The 2023 World Junior Championship (WJC) kicked off in Halifax, with Sweden facing off against Austria. The Swedish team is expected to medal in this year’s tournament, while Austria hopes to improve on the four goals they scored in the entire tournament last year. The two teams are opposites as Sweden is trying to win gold while Austria is trying to score a goal or two and remain for the 2024 WJC. The most significant difference between the two is skill and talent, and that’s why Sweden dominated by an 11-0 final score.
Sweden and Austria WJC History
Sweden and Austria are on two different spectrums of the WJC level. Sweden has finished fifth or higher in the last ten tournaments, while Austria has yet to win a game in 20 tries, losing 19 games and tying one against Ukraine in 2004. Sweden has only lost three of their last 40 preliminary-round games but has struggled in the medal rounds, going 12-13 since winning gold in 2012.
Sweden is undefeated in four games all-time against Austria, allowing only three goals while scoring 24; Sweden defeated Austria 6-0 in 2022 in their last meeting. Sweden has 16 NHL-drafted players in this year’s tournament and highly touted prospect Leo Carlsson, who is exp[ected to be chosen in the top five of the 2023 Draft. Austria has one drafted player, Vinzenz Rohrer, who was drafted 75th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2022.
Sweden Dominated Against Austria
It’s no surprise that Sweden played a fast, skilled game against the weaker Austrian team. Sweden was dominant and controlled the entire play from the match’s start. They scored only two goals in the first period, but that was due to the outstanding play of Austrian goaltender Thomas Pfarrmaier and the strong performance of the Austrian defence. This didn’t last long as the Swedes came out in the second period, scored within the first minute, and didn’t look back, skating around Austria’s defence and capitalizing on their chances.
Sweden scored six more in the second and finished the game with 11 goals. They out-skated and were more skilled than Austria in all aspects of the game. It was expected that Sweden would defeat Austria, but with Austria playing to stay in the tournament next year, a tougher pushback should have been expected. That was not meant to be, but it probably could have happened; with Austria’s top player Rohrer out with other flu, there was no competition for the Swedes to play against, and they were on top from puck drop.
NHL Drafted Players Lead the Way
With 16 NHL-drafted players on the roster, it’s not that much of a stretch to say they led the way. However, four, in particular, were instrumental in the 11-0 victory over Austria. Isak Rosen of the Buffalo Sabers opened the scoring with an unassisted goal, then set up the San Jose Sharks’ draft pick Filip Bystedt for the second goal before opening the scoring again in the second period and going on to finish the game with two goals and an assist. He also won 64% of his faceoffs which put him third on the team as Sweden dominated the faceoff circle, winning 41 of the 62 faceoffs.
Related: 2023 World Junior Championship: Team Austria Final Roster
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Ludvig Jansson led all Swedish defencemen in points with three helpers. The Florida Panthers prospect played a steady game with power play (PP) time and helped lead the Swedish attack from the back end. Winnipeg Jets prospect Fabian Wagner added two assists in the second period and then finally scored in the third to have a three-point night, giving Sweden four players with three points. With this many talented drafted players, it isn’t surprising how they easily defeated Austria, whose only one, Rhorer, was out with an illness and unable to play. Sweden will have an advantage throughout this tournament with this many NHL-drafted players on their roster.
Austria’s Lack of Skill Could Hurt Them
The WJC had no regulation for the tournament in last year’s tourney, which was played this past August due to COVID-19. This year they do have relegation, which means the last two teams will play to see who stays in the tournament and who is regulated to division 1, a lesser division than the WJC, which is 1A. Austria is one of those teams expected to play in the relegation best-of-three at the end of the tournament.
With Rohrer being the only drafted player on the team, it wasn’t hard to see his skill was greatly missed against Sweden. Austria played an excellent system, but the skill level was insufficient to compete. With this lack of talent, it could be challenging for them to stay in Division 1A, having only scored four goals all of last year, and they don’t look like they will achieve many more in this one. Austria needs to improve their level of play and have more skill in their lineup, especially when they have to play against juggernauts like Sweden.
Switzerland, Germany, and Latvia are all predicted to be near the bottom of the standings, like Austria. Switzerland, however, upset Finland, winning their opening game, and Latvia had a strong performance against a gold-hopeful Team USA in a losing cause. Austria seems to be the weakest team in the tournament so far, and if things don’t improve, they may not be back any time soon.