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
Team USA put on a clinic last year in the gold medal game against Team Canada. Can they do the same this year? That’s the biggest question. On paper, they looked scarier last year than this year, but that doesn’t mean anything. I think early on they will have to decide with which direction they want to go with their third and fourth lines. They can be all skilled, because they have a lot of skilled players, or they can try to go in a different direction and bring more role players that will kill penalties and apply pressure. Either way, we will see what is the philosophy of their coaches, because we see now more and more in a short tournament format, teams putting their best players out there on the penalty killing because of their high IQ hockey.
I see them being one of the top teams this year, alongside Team Canada, for the most goals for and best power play. Having Berniers back, the second overall pick by the Seattle Kraken, will be huge for the United States. He already has over 1.1 points per game this season in the NCAA with the University of Michigan. We should also see Bordeleau this year, who was not able to make it last year because he was under the covid protocol. Bordeleau should be the centre on the second line of this team. Adding to the top six, I can easily see Knies, Coronato and Pastujov (who is playing in the OHL this season). And we learn that ”Tough break for Thomas Bordeleau (SJS) who would have been on last year’s WJC roster if not for a close contact right before the tournament.” He is out. I feel terrible for the kid.
I can see the United States building their offence from the forecheck similar to last year. It was a team who was first on the puck, physical, limiting time and space of their opponent and establishing their offence from the cycle. This is how they beat Team Canada.
This is where I think it could be a hit or miss with this team. The good thing is, they should have a couple of returning players. Sanderson, Kleven and Faber all won the gold medal last year. Luke Hughes, one of the new comers and 4th overall pick from last year’s NHL Draft, could have a lot of responsibilities and could be running the power play unit. With over a point per game at 18 years old in the NCAA, I can see the coaching staff sending him out there for any offensive job.
In the defensive zone, I can see them using an overload down low and protecting the middle of the ice at all cost. Letting the opponent play on the outside if they have too. I can see them using the overload to take advantage of their size and strength of their d-core.
The question mark would be the goalies. I mean, Commesso should be the starting goalie, but who will be the backup and how will the coaching staff use the duo? Will they go all in with one? Will they give one game to the second goalie?
Would you change something if you won everything with it? That’s the question Nate Leaman and his coaching staff will have to ask themselves. They won gold last year, had the best power play with 40.91%. If you don’t change anything, teams will have time to adjust because they have footage from last year. But if you keep the same, but show a different tweak of it, it may not work with the players they have on their team this year.
Last year, they had options from behind the net, which was hard to defend. I can see them doing the same this year. The other strength they had was the rotation of the players. Bumper switching to the flank, high scissor plays with the three players on top. I can see Leaman doing the same and even adding more to it to have a more powerful power play this year at the WJC.
With the possibility of seeing more than six players who won the gold medal last year, I can see them winning everything this year again. If Commesso (who’s having an average season with BU so far) can be a legit #1 at the WJC, I can see them making two in a row. But they will have to play another perfect game against Team Canada and their fans this time to repeat. The experience of the returning players is the X-Factor to win it all again.
Now, let’s watch some of their goals from the WJC 2021.
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