WJC Predictions


since no one said I had to be objective…

Gold – United States

Two years ago the US rode Jack Campbell and Mike Lee to gold in Saskatoon. Last year with Campbell shouldering much of the load they again won another medal, but this time only bronze. With John Gibson eligible to come back next year, and this being Campbell’s last go around, Dean Blais could opt for a bit more of a time share.

The Americans will have to overcome the loss of Justin Faulk (unavailable) and Seth Jones (injury), but they have a deep group at the blueline. Jon Merrill and Derek Forbort are back from last year’s team and each provide offensive upside from the blueline. A big key will be whether draft eligible Jacob Trouba can play to his full potential in this tournament. If he can, the US has another physically imposing defenseman at the back line. Up front, the US looks like a typical Dean Blais team: speedy and deadly in transition. Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau will at least get the chance to play together and should be part of the US’s best line, as familiarity can trump talent in these tournaments. For the US’s best player at the tournament I am going to go with TJ Tynan, who has turned into a very good skater and should thrive in this system.

Silver  – Canada

The 2010 gold medal game was among the best hockey games I’ve ever seen, so let’s do it again, shall we? Colorado College Sophomore Jaden Schwartz captains Canada, and plays on the first line with Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele. All Scheifele has done is go from relative unknown to 7th overall pick to centering Canada’s top line at World Juniors. Granted a couple better centers, such as Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Sean Couturier, are in the NHL, but it is still impressive stuff for the first first rounder of the new Winnipeg franchise.

At defense the main name college fans will know is Jamie Oleksiak. Oleksiak had a nice Freshman year at Northeastern which helped him become a first rounder. After the draft he (or the Stars) decided it would be best if he played for Saginaw instead. USA Hockey fans will also remember that, although he played for the US at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka, Oleksiak decided to play for Canada internationally. He’d look good on the US’s third pairing, but will be playing that role for the Canadians instead.

The big question for Canada seems to be whether Mark Visentin can hold a real hockey team to single digits or if he’ll be the approximately 500th Canadian starter to be pulled in the gold medal game.

Bronze – Sweden

Sweden is led by Ottawa draftee Mika Zibanejad. Because Gabriel Landeskog and Adam Larsson are too busy in something called the NHL, Sweden will have to lean heavily on their 18 year olds. Zibanejad, Jonas Brodin and Oscar Kefblom are three very good ones, as is Johan Larsson, one of many Minnesota Wild prospects in this tournament. In net, Johan Gustafsson has the ability to steal a few games, and I think he’ll get Sweden into the medal round.

Every Swedish player in this tournament except for one has already been drafted, so this isn’t the Sweden of old that was traditionally one of the weaker teams in the tournament. They don’t have the stars they did last year, but have four 2011 first rounders and three more who could be first rounders in 2012. They’ll face competition from defending champion Russia and Finland, who I expect to be the surprise of the tournament, but should have enough to medal.