2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship

With December well underway, it’s time to look ahead to the next big event on the hockey calendar, the 2023 World Junior Championship. After being postponed last year and being re-scheduled for August 2022, this year’s tournament hopes to be the first to return to normalcy since the 2020 WJC tournament. 

2023 World Junior Championship Guide
2023 World Junior Championship Guide (The Hockey Writers)

The tournament has become a holiday tradition for many hockey fans around the world as it typically begins on Boxing Day (December 26) and finishes during the first week of the new year. The WJC has grown remarkably since the inaugural (official) tournament was held in 1977, however, last August’s tournament was such a departure from what fans have come to expect, that the tournament struggled from documented issues regarding underwhelming ticket sales.

Related: Early Look at the 2024 NHL Draft


Latest News & Highlights


This year the tournament has found a new home after being hosted in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada three straight times (if you include the cancelled 2022 tournament), and has returned to the usual holiday season schedule. Here’s to hoping the WJC can re-capture some of the excitement lost during the pandemic seasons.

NOTE: Final Roster and Players to Watch articles will be linked below as they are published

Team CanadaFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team USAFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team SwedenFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team FinlandFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team GermanyFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team CzechiaFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team SlovakiaFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team AustriaFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team SwitzerlandFinal RosterPlayers to Watch
Team LatviaFinal RosterPlayers to Watch

Features

2023 World Juniors Rosters by NHL Team

6 Bold Predictions for the 2023 World Junior Championship

2023 Draft Eligible Players to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors

2022 NHL Draft Picks to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors

2023 World Junior Championship Players to Watch

2023 World Juniors: Award Contenders

Revisiting Sweden’s World Junior Championship History

World Junior Championship All-Time Leading Scorers

2023 World Juniors: A Potential Cinderella Team

Columns

2023 World Juniors: Team Latvia Sticks to it with Czechia

2023 World Juniors: Switzerland Neutralizes Czechia

2023 WJC: 3 Up, 3 Down: Canada vs. Czechia

NHL Draft Rankings

Horn’s Top 32 for December

Barrachini’s Top 32 Preseason Rankings

Forbes’ Early Top 16

Little’s Early Top 16

Prospect Features

Connor Bedard Off to an Exceptional Start

2023 Draft Eligible Leo Carlsson in NHL Ready

Matvei Michkov: The Best Russian Prospect Since Ovechkin

Who Is Eligible to Play?

This is the U20 version of the tournament meaning that players must be under the age of 20 to participate. If a player’s 20th birthday takes place in the year the tournament ends (Jan. 1-Dec 31, 2023), then they are eligible, even if they turn 20 while the tournament is still underway. If a player’s 20th birthday takes place in the year the tournament begins (Jan.1-Dec 31, 2022), then they are not eligible. People usually talk about the upper limit for the age eligibility but there is also a lower limit, as players must turn 15 years old in the year that the tournament ends. Sorry to all those players turning 14 next year out there who are hoping to participate but just realized they’re not eligible, better luck next year.

Halifax and Moncton Play Host

The original host for this year’s tournament was Novosibirsk and Omsk, Russia, however the IIHF revoked Russia’s hosting rights following the invasion of Ukraine. National teams from both Russia and Belarus have been banned indefinitely from IIHF competition, meaning that top 2023 NHL Draft prospect Matvei Michkov will not be competing.  Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada were announced as the new hosts, with Moncton hosting Group B (United States, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Latvia) while Halifax hosts Group A (Canada, Sweden, Czechia, Germany, and Austria).

2023 World Junior Championship Guide
2023 World Junior Championship (The Hockey Writers)

Two of the four quarterfinals games will be held in Moncton and the rest of the knockout round games (two quarterfinals games, two semifinals games, both medal games) will be held in Halifax. There will also be 11 exhibition games played from December 19-23 as teams get a final chance to tune up before the tournament begins in earnest of December 26, 2022.

Participating Teams

As I mentioned earlier, Group A consists of Canada, Sweden, Czechia, Germany, and Austria while Group B is made up of United States, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Latvia.

