2022 WJC Day 2 Preview

After Day 1 of the 2022 World Junior Championship, one name was on the tip of everybody’s tongue: Owen Power. The 2021 first-overall NHL Draft pick stole the show, notching a hat trick in his nation’s comeback win over Czechia, becoming the first defenseman to do so for Team Canada. Now, the host nation gets a break entering Day 2, while Czechia will look to lick its wounds ahead of an important matchup against Germany.

Day 2 also features the debut of two teams in this tournament: Switzerland and Austria. The latter would have been relegated last year, but the strange circumstances of the bubble tournament meant no team would earn relegation or promotion. They’ll be looking to seize their golden opportunity at a second chance, but it won’t be easy starting against a victorious Finnish squad. Switzerland will also have a tough task, taking on a disappointed group of Russians coming off a 6-3 loss against Sweden, who themselves will take on Slovakia in the day’s final matchup. Let’s take a look at each matchup in turn.

Austria vs. Finland (Edmonton, 2:00 PM)

Austria: Team Preview

Finland: Team Preview

The debutants Austria are once again underdogs in the tournament and face a tough first test against Finland. This will be Austria’s first-ever chance to appear in consecutive WJC tournaments, and, technicality or not, they’ll be hoping to make the most of it. Unfortunately, Marco Rossi, their headline player from last season’s tournament, won’t be available this time around. But they do have experience, and they have their next bright young prospect, Marco Kasper of the Swedish Hockey League. He projects to be a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, and he’ll need to lead his team to more success than Rossi did before him if they hope to improve their fortunes at this year’s tournament.

Marco Rossi Team Austria
Despite the high-skill level of Marco Rossi, Team Austria didn’t find success in 2021 (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Finland handled their business on Day 1, beating a game German squad. Samuel Helenius, a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2021, led the attack with two goals. Both were assisted by Brad Lambert, who connected on a beautiful cross-ice feed for Helenius’ second, which sealed the game midway through the third period. Lambert has a lot to prove at this tournament. Once projected as a top-three pick in the upcoming draft, a rocky season in Finland’s Liiga has him sliding to the middle of the first round or later, a fall from grace reminiscent of his teammate Aatu Raty’s plummet into the second round after once being considered a potential first-overall pick.

Lambert’s hot start is significant for both him and his team, and Austria will need to contain him and Helenius if they have any chance of success. But Joakim Kemell, a highly-touted 2022 prospect, will be looking to join the fun after a quiet Day 1. Austrian goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz has a tall task ahead of him.

Favorite: Finland

Players to Watch: Marco Kasper (AUS); Samuel Helenius [LAK], Brad Lambert (FIN)

Russia vs. Switzerland (Red Deer, 4:30 PM)

Russia: Team Preview

Switzerland: Team Preview

Switzerland will also be debuting on Day 2, and will likewise look for redemption from last year when they failed to record any points in the round-robin tournament. Simon Knak, selected by Nashville in the sixth round in 2021, was supposed to return to the tournament as Switzerland’s captain, but last night, the team announced he would miss due to a positive COVID test.. But a lot of focus will be given to defenseman Lian Bichsel, a towering, mobile blueliner projected as a first or second-round pick in the upcoming draft. At 6-foot-5, he shouldn’t be hard to spot on the ice.

Bichsel will have his work cut out for him against Russia though. Despite the disappointing 6-3 loss to Sweden, youngster Matvei Michkov, one of the youngest players at the tournament, lived up to his billing as an elite prospect for 2023. He notched two goals in under a minute in the third period to give his team a puncher’s chance, before Sweden sealed it with two more of their own. Semyon Demidov, who went undrafted last year in the NHL, assisted on both goals.

Should Yaroslav Askarov get the chance to start consecutive games, he’ll look to pick up the pieces after the brutal loss on Day 1. He allowed three goals on 16 shots before Russia replaced him for the third period. Perhaps they were hoping to preserve him for an important game against Switzerland. If he starts, he’ll have a lot to prove.

Favorite: Russia

Players to Watch: Simon Knak [NSH], Lian Bichsel (SUI); Matvei Michkov, Semyon Demidov (RUS)

Germany vs. Czechia (Edmonton, 7:00 PM)

Germany: Team Preview

Czechia: Team Preview

Czechia was on the wrong side of the overpowered Canadians on Day 1 (pun intended), but they did rush out to a 3-1 lead on goals from Michal Gut, Pavel Novak, and Stanislav Svozil, the 69th overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2021. Gut added an assist on Svozil’s goal, the only Czechian player with two points on the night. David Jiricek, a projected first-round pick in 2022, also grabbed an assist. In a matchup of Day 1 losers, Czechia has one of its two-best chances at points against Germany on Day 2.

Germany’s lone goal against Finland came on the power play from Düsseldorf native Luca Münzenberger, whom the Edmonton Oilers took in the late third round in 2021. Without Tim Stützle this season, the Germans will need new scoring threats, and Münzenberger’s unassisted goal is their only tally so far. Florian Elias, who shone at last year’s tournament, will likely need to heat up again if Germany is going to beat Czechia. Though there won’t be relegation at this year’s tournament, either, these matchups between underdogs can still give us a special chance to watch the less-highlighted players of the tournament shine.

Favorite: Czechia

Players to Watch: Stanislav Svozil [CBJ], David Jiricek (CZE); Luca Münzenberger (EDM) [GER]

Sweden vs. Slovakia (Red Deer, 9:30 PM)

Sweden: Team Preview

Slovakia: Team Preview

The night’s final matchup features teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. Slovakia fought a good fight against the defending gold medalist Americans, but ultimate lost 3-2. Martin Chromiak, a fith-round prospect of the Los Angeles Kings, did collect two goals in the third period to put his team within striking distance. But Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar, both considered likely first-round picks in this year’s draft, were kept pretty quiet. For the country from the geographical midpoint of Europe to stand any chance against the notoriously indefatigable round-robin Swedes, those two will need to step up.

Martin Chromiak Kingston Frontenacs
Martin Chromiak scored both of Slovakia’s goals against the United States (Kingston Frontenacs)

Sweden got goals from six different players on Day 1, with New Jersey Devils prospect Alexander Holtz scoring the eventual game-winner early in the third period. Sweden is fortunate that New Jersey allowed the 2020 seventh-overall pick to join their team at this year’s tournament. His successor at the seventh-overall pick, fellow Swede William Eklund, notched two assists. Both have limited NHL experience, and both will need to continue to be big factors as Sweden looks to build a somewhat-surprise medal campaign. For all their round-robin success, Sweden has relatively few medals to show for it. They’ll be looking to change that, and they should be able to handle Slovakia in the process.

Favorite: Sweden

Players to Watch: Martin Chromiak [LAK], Juraj Slafkovsky, Filip Mesar (SVK); Alexander Holtz [NJD], William Eklund [SJS] (SWE)

Don’t Sleep on Day 2

On paper, Day 2 features a slate of lopsided matchups, neither of the tournament’s two favorites, and, with no relegation threat, seemingly has very little to play for. But each of these teams will be looking to show something, and most of them feature a current or future first-round draft prospect to keep an eye on. The WJC is the only hockey going on right now, so it is can’t-miss all-day action on NHL Network in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada.

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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