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
Where do I start? How can you be 54-0 in the round robin over the last few years and still struggle to get on the podium and not win any gold medal? There are some many questions that a lot of people are asking about Team Sweden. This year, it might be different, with more depth up front and a great goalie.
They will face adversity from the start playing against Russia and USA. That will probably dictate how they will perform and what they have to do to be a legit contender.
As of publishing, William Eklund has still not been released from his team to play in the WJC. Although I think he will. If he does, he will change the whole dynamic up front. If he comes back, we could see Theodor Niederbach taking the number two center spot (if he is cleared to play after his injury). Alexander Holtz should also be released to play. Already over a point per game in the AHL this year and having played in the last two World Juniors, he could be the x-factor for this team.
To round out the top six, I think Oskar Olausson, who has made the jump to play in the OHL, will factor into the lineup. Isak Rosen, who is a 1st round pick by the Buffalo Sabres and had a lot of success at the WJC-18, and Fabian Lysell will also be leaned on. Like Olausson, Lysell made the jump overseas and is playing in the WHL.
They have a lot of great forwards and wingers that can, on any night, take control of the game. We might see a surprise here when Jonathan Lekkerimaki and Liam Ohgren played both in an offensive role and on the power play together back in November in Angelholm.
This might be the tricky part here. They don’t have a lot of returning guys on the backend. In fact, they only have Emil Andrae who is returning. He is averaging over a point per game in Hockey Allsvenskan this season. He should be the go-to guy. Helge Grans (LAK) will have another shot to make the team, and after being cut last year, he will look to redeem himself. Adding to them is Simon Edvinsson, who is playing in the SHL, who should also see a lot of minutes.
I can see William Wallinder being in the top four. He is having a great start in the SHL with Rogle. And when the team will make a mistake in the defensive zone, Wallstedt (a 1st round pick of the Minnesota Wild) will be there to make the stop. He is another player fromTteam Sweden with a great start in the SHL. He is a returning goalie after playing two games at the last WJC. This season, his GAA is below 2.00 and is SV% above 0.920%
They had a tough time last year with Covid and we could see it in the stats as they were second last on the penalty kill. That doesn’t help your team when you try to protect the lead or try to keep the game at one goal.
Their power play was one of the best last year to release the pressure. That could be great, but if the opponent can adjust and be faster, they will have their faces in the glass and that will not be good. I can see them going back to two one-timer options again.
This year, they don’t have a 6-foot-8 Elmer Soderblom, who can score from between his legs. If they are healthy, they can be a contender and finally might be able to capture that all elusive gold medal. Coming back from last year when their 54 game win streak in the round robin was broken, they would have less pressure and they can play without a chip on their shoulder. That might be what they needed to be on the podium this year.
Now let’s watch some of their goals from the WJC 2021!
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