2023 WJC Day 3 Preview

Day 3 of the 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) in Halifax and Moncton will feature the return to action of the tournament’s two presumed powerhouses. But Canada and the United States will be entering with very different mindsets. The U.S. handled business on Day 1 of the tournament, comfortably beating Latvia 5-2. But Team Canada suffered the inverse — falling 5-2 to Czechia — in arguably one of the most shocking WJC upsets of all time. Now, both teams return to play in matches that should be cake walks. But neither team will be looking past their opponents after Monday’s results.

Slovakia vs. United States (4:00 PM ET)

Slovakia: Final Roster

United States: Final Roster

Slovakia was also involved in a 5-2 game in their first appearance at this tournament — falling to rebounding Finland on Day 2. Peter Repčik, an undrafted forward who has played with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and the Charlottetown Islanders, scored both goals for Slovakia in defeat. But it was not enough to power the Slovaks past the Finns.

The United States did not struggle to find the back of the net, getting goals from five different NHL-drafted players: Jimmy Snuggerud (Pick #23, 2022 Draft, St. Louis Blues), Sean Behrens (#61, 2021, Colorado Avalanche), Chaz Lucius (#18, 2021, Winnipeg Jets), Red Savage (#114, 2021, Detroit Red Wings) and Luke Hughes (#4, 2021, New Jersey Devils). Behrens and Savage each also added an assist. It was an all-around strong performance that proved the Americans have scoring threats up and down the lineup.

With Canada’s disappointing outcome on Day 1, it’s tough to argue against the Americans as the odds-on favorites to win gold right now, although it’s never wise to draw too many conclusions early in the WJC. Either way, they will enter as heavy favorites against Slovakia, who now face some risk of the relegation round after Latvia and Switzerland have both managed points in their first two games. The United States can’t take Slovakia lightly, but they will expect to roll again and grab another healthy win.

Favorite: United States

Players to Watch: Peter Repčik, F (SVK); Sean Behrens, F [COL], Red Savage, F [DET], Luke Hughes, D [NJD] (USA)

Canada vs. Germany (6:30 PM ET)

Canada: Final Roster

Germany: Final Roster

Canada will be a force to be reckoned with in this game. The loss means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and it should motivate them to put their best foot forward for the rest of the tournament. Though they came up short, 2022 fourth-overall pick Shane Wright managed a goal and an assist, and presumptive first-overall pick Connor Bedard added a goal of his own.

Related: Team Canada Players to Watch at the 2023 WJC

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Germany, for their part, will be desperate to find some scoring. After Sweden managed 11 goals in their first appearance, Germany and goalkeeper Nikita Quapp (a sixth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021) limited them to only one goal on 44 shots. Look for 2022 second-rounder Julian Lutz (Arizona Coyotes) to try and lead the attack against Canada. The Germans might be buoyed by Czechia’s upset, but they will have to also be wary of the “sleeping tiger” effect with the mighty Canadians.

Canada has no intention of losing another game at this tournament. As the WJC’s host country, they expect to keep the gold medals close to home. But the game against Czechia should serve as a wake-up call that there are no easy matchups or “tune-up games” at the WJC. They’ll be heavy favorites, but they will have to take Germany very seriously to avoid a repeat of their disastrous performance against Czechia.

Favorite: Canada

Players to Watch: Nikita Quapp, G [CAR], Julian Lutz, F [ARI] (GER); Shane Wright, F [SEA], Connor Bedard, F (CAN)

The Stars Need to Show Up

The WJC often receives criticism for being lopsided. It’s believed that only a handful of nations (a smaller handful now that Russia is banned) can ever actually compete for medals. But upsets like Czechia’s are transformative moments in these nations’ hockey cultures. And everybody is always on their A-game against the big dogs of the tournament. If the United States and Canada hope to avoid embarrassment on Day 3 of the tournament, the stars will need to show up in a big way. These will be two must-watch games for hockey fans of every nation.