The 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) has been spectacular so far, and Day 6 is shaping up to be the best day yet. The relegation matchup, Austria vs. Latvia, is already set, and the eight teams playing on New Year’s Ever are all fighting for final placement. Let’s take a look at the current tables entering the day:
There’s a scenario where every game on Day 6 is merely a preview of that same matchup in the quarterfinal round. If Canada and Czechia, both favored in their matchups, both win, that will be the case in Group A. For it to occur in Group B, it would Slovakia to beat Switzerland and the United States to beat Finland. Both are very possible. But the story of this tournament has been upset after upset, so don’t take anything for granted. Let’s take a look at Day 6 of the 2023 WJC.
Switzerland vs. Slovakia (11:00 AM ET)
Switzerland: Final Roster
Slovakia: Final Roster
The battle for final positioning in group B will be intense, as all four positions are up for grabs. Slovakia currently has six points, and Switzerland has four. Slovakia has the momentum, coming off their decisive victory over Latvia. Šimon Nemec, the second-overall pick of the New Jersey Devils, continued his strong tournament by scoring the second goal off the post and in. Adam Gajan, an 18-year-old undrafted goalie playing with the Chippewa Steel (NAHL) and the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) this season, stopped 28 of 28 shots. But Switzerland should be a tougher test than Latvia was.
Switzerland has saved itself from any risk of relegation by grabbing four points so far. A lot of that is thanks to Attilio Biasca, captain of the Halifax Mooseheads. Playing so close to home, he’s had a terrific tournament, including the game-winning goal in their tournament-opening upset over Finland. That goal alone was enough to prevent any risk of relegation, guaranteeing that Switzerland will be here next season.
This matchup should be a close one, but Slovakia clearly has the upper hand. They’ve had a strong tournament, including a big upset win over the United States. Making history by yielding the first two picks in the 2022 NHL Draft, Slovakia seems to be a hockey nation on the rise, and they’ll hope to cement that status with a strong finish at this WJC.
Players to Watch: Šimon Nemec, D [NJD], Adam Gajan, G (SVK); Attilio Biasca, F (SUI)
Czechia vs. Germany (1:30 PM ET)
Czechia: Final Roster
Germany: Final Roster
Germany did what they needed to do on Day 5 of the tournament, beating their neighbors Austria 4-2 to avoid the relegation round. Now, they can enter this game against Czechia, one of the darlings of the tournament, with nothing to lose. Roman Kechter continued his strong tournament with a goal and an assist against Austria. Arizona Coyotes’ second-rounder from 2022, Julian Lutz, also managed two assists in arguably his best game so far.
Czechia, for their part, has had a terrific tournament. They scored a massive upset against the hosts, Canada, on Day 1, beating them convincingly 5-2. Then, they bludgeoned Austria 9-0. They took Sweden to overtime in a 3-2 loss, and currently, they sit near the top of Group A.
Related: 3 Takeaways from Sweden’s 3-2 OT Win Over Czechia
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At the risk of overstating the case a bit, Czechia will be pretty close to desperate to get a regulation win here. If they win and Canada gets past Sweden, Czechia will win the group and secure a rematch with Germany in the quarterfinal. That route is clearly preferable to facing either Sweden or Canada again. Even as good as their tournament has been, Czechia would enter either of those games as the clear underdog. They will probably continue to rely on Tomáš Suchánek, who has been one of the best goalies at the tournament, holding a .929 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.65 goals-against average (GAA) in three games. Germany will want this win for pride, but they have less on the line than Czechia, who have earned the right to be considered favorites heading into this one.
