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World Juniors Preview: Games Begin Dec. 25

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Canada looks to repeat with another gold medal

Lethbridge Hurricanes at Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships begin on December 25 (a day earlier than usual!) with all ten teams in a bubble in Edmonton, Alberta. Team Canada is looking for its 19th gold medal, while an intriguing mix of players on Team USA will hope to return their squad back to the top.

All games will be televised on NHL Network in the US and TSN in Canada, and we’ll have a daily breakdown here at Die by the Blade of the previous day’s games as well as what to watch each day, and how all four Sabres prospects involved are doing.

Canada

Canada won gold last year, and they’ve got a pretty stacked roster that is searching to repeat. However, they’re going to have to do it without a key piece of the team: captain Kirby Dach was injured in a pre-tournament game on December 23, and it’s expected that he’ll not only miss the tournament, but will also miss some NHL time with the Chicago Blackhawks.

That said, we’ll be keeping a close eye on Sabres prospects Dylan Cozens and Jack Quinn. Both have been playing on the top line - alongside Dach - and should see a solid amount of ice time throughout the tournament. Quinn was a bit of a longshot to make the roster in the first place, so it’s nice to see him find a top-line home.

Roster: Dylan Garand, Taylor Gauthier, Devon Levi, Justin Barron, Bowen Byram, Jamie Drysdale, Kaiden Guhle, Thomas Harley, Kaedan Korczak, Braden Schneider, Jordan Spence, Quinton Byfield, Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach (inj.), Dylan Holloway, Peyton Krebs, Connor McMichael, Dawson Mercer, Alex Newhook, Jakob Pelletier, Cole Perfetti, Jack Quinn, Ryan Suzuki, Philip Tomasino, Connor Zary

Games: Dec. 26 vs. Germany; Dec. 27 vs. Slovakia; Dec. 29 vs. Switzerland; Dec. 31 vs. Finland

United States

The United States is looking to return to medal play after last season’s disappointing quarterfinal loss to Finland. 2020 marked the first time since 2015 that the United States didn’t medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships. The good news: there’s a lot of talent on this American roster, from Cole Caufield (who’s averaged more than a point-per-game with Wisconsin this season) to Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte.

Sabres prospect Ryan Johnson is also in the fold. The 19-year-old was drafted by the Sabres in 2019 with the 31st overall selection. As a defenseman, Johnson has put up four points, all assists, in six games with Minnesota this season. He recorded eight assists in 37 games in his first collegiate season.

Roster: Spencer Knight, Logan Stein, Dustin Wolf, Brock Faber, Drew Helleson, Ryan Johnson, Tyler Kleven, Jackson LaCombe, Jake Sanderson, Hunter Skinner, Henry Thrun, Cameron York, Matthew Beniers, Brett Berard, Matthew Boldy, Bobby Brink, Brendan Brisson, Cole Caufield, Sam Colangelo, John Farinacci, Arthur Kaliyev, Patrick Moynihan, Landon Slaggert, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras

Games: Dec. 25 vs. Russia, Dec. 26 vs. Austria, Dec. 29 vs. Czech Republic, Dec. 31 vs. Sweden

Austria

There’s little doubt that many eyes will be on Marco Rossi during this tournament. The 19-year-old center was drafted by the Minnesota Wild with the ninth overall selection this year, just one slot after the Sabres picked up Jack Quinn. Rossi & Quinn, of course, were teammates last season with the OHL’s Ottawa 67s. Rossi put up 120 points, including 39 goals, in just 56 games. This season, he’s appeared in one game with Zurich in the Swiss-A league.

Austria didn’t play in the 2020 World Junior Championships and is replacing Kazakhstan, who was relegated after a 1-6 record last year.

