You love the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, and so do we! This year WJC enthusiast and good guy Mitch Giguere put together pre-scouts of six teams he thinks will make noise at this year’s tournament, which runs Sunday, December 26, 2021, to Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in Edmonton and Red Deer.
- Pre-Scout: Team Canada
- Pre-Scout: Team Sweden
- Pre-Scout: Team Finland
- Pre-Scout: Team Czech Republic
- Pre-Scout: Team Russia
- Pre-Scout: Team USA
Finland, what a beautiful country. Let’s start with a quick overview. They won the bronze medal at last year’s WJC and had a team with a mix of a lot of young players and high-end players. This year, we could see around 10 returning players – that’s half their line-up potentially returning. Having the experience of playing in Canada last year, in the bubble, and winning the bronze medal can be a huge starting point for this team.
Brad Lambert has been invited to camp and I do hope he will be able to make it, so we are able to see another future potential top 3 draft pick playing at the WJC. This team should have a lot of returning forwards, however, but they don’t have the high-end forwards like they did last year with Anton Lundell and Ville Heinola not returning, but they have players with a lot of experience.
Roni Hirvonen, a second-round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be one of the leaders. They will put him with the third-round pick of the L.A. Kings, Kasper Simontaival. Last year, winning the bronze, Simontaival had seven points in seven games. Both should make the difference up front. You can also add Roby Jarventie to the list of impact players up front, who’s playing in the AHL and already averaging 0.63 points a game as a 19-year-old. My question surrounding this group is how will Aatu Raty do? Remember, he made the team two years ago, was cut last year and now, he is on fire. He put up 14 points at the World Junior Summer Showcase.
On the blueline, they will have five returning defencemen – if everyone is healthy. They will have to find who will be number six and seven. That’s not a bad problem. Topi Niemela will be the top D for Team Finland and I can see him being on the All-Star team. He had eight points in seven games last year and already has 18 points in 20 games in Liiga this season. I hope to see him playing with Eemil Viro, a third-round pick by Detroit. This kid can skate and “surf” effortlessly. Playing against men for three years now, Viro will be a big part of this team. He is calm with the puck, makes the right decisions, he is a D that all coaches love to coach.
They didn’t give up a lot of goals last year. Kari Piiroinen was good with 2.18 GAA and 0.915 SV%. Let’s see how Joel Blomqvist (who was with the team last year, but didn’t play a game) will do this season. He had a great start in Liiga. In four games he has a 0.57 GAA and 0.973 SV%.
One of the reasons they won the bronze medal last year was because of their special teams. Running at a combined 119.92%, with the power play being 38.10%, (second in the WJC) and their penalty kill being 81.82%, (second), they had the best special teams at the WJC. The question is, can they make it two years in a row.
Antti Pennanen will be the head coach for the second year in a row and will work with the U20 for the third time. Already knowing that he will not be back next year at the WJC as Kari Jalonen will take over. I am pretty sure that personally, Pennanen is aiming for the gold medal.
To be a contender for a second year in a row, they will have to do the little things right. They have to play their game, be opportunist, hard and fast. Like Ray Ferraro said, “the Finns are a rock in your shoe that you can never get rid of.” They do the little things right and they are a really responsible team. Not having any superstars up front might help them have a more “balanced” lineup.
On the backend, I think they have a great looking d-squad and playing on a smaller ice surface (NHL rink size), they will have to adjust quickly when moving the puck. Lucky for them, five defencemen already played in the WJC last season. They have a good understanding about what’s going on.
Now let’s watch some of their goals from the WJC 2021!
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