2012 World Junior Medal Predictions

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:

Preliminary Round Predictions
Place Group A Group B
1 Se_medium
Us_medium
2 Ru_medium
Ca_medium
3 Ch_medium
Fi_medium
4 Sk_medium
Cz_medium
5 Lv_medium
Dk_medium

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Canada (SILVER) - A great run that comes up just short again.
  3. Finland (BRONZE) - First medal since 2006. This is their best team in years. Mikael Granlund for MVP.
  4. Sweden - A tough result for what is a great team.
  5. Russia - This team is not quite experienced enough compared to the four nations I have ahead of them.
  6. Switzerland - They'll be in tough come the medal round, but reaching the quarterfinals is really their goal.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Latvia - I'm expecting them to qualify for Russia in 2013, which is really the goal.
  10. Denmark - It's a tough year for the Danes to be with the elite group. Back to Division 1, where they can contend again.
Realistically, I could see any of the top five nations on this list with a gold medal at the end of this tournament. I just feel that Yankee Blue is the most likely to add some gold at the end. This is the deepest the field has been in years, and the action over the next eleven days should be fantastic.

See you in a couple of hours when the action starts!

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