Day 2 of the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) has big shoes to fill. Day 1 will be remembered as one of the most eventful first days of the competition in history after two massive upsets occurred. Slovakia’s overtime defeat of Finland faded into obscurity after Czechia shocked the world and delivered a 5-2 drubbing to host nation Canada in the marquee game. Canada will have a day to recover from the shock, but Finland will be right back to work in the first game of Day 2. And both Czechia and Switzerland will be looking to build on good work on Day 1 by continuing their winning ways. Let’s dive right into the action from Day 2.
Finland vs. Slovakia (11:00 AM ET)
Finland: Final Roster
Slovakia: Final Roster
Finland suffered a shocking overtime defeat to Switzerland on the first day of the tournament and now needs to find their form quickly to make sure they don’t suffer the same fate against Slovakia. Kalle Väisänen, a fourth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2021, managed two points, including the late tying goal that sent the game into overtime. Sami Päivärinta, an undrafted 19-year-old, grabbed an assist on both of Finland’s tallies. But star forwards like Joakim Kemell (Nashville Predators) and Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets) were kept silent in a game where an extra goal would have been the difference.
Slovakia features the highest-drafted player at this year’s tournament, with second-overall pick Šimon Nemec returning to his country’s U-20 team after missing the summer tournament. After providing the top two picks in the 2022 Draft, Slovakia will be looking to prove that they truly are a hockey nation on the rise. And Switzerland’s defeat of Finland will certainly give them a bit of confidence that they might be able to take points off the mighty Finns.
Even with the early result, Finland will enter this game as the favorite. But they need to be careful. Another loss could put them in a tough spot with a game against the United States looming on Dec. 31. It’s still unlikely that they risk placing in the relegation round, but they don’t want to let the tournament get away from them. They’ll need Lambert and Kemell, among others, to step up.
Players to Watch: Joakim Kemell [NSH], Brad Lambert [WPG] (FIN); Šimon Nemec [NJD] (SVK)
Germany vs. Sweden (1:30 PM ET)
Germany: Final Roster
Sweden: Final Roster
Germany has yet to play at this season’s tournament and will have a tough test against a Swedish team that scored an 11-0 victory against Germany’s neighbors to the south, Austria. Germany will also be lacking the star power of recent tournaments, with first-round picks like Tim Stützle and Moritz Seider no longer on the roster. They have Julian Lutz, whom the Arizona Coyotes drafted in the second round in 2022. He had four points in the U-18 WJC last season and will be looking to build on that success going forward. But short of stars and facing a Sweden team that has found its firepower, a victory here is a tall order.
Related: Sweden’s Experience Helps Dominate Austria
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Not only did Sweden find its scoring touch, but it was led by its stars. 2021 first-round pick (Boston Bruins) Fabian Lysell and 2022 first-round pick (San Jose Sharks) Filip Bystedt each managed two goals and an assist. Meanwhile, top 2023 prospect Leo Carlsson managed two assists on his 18th birthday.
Over the summer, Sweden struggled to find goals from anyone, managing only two in their quarterfinal matchup against Latvia and getting shut out by Finland in the semifinals. If they have found this kind of firepower without sacrificing the defensive solidity that carried them through the summer tournament, they have suddenly become a real contender for gold at this tournament. Of course, as anyone familiar with Sweden’s history at this tournament will well know, they have a history of showing promise early only to struggle in the medal tournament. This collection of stars will be looking to erase that history in 2023.
Players to Watch: Julian Lutz [ARI] (GER); Fabian Lysell [BOS], Filip Bystedt [SJS] (SWE)
Switzerland vs. Latvia (4:00 PM ET)
Switzerland: Final Roster
Latvia: Final Roster
While a 3-2 defeat might have been a disaster for Finland, it was a crowning achievement for Switzerland. Now, any kind of result against Latvia will put them completely clear of any fear of the relegation round. Attilio Biasca — the Halifax Moosehead captain who is playing so close to home (Halifax being one of the tournament’s two host cities) — scored the game-winning goal in overtime. Lian Bischel, whom the Dallas Stars drafted in the first round in 2022, notched an assist on that goal. Jonas Taibel also managed two assists.
Latvia did not fair as well as Switzerland, but they were still a game opponent for the United States in a 5-2 loss. Rainers Rullers, who turned 18 earlier this month, managed two assists. Latvia knows that they have an uphill battle at any tournament. Their ultimate goal will simply be to avoid relegation and stay up for another year. But with Switzerland coming off a victory, their task is even tougher. A win here would be a coup for them, but the Swiss will enter as the clear favorites with momentum.
Players to Watch: Attilio Biasca, Lian Bischel [DAL] (SUI); Rainers Rullers [LAT]
Austria vs. Czechia (6:30 PM ET)
Austria: Players to Watch
Czechia: Final Roster
While Switzerland’s upset of the Finns was something to behold, Czechia’s upset over Canada is an all-timer. And Austria will have a massive uphill battle to try and slow them down after losing 11-0 to Sweden. They’ll need something from Vinzenz Rohrer, their only NFL-drafted player, to try and create an upset.
Czechia played a complete team game in their dominant win over Canada, and their five goals came from five different players. But defensemen David Spacek (2022 fifth-rounder of the Minnesota Wild) and Stanislav Svozil (2021 third-rounder of the Columbus Blue Jackets) each managed a goal and an assist. With the win over Canada, Czechia has upset both of the top world powers in the last five months (after beating the U.S. in the quarterfinals in August). With all the momentum in the world, Czechia should handle Austria convincingly in this second matchup. But as they themselves have already proved, anything can happen at the WJC.
Players to Watch: Vinzenz Rohrer [MON] (AUS); David Spacek [MIN], Stanislav Svozil [CBJ] (CZE)
United States and Canada Get a Break
Day 2 of the WJC will both of the tournament’s supposed top teams getting a break, but with very different mindsets. The U.S. handled business against Latvia, but Canada fumbled the bag against the Czechians. Canada has overcome early upsets before, but the outcome is still shocking.
Despite the lack of top teams, Day 2 promises to be a busy day of incredible action from top to bottom. Finland needs a reset win against Slovakia, Sweden wants to continue its dominance against Germany, and Switzerland and Czechia will both hope to build on impressive Day 1 upsets. There’s a lot to look forward to on Day 2, and puck drop is promptly at 11:00 AM ET. Enjoy the day of action!