BUFFALO NY - JANUARY 05: Artemi Panarin #27 of Russia celebrates with his goal medal after Russia defeated Canada 5-3 during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Gold medal game between Canada and Russia at the HSBC Arena on January 5 2011 in Buffalo New York. Russia won 5-3. Panarin scored the game winning goal. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
So I've been previewing each club in the lead up to today's action as the IIHF U20 World Junior Championship begins in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I haven't put Russia's preview, the defending gold medallists, up quite yet but that will be coming before their game starts tonight at 8 PM MST. But since everyone else is out there, you know what my preliminary round predictions are. Here's a review:
|Place||Group A||Group B|
That would mean the following matchups for the quarterfinals: Russia vs. Finland and Canada vs. Switzerland, the same as last year. I'm picking Canada and Finland to win those games, setting up a semifinal of Sweden vs. Canada and the USA vs. Finland. From there, a Canada vs. USA gold medal game is my call, and here's how the final standings breakdown:
- United States of America (GOLD) - Best all-around roster at this tournament, and a feather in the cap to an excellent run in recent years.
- Canada (SILVER) - A great run that comes up just short again.
- Finland (BRONZE) - First medal since 2006. This is their best team in years. Mikael Granlund for MVP.
- Sweden - A tough result for what is a great team.
- Russia - This team is not quite experienced enough compared to the four nations I have ahead of them.
- Switzerland - They'll be in tough come the medal round, but reaching the quarterfinals is really their goal.
- Czech Republic - A tough schedule works against their best roster of the past few years. Luckily, they should have a similarly strong team next year with a better chance to qualify for a medal.
- Slovakia - Not a lot to say here, it's a team that should beat Latvia and Denmark but is in real tough with the other 7 teams.
- Latvia - I'm expecting them to qualify for Russia in 2013, which is really the goal.
- Denmark - It's a tough year for the Danes to be with the elite group. Back to Division 1, where they can contend again.