Players to Watch: Roman Kechter, F, Julian Lutz, F [ARI] (GER); Stanislav Svozil, D [CBJ], Tomáš Suchánek, G (CZE)
United States vs. Finland (4:00 PM ET)
United States: Final Roster
Finland: Final Roster
The United States has had a terrific tournament so far if you erase the major blip against Slovakia. They had dominant wins over Latvia and Switzerland and now want to finish strong against Finland. While a lot of eyes are focused on Luke Hughes on defense, the Americans have been led on attack by a quartet of first-round picks from the past two drafts: Tyler Boucher (Ottawa Senators, #10, 2021), Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes, #3, 2022), Cutter Gauthier (Philadelphia Flyers, #5, 2022), and Jimmy Snuggerud (St. Louis Blues, #23, 2022). Cooley and Gauthier each have four points, while Boucher and Snuggerud have netted a trio of goals apiece. The Americans’ loaded attack will be a force for anyone at the WJC to handle.
Finland’s day one defeat by the Swiss was overshadowed by Canada’s loss later that night, but it remains the biggest blemish on their record. Still, they haven’t had a particularly convincing tournament. A 5-2 win over Slovakia was their best achievement, but a 3-0 win over Latvia is not all that impressive (though the Latvians were a tough matchup for just about everyone they played).
Part of Finland’s struggles come from the fact that two of their biggest stars from the most recent draft: 17th overall pick (Nashville Predators) Joakim Kemell and 30th overall pick Brad Lambert. Both have been criticized for inconsistency so far, and they have all but disappeared through three games so far. They have been bailed out by 19-year-old undrafted goalie Jani Lampinen, who has made 53 of 55 saves in three games, with a .934 SV% and a 1.00 GAA.
Both teams have looked good enough so far, with one major demerit apiece. Even so, the Americans will enter as favorites. A win here gives them a chance to win the group if Switzerland can score the upset against Slovakia. If Slovakia prevails and the United States wins, then this will merely be a tuneup game for the quarterfinal rematch. Either way, it is one of the best on-paper matchups of the tournament so far, as is the main event of the group stage.
Favorite: United States
Players to Watch: Logan Cooley, F [ARI], Cutter Gauthier, F [PHI], Luke Hughes, D [NJD] (USA); Joakim Kemell, F [NSH], Brad Lambert, F [WPG], Jani Lampinen, G (FIN)
Canada vs. Sweden (6:30 PM ET)
Canada: Final Roster
Sweden: Final Roster
Canada vs. Sweden. It doesn’t get much better in the preliminary rounds of the WJC. Even though Sweden’s jaw-dropping 54-game preliminary round winning streak was finally snapped a few years ago, they are still one of the top teams at every tournament. And Canada — the hosts of this tournament — enter pretty much every WJC as the odds-on favorites to win gold. Canada has the top two scorers at the tournament, as well as four of the eight five-point scorers. The soon-to-be first-overall pick in the 2023 Draft, Connor Bedard, has been electric, leading the way with a whopping 14 points.
Sweden has undoubtedly had the best goalie of the tournament so far. Carl Lindbom — who looks to have been a steal by the Vegas Golden Knights with the 222nd pick in 2021 — has made 74/76 saves in three starts, with a .974 SV% and a 0.66 GAA. He will be a major puzzle for the Canadians to solve if they want to win this one. On the other hand, after an offensive explosion on Day 1 of the tournament, they’ve struggled to find scoring, much like they did in this summer’s tournament. Ludvig Jansson, a 2022 fourth-round pick of the Florida Panthers, leads the team with two goals and three assists from his defensive position. And 2022 27th-overall pick of the San Jose Sharks, Filip Bystedt, has also looked strong, with two goals and two assists.
Canada will be the favorite entering this game, but there’s a lot to play for. A Sweden win guarantees them first place in the group and a probable matchup with the team they shut out, Germany, in the quarterfinal round — a far preferable matchup than either Czechia or Canada. If Canada wins and Czechia loses, they’ll be first in the group. But the most likely outcomes — a Canada win and a Czechia win — will lead to a rematch of this game in the quarterfinal. Canada and Sweden back-to-back isn’t something any hockey fan would complain about.
Players to Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Logan Stankoven, F [DAL] (CAN); Carl Lindbom, G, Filip Bystedt, F [SJS] (SWE)