World Junior Championship 2022 Group A preview

“He’s the guy who sets the bar that everyone aspires to,” said coach Dave Cameron. “We think we have a lot of guys who were captain’s stuff, but choosing ‘Mac’ was actually pretty easy.”

McTavish will try to lead Canada to a WJC title after losing to the United States in the 2021 championship game.

The 2022 WJC will be held August 9-20 at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The tournament was originally scheduled for December 26 – January. 5 but was postponed to December 29 due to concerns about the coronavirus.

[RELATED: 2022 World Junior Championship schedule]

Canada plays in Group A along with Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Latvia. The United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Austria play in Group B.

Latvia was added to replace Russia, which has been banned from international competitions due to the invasion of Ukraine.

McTavish, selected by the Anaheim Ducks as the No. 3 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, started last season with three points (two goals, one assist) in nine NHL games, and after a brief stint with San Diego of the American Hockey League , the 19-year-old returned to the Ontario Hockey League. He played five games with Peterborough before being traded to Hamilton on January 9. McTavish helped Hamilton win the OHL Championship with 16 goals in 19 playoff games, and his eight points (six goals, two assists) in five games tied for the commemorative cup lead.

“In simple terms, he’s a hockey player,” Cameron said. “Everything about him shows that. Very attentive in meetings, asks the right questions, works as hard as anyone off the ice, has no ego and his performance on the ice speaks for itself. He has played in the NHL and he has a long NHL career ahead of him.”

The top four teams in each group will play in the quarter-finals on August 17. The semi-finals are on August 19 and the championship and third place matches are on August 20. All matches are shown on NHL Network in the United States and on TSN in Canada.

There will be no relegation round, meaning the same 10 teams will play in the WJC 2023, which will be held from December 26 to January. 5, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick.

Here’s a breakdown of each Group A team, in the predicted order of finish:


Coach: Dave Cameron

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Connor Bedard, F, Regina, WHL

Scheme: August 10, Latvia (6:00 PM ET); August 11, Slovakia (6:00 PM ET); August 13, Czech Republic (6:00 PM ET); August 15, Finland (6:00 PM ET)

Outlook: Canada’s strength is its depth, especially in the middle. McTavish, Logan Stank Furnace (Dallas Stars), Ridly Greig (Ottawa Senators) and Elliot Desnoyers (Philadelphia Flyers) will likely start the tournament in the middle, but another option could be Connor Bedard. The likely No. 1 of the 2023 NHL Draft showed his dazzling skills in two games as a 16-year-old when the tournament was initially held in December, including a four-goal match against Austria. Now older and more experienced after finishing fourth in the Western Hockey League with 100 points (51 goals, 49 assists) in 62 games with Regina, he could be poised for an even bigger breakthrough. Seven of the eight defenders shot left, but Olen Zellweger (Anaheim Ducks), the top defender in the WHL last season, is part of a versatile group of strong skaters who should be fine on the outside. With goalkeepers Sebastian Cossa (Detroit Red Wings) and Dylan Garand (New York Rangers) likely to share time, Canada will once again be a favorite to reach the championship.


Coach: Antti Pennanen

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Ruben Rafkin, D, TPS, FIN

Scheme: August 9 Latvia (6:00 PM ET); August 11, Czech Republic (2 p.m. ET); August 14, Slovakia (2pm ET); August 15, Finland (6:00 PM ET)

Outlook: Finland will have five defenders back from third place at the 2021 WJC, led by Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs), voted best defender in the tournament after racking up eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. They will have to be good with three inexperienced goalkeepers behind them Leevi Merilainen (Ottawa Senators) and Juha Jatkola (2023 draft qualifying), who each played one game in December, and Jani Lampinen (2023 draft qualifying). Forward Brad Lambert (Winnipeg Jets), who had five points (one goal, four assists) in two games before the tournament was canceled in December, are now counted on playing at a similar level. It is also expected to go on the offensive Aatu Raty (New York Islanders), who had 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) in 41 games with Jukurit in Liiga last season, as well as Kasper Simontaival (Los Angeles Kings), who scored four goals in seven games at the 2021 WJC. If the goalkeeping holds up and delivers the attack, Finland could push Canada to the top of the group.

Czech Republic

Coach: Radim Rulik

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Daniel Hercik, F, Pardubice, CZE; Adam Mechura, F, Tri-City, WHL

Scheme: August 9 Slovakia (2pm ET); August 11, Finland (2pm ET); August 13, Canada (6:00 p.m. ET); August 14, Latvia (6:00 PM ET)

Outlook: Jan Mysak (Montreal Canadians), Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas Golden Knights) and Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabers) will likely determine the offense. Mysak had 64 points (34 goals, 30 assists) in 61 games for Hamilton of the OHL last season and is one of five returning players from the 2021 WJC, where he had three points (two goals, one assist) in five games. Sapovaliv was fourth among OHL rookies with 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) in 68 appearances for Saginaw. Kulich was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2022 IIHF Under-18 World Championship after leading all players with nine goals in six games. Two defenders are among the returnees of the 2021 WJC, Columbus Blue Jackets prospects David Jiricek and Stanislav Svozil. Jiricek’s status before the start of the tournament is up for debate after he tested positive for COVID-19, but hopes are that he will arrive in time for the opener. The Czech Republic will need him if it hopes to finish ahead of Slovakia and push Finland to second in the group.


Coach: Ivan Fenes

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Dalibor Dvorsky, F, AIK Jr., SWE-JR; Samuel Honzek, F, Vancouver, WHL

Scheme: August 9 Czech Republic (2:00 p.m. ET); August 11, Canada (6:00 p.m. ET); August 12, Latvia (6:00 PM ET); August 14, Finland (2pm ET)

Outlook: Dvorsky is a potential top-five pick in the 2023 draft after racking up 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 33 games with AIK’s team in the Swedish junior league. Next to Dvorsky, forward Servac Petrovskic (Minnesota Wild), who was third among OHL rookies last season with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games with Owen Sound, should also play a big part in the offensive. Goalkeeper Simon Latkoczy returns after having a save percentage of .922 in three games at the 2021 WJC despite 34.0 shots on target per game, and he played in the United States Hockey League for the past three seasons, meaning he has experienced is in the smaller north American ice. Slovakia has no forward Juraj Slafkovsky (Montreal Canadiens) and defender Simon Nemec (New Jersey Devils), the top two picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, but still has a talented group. If Latkoczy can steal them a match, they can challenge the Czech Republic for third place in Group A.


Coach: Artis Abols

2023 NHL Draft Watch: Niks Fenenko, D, Baie-Comeau, QMJHL

Scheme: August 9 Finland (6:00 PM ET); August 10, Canada (6:00 p.m. ET); August 12, Slovakia (6:00 PM ET); August 14, Czech Republic (6:00 PM ET)

Outlook: It is Latvia’s first time at the top level of the World Juniors since 2017, and being placed in a second-place (Canada) and third-place (Finland) group from 2021 will not help their case. Three players on the roster are drafted by NHL teams, including forward Klavs Veinbergs (Tampa Bay Lightning). He had seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine play-off games to help Zemgale win the championship in Latvia’s top professional league. It will take a lot for Latvia to win a match, but with no relegation round to worry about, the experience the players gain could help them for the 2023 WJC.

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