Roster: Jakob Brandner, Leonhard Sommer, Sebastian Wraneschitz; Jonas Kutzer, Luis Lindner, Moritz Molls, Lukas Necesany, Timo Pallierer, Jacob Pfeffer, Bernard Posch, Niklas Wetzl, Philipp Wimmer, Mathias Bohm, Tim Harnisch, Maximillian Hengelmuller, Fabian Hochegger, Marco Kasper, Clemens Krainz, Julian Pauschenwein, Senna Peeters, Marco Rossi, Lucas Thaler, Maximilian Theirich, Marlon Tschofen, Domink Unterweger, Finn van Ee, Leon Wallner

Games: Dec. 26 vs. United States, Dec. 28 vs. Sweden, Dec. 29 vs. Russia, Dec. 31 vs. Czech Republic

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic won just one game in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championships and ultimately fell 5-0 to Sweden in their quarterfinal game to end their bid for a medal last year. They’ve got two returning goalies and a handful of returning players, including Montreal Canadiens prospect Jan Mysak.

Roster: Jan Bednar, Nick Malik, Lukas Parik, Martin Has, David Jiricek, Karel Klikorka, Michael Krutil, Simon Kubicek, Radek Kucerik, Daniel Poizl, Jiri Suhrada, Stanislav Svozil, Martin Beranek, Michal Gut, Filip Koffer, Martin Lang, Radek Muzik, Jan Mysak, Adam Najman, Pavel Novak, Filip Prikryl, Ondrej Psenicka, Jaromir Pytlik, Adam Raska, Jakub Rychlovsky, Michal Teply, Matej Toman, David Vitouch

Games: Dec. 26 vs. Sweden, Dec. 27 vs. Russia, Dec. 29 vs. United States, Dec. 31 vs. Austria

Finland

Last year, the Finnish team narrowly missed a medal, finishing fourth in the tournament after dropping a 3-2 decision to Sweden in the bronze medal game. It’s undoubtedly heartbreaking to make it that far and not go home with a medal, and the returning Finns will do their best to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Returning players include Raty (an Arizona Coyotes prospect), Piiroinen (who plays for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires) and San Jose Sharks prospect Hatakka.

Roster: Joel Blomqvist, Kari Piiroinen, Roope Taponen, Santeri Hatakka, Ville Heinola, Mikko Kokkonen, Topi Niemela, Kasper Puutio, Ruben Rafkin, Matias Rajaniemi, Eemil Viro, Samuel Helenius, Roni Hirvonen, Roby Jarventie, Benjamin Korhonen, Brad Lambert, Anton Lundell, Matias Mantykivi, Henri Nikkanen, Juuso Parssinen, Mikko Petman, Petteri Puhakka, Mikael Pyyhtia, Aku Raty, Kasper Simontaival

Games: Dec. 25 vs. Germany, Dec. 27 vs. Switzerland, Dec. 30 vs. Slovakia, Dec. 31 vs. Canada

Germany

After narrowly avoiding relegation last year, Germany is looking to climb its way back up the World Juniors ladder. (Note: Due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding this year’s tournament, there is no relegation at stake here.) This year’s team has a few returning players, including Senators prospect Tim Stützle and Lukas Reichel (Chicago).

Of course, the player we’ll be watching most closely is Sabres prospect J-J Peterka. The 18-year-old has been dominating with Salzburg in Austria this season; in just 12 games, he’s put up 16 points and has already surpassed his points total from last season (11 points in 42 games with Munich EHC). Peterka also represented Germany last year and had six points in seven games.

Roster: Florian Bugl, Jonas Gahr, Arno Tiefensee, Lucas Flade, Maximillian Glotzl, Simon Gnyp, Niklas Langer, Luca Munzenberger, Steven Raabe, Maksymilian Szuber, Mario Zimmermann, Manuel Alberg, Jakub Borzecki, Julian Chrobot, Samuel Dube, Florian Elias, Enrico Henriquez-Morales, Jan Nijenhuis, John-Jason Peterka, Filip Reisnecker, Joshua Samanski, Jan-Luca Schumacher, Markus Schweiger, Tim Stützle, Justin Volek

Games: Dec. 25 vs. Finland, Dec. 26 vs. Canada, Dec. 28 vs. Slovakia, Dec. 30 vs. Switzerland

Russia

Last year’s Russian team finished with a silver medal, and they’ll undoubtedly be gunning for the gold once again this year. Russia won four of their seven games last year but narrowly fell 4-3 to Canada in the gold medal game.

