal matchup with Finland, we predicted that the matchup between Sweden’s stout defense and Finland’s deep offense would determine who would advance. But in the end, even though Sweden’s defense and goaltending showed up in a major way, they simply could not muster enough offense to win the day. Finland scored one goal in the second period, beating the Swedes 1-0. Jesper Wallstedt, considered perhaps the best goaltending prospect in the world, did his part, stopping 27 of 28 shots against. But he still came up just short because his offense couldn’t deliver.

Jesper Wallstedt Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Sweden’s offense does not have the star power of some years previous, but they simply need more from the players who are there in key roles. Fabian Lysell, a first-round pick of the Boston Bruins last year, has managed only one goal (with four assists) through these six games. Jonathan Lekkerimäki, whom the Vancouver Canucks selected at 15 in the 2022 Draft, has done even less, notching just three assists. Emil Andrae (Philadelphia Flyers) leads the team in goals and is tied for the lead in assists, with four of each, but he can only do so much. As ever, Sweden’s roster is dotted with high NHL draft picks, but if they are going to salvage a medal for their nation at this tournament, they have got to step up.

On the other side of the ice, a bronze medal would be a huge result for Czechia, the team that was never supposed to get this far. They were unable to parlay their shocking 4-2 defeat of the United States in the quarterfinal into an equally shocking upset of the Canadians, which surely would have been the greatest Cinderella story in tournament history, but now, facing a Swedish side that seems to be on its heels, they will be hungry to grab a medal and etch their name in the history books.

Related: 3 Takeaways from Canada’s 5-2 Win vs. Czechia

Jan Myšák, 48th overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2020, and Jiri Kulich, 28th overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2022, have been Czechia’s two standout performers. The pair each has seven points, and both played well against Canada, with Myšák scoring a goal and Kulich assisting on both of the team’s goals. If you have to pick a team entering this game with momentum (even though both are coming off of losses), you’d lean towards Czechia, who won a huge upset and then battled hard against the tournament’s best team. But it’s still hard to imagine Sweden not buckling down and taking the medal here. They have too much talent to settle for fourth place with Czechia across the ice.

Favorite: Sweden

Players to Watch: Jesper Wallstedt G [MIN], Fabian Lysell, F [BOS], Jonathan Lekkerimäki, F [VAN] (SWE); Jan Myšák, F [MON], Jiri Kulich, F [BUF] (CZE)

Gold Medal Game: Canada vs. Finland (8:00 PM ET)

Canada: Team Roster

Finland: Team Roster

Despite entering under a cloud of controversy, Team Canada looks unstoppable. Mason McTavish has an absurd 15 points as the Anaheim Ducks prospect has absolutely dominated every opponent he’s come across. But Canadians dominate the statistical leaderboard: Olen Zellweger, another Ducks prospect, sits with two goals and eight assists after notching three helpers against Czechia. Logan Stankoven (Dallas Stars) has four points and five assists, and Connor Bedard and Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) each have eight points. Even for a team with as high of expectations as the Canadians, they have been nothing short of spectacular, and they sit first in scoring efficiency, first on the power play, and third in save percentage (SV%) in the tournament. There’s little more to say — they’ve been superlative, and now it is up to them to beat Finland and save such a spectacular tournament from ending on a sour note.

Finland managed to do just enough to get past Sweden. Kasper Puutio, a fifth-round defenseman drafted by the Florida Panthers in 2020, scored the team’s only goal, assisted by Aatu Räty and fellow defenseman Topi Niemela. Goaltender Juha Jatkola, a 19-year-old undrafted netminder, pitched the shutout, but he’ll have a much tougher test in Canada.

Räty’s assist builds on all the success he’s had so far, and leaves him tied with Zellweger for third in points, with ten (just behind teammate Joakim Kemell, at 11). Hockey fans may know Räty’s comeback story by this point, but it’s worth repeating: though once viewed as the potential first overall pick in 2021, he dropped all the way to the New York Islanders with pick 52. Ever since, he’s been on a mission to prove his doubters wrong, and in this tournament, that mission has been successful.

Finland has had a lot of success at the WJC over the years and has won gold three times since 2014. But their challenge here is incredibly tough. They certainly could upset Canada, but you would not be wise to bet against the host nation in this matchup. Defeat would be devastating for them, they have too much on the line. All signs point to Canada once again prevailing on the world’s hockey stage.

Favorite: Canada

Players to Watch: Mason McTavish, F [ANA], Olen Zellweger, D [ANA], Logan Stankoven, F [DAL]; Aatu Räty, F [NYI], Joakim Kemell, F [NSH], Juha Jatkola, G (FIN)

Golden Summer

Many of the players in today’s games will have NHL training camps to attend before long. And lots of them will be playing their last game in the WJC as well, as the tournament’s unusual circumstances allowed over-agers who were eligible before the tournament was rescheduled to play in the summer window. In just four months, we’ll have another tournament in Halifax and Moncton. But before any of that happens, we have to crown this summer’s champions. Canada hold all the cards, but Finland will be a tough test. Who will hoist gold at the end of the 2022 WJC? Tune in to find out.

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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