Connor Bedard Team Canada
Connor Bedard, Team Canada (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Canada will look to become the first nation to win two consecutive tournaments since they won five straight from 2005-09. They just barely snuck out an overtime victory in last August’s gold medal game after Captain Mason McTavish saved the puck out of mid-air and Kent Johnson scored quickly after on the other end of the ice to give Canada the victory over Finland. Team Canada will be headlined by Connor Bedard, who has wowed hockey fans with his exceptional goalscoring abilities and is the favourite to be selected with the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. 

Related: NHL Draft Rankings – Horn’s Top 32 for December

Team USA will also feature many highly regarded prospects, including Luke Hughes who was very impressive in August’s tournament despite his team’s disappointing loss to Czechia in the quarterfinals. Finland and Sweden were last year’s silver and bronze medalists respectively, and they are both returning with excellent teams this year, thought they will be hoping for a better result this time around.

Award Winners from the 2022 WJC

Anaheim Ducks forward Mason McTavish was named the best forward of the tournament after scoring an astounding 17 points in just seven games. However, none of those points were as important as the save he made in overtime of the gold medal game.

He looked like a man among boys in August’s tournament and he brought that confidence into the NHL this season where he has scored 14 points in 27 games so far in the 2022-23 NHL season. His performance throughout the tournament was remarkable enough that he was named tournament MVP when the gold medal game had concluded.

Kasper Puutio, a fifth-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2020 NHL Draft, was named best defender of the tournament after scoring seven points in seven games, the third most points by any defenseman in the tournament. Puutio’s leadership and defensive play set him above the defenders who scored more points than him, earning him this honour.

Jesper Wallstedt gave Sweden a real fighting chance during last year’s tournament and was named best goaltender of the tournament as a result. In five games, Wallstedt had a save percentage of .939% and a goals against average of 1.62 (eight total goals against in five games), both of which were the best marks in the tournament. He made it very easy on voters by leaving no doubt that he was the most valuable goaltender at the WJC.

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

The Media All-Star team voted on at the tournament’s conclusion saw Mason McTavish, Finland’s Joakim Kemell, and Czechia’s Jan Mysak named as the three top forwards, Canada’s Olen Zellweger and Sweden’s Emil Andrae named the top two defenders, and Jesper Wallstedt named the top goaltender.

2023 WJC Schedule

If you want to follow a specific team or game, here is a full schedule of the games in the tournament, including all medal-round games

Dec. 26

Finland vs. Switzerland, 11 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. Austria, 1:30 p.m. ET
Latvia vs. United States, 4 p.m. ET
Czechia vs. Canada, 6:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 27

Finland vs. Slovakia, 11 a.m. ET
Germany vs. Sweden, 1:30 p.m. ET
Switzerland vs. Latvia, 4 p.m. ET
Austria vs. Czechia, 6:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 28

Slovakia vs. United States, 4 p.m. ET
Canada vs. Germany, 6:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 29

Latvia vs. Finland, 11 a.m. ET
Sweden vs. Czechia, 1:30 p.m. ET
United States vs. Switzerland, 4 p.m. ET
Austria vs. Canada, 6:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 30

Slovakia vs. Latvia, 11 a.m. ET
Germany vs. Austria, 4:30 p.m. ET

Dec. 31

Switzerland vs. Slovakia, 11 a.m. ET
Czechia vs. Germany, 1:30 p.m. ET
United States vs. Finland, 4 p.m. ET
Canada vs. Sweden, 6:30 p.m. ET

Jan. 2

Fifth place in Group A vs. Fifth place in Group B (Relegation Game 1), 9:30 a.m. ET
Quarterfinal 1, 11 a.m. ET
Quarterfinal 2, 1:30 p.m. ET
Quarterfinal 3, 4 p.m. ET
Quarterfinal 4, 6:30 p.m. ET 

Jan. 4

Fifth place in Group A vs. Fifth place in Group B (Relegation Game 2), 11 a.m. ET
Semi-final 1, 2:30 p.m. ET
Semi-final 2, 6:30 p.m. ET

Jan. 5

Fifth place in Group A vs. Fifth place in Group B (Relegation Game 3, if needed), 9:30 a.m. ET
Bronze Medal Game, 2:30 p.m. ET
Gold Medal Game, 6:30 p.m. ET