Roster: Artur Akhtyamov, Iaroslav Askarov, Vsevolod Skotnikov, Roman Bychkov, Daniil Chayka, Semyon Chystyakov, Kirill Kirsanov, Artemi Kniazev, Yan Kuznetsov, Shakir Mukhamadullin, Yegor Shekhovtsov, Mikhail Abramov, Egor Afanasyev, Rodion Amirov, Zakhar Bardakov, Danil Bashkirov, Yegor Chinakhov, Vladislav Firstov, Arseny Gritsyuk, Maxim Groshev, Marat Khusnutdinov, Vasily Podkolzin, Vasiliy Ponomarev, Ilya Safonov, Yegor Spiridonov

Games: Dec. 25 vs. United States, Dec. 27 vs. Czech Republic, Dec. 29 vs. Austria, Dec. 30 vs. Sweden

Slovakia

Returning players include Kňažko, who is a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect. Also keep an eye on QMJHLers Matej Kaslik, Oleksiy Myklukha and Samuel Hlavaj, along with a slew of Canadian Hockey League players.

Last year, Slovakia finished the tournament in 8th after winning just one of their five games. They fell to Canada 6-1 in the quarterfinal matchup.

Roster: Samuel Hlavaj, Patrik Kozel, Simon Latkoczy, Eugen Rabcan, Simon Becar, Andrej Golian, Simon Groch, Matus Hlavac, Samuel Kňažko, David Mudrak, Simon Nemec, Rayen Petrovicky, Marko Stacha, Oliver Turan, Robert Baco, Martin Chromiak, Michael Drabek, Juraj Elias, Roman Faith, Maros Jedlicka, Simon Jellus, Dominik Jendek, Matej Kaslik, Jakub Kolenic, Filip Mesar, Michal Mrazik, Oleksiy Myklukha, Juraj Slafkovsky, Dominik Sojka, Artur Turansky

Games: Dec. 25 vs. Switzerland, Dec. 27 vs. Canada, Dec. 28 vs. Germany, Dec. 30 vs. Finland

Sweden

Sweden’s roster this year is stacked with NHL prospects and a handful of 2021 draft-eligible players. Ones I’ll be watching with a close eye include Red Wings prospects Raymond, Soderblum and Niederbach, along with Penguins prospect Clang.

Last year, Sweden won the bronze medal after defeating Finland 3-2. They won five of seven games in the tournament and had a tournament-best plus-17 goal differential.

Roster: Hugo Alnefelt, Calle Clang, Jesper Wallstedt, Emil Andrae, Gustav Berglund, Tobias Bjornfot, Alex Brannstam, Philip Broberg, Ludvig Hedstrom, Albert Johansson, Victor Soderstrom, Oscar Bjerselius, Arvid Costmar, Noel Gunler, Emil Heineman, Simon Holmstrom, Alexander Holtz, Oskar Kvist, Theodor Niederbach, Zion Nybeck, Oskar Olausson, Lucas Raymond, Elmer Soderblom, Albin Sundsvik, Jonathan Wikstrom

Games: Dec. 26 vs. Czech Republic, Dec. 28 vs. Austria, Dec. 30 vs. Russia, Dec. 31 vs. United States

Switzerland

Every player on this roster is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, including Cedric Fiedler, who’s playing for Western Michigan, and Brian Zanetti, who plays for Peterborough in the OHL. There’s also a lot of new blood on this year’s Swiss roster, with only five returning players from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championships. Last year, Switzerland finished third in Group A and fifth overall; they were eliminated in the quarterfinals with a 3-1 loss to Russia.

Roster: Thibault Fatton, Andri Henauer, Noah Patenaude, Inaki Baragano, Giancarlo Chanton, Noah Delemont, Cedric Fiedler, Bastian Guggenheim, Noah Meier, Rocco Pezzullo, Alessandro Villa, Nathan Vouardoux, Brian Zanetti, Dario Allenspach, Jeremie Bartschi, Attilio Biasca, Stefano Bottini, Mika Burkhalter, Lorenzo Canonica, Ronny Dahler, Keanu Derungs, Raymond Fust, Valentin Hofer, Gaetan Jobin, Simon Knak, Lionel Marchand, Joel Salzgeber, Elvis Schlapfer

Games: Dec. 25 vs. Slovakia, Dec. 27 vs. Finland, Dec. 29 vs. Canada, Dec. 30 vs. Germany