December 16, 2021

Bell Curve: 2022 World Juniors predictions

The holiday season is a time for families to gather, enjoy company, and share experiences.

And crank up the television loud, because it’s World Juniors time.

The game’s future top players take the ice in this under-20 hockey championship in a battle for international glory.

For some, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. For NHL Draft aficionados, watching those who were recently drafted rise to stardom, and watching the next crop participate on such a large stage, is the best gift of all.

The 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship is set to kick off on its usual start date of Boxing Day (December 26) and plays well into the New Year (January 5).

And while all the rosters are yet to be set, that doesn’t stop us from predicting how the tournament will play out.

Read along for my predictions for the final tournament standings, top three players for each team, and the awards that will be given out at the end of the tournament. I’m sure readers will have different players in mind for awards and different ideas for the standings, so feel free to post them on Twitter and tag @FCHockey and @JoshuaBell31 – let’s see who’s right!

Pool A standings

  1. Canada

  2. Finland

  3. Czech Republic

  4. Germany

  5. Austria

There’s no question that Canada should be the top team in this division. They’re a perennial powerhouse in this tournament and looking at their roster, they should be the heavy favorites to take home the gold. Canada has, arguably, the best forward and defensive groups in the tournament. Goaltending may not be as strong as Sweden and Russia, but it’s better than the rest. Overall, this pool is pretty predictable. I have Finland at No. 2 currently, but I do have a soft spot for the Czech team and would love to see them rise up. Not seeing Aatu Raty in this tournament is a huge loss for the Finns, but I still think their group will come out on top of the Czechs. The bottom will be one of Germany or Austria, and I’d bet on the Germans taking that fourth spot – but it will be close. Austria could be the team to be relegated, unfortunately.

Pool B standings

  1. Sweden

  2. Russia
  3. USA

  4. Slovakia

  5. Switzerland

This is going to be exciting. I’m willing to bet that there’s a big divide between who will take that top spot. Some would say Russia, some Sweden, and some even Team USA. It’s hard not to bet on Sweden though. Most of their roster is NHL drafted, and they’re oozing skill. They will challenge Canada and the most exciting team of the tournament, in my opinion. If there was a team to steal that top spot though, it would be Russia. I’m betting on Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov in this tournament. It will be his final year eligible for the tournament and I’d expect him to make it count. Combined with some of their powerhouse forwards, this is a strong team. Russia does lack the strong defensive group that Sweden has. Every year, I seem to undervalue Team USA, and perhaps I’m doing that again this year, but I don’t think they’ll come out on top of the other two. Their skaters may challenge Russia (even without Thomas Bordeleau) and they have a better defensive group, but goaltending will be an issue. With the final two spots, I would love to see Slovakia do better than I have them here, but this is the likely spot for them. The Swiss, unfortunately, stand a good chance of playing in the relegation game.

Elimination round, medals, and relegation predictions


Q1: 1A Canada defeats 4B Slovakia

Q2: 1B Sweden defeats 4A Germany

Q3: 2B Russia defeats 3A Czech Republic

Q4: 3B USA defeats 2A Finland

No big surprises here as the first three games are likely pretty expected given the matchups. The fourth game could really go either way though. This could be quite a game, but Team USA’s skaters will be able to overwhelm the Finns. The overall group just looks to be better, but you can never count the Finnish groups out.


1A Canada defeats 3B USA

1B Sweden defeats 2B Russia

While Canada should defeat the Americans pretty handily this year, the Sweden vs. Russia matchup could be one of the best games in the tournament. Askarov vs. Jesper Wallstedt? Yes, please. While this could be a goaltending battle, I could see Sweden coming out on top. This group looks like a gold-medal contender. In doing this though, they prevent a Conor Bedard vs. Matvei Michkov gold medal battle, which I’m sure we’d never forgive the Swedes for.


  1. Canada

  2. Sweden

  3. Russia

  4. USA

Unless Wallstedt can steal the gold medal, this is Canada’s year. However, this could be a tight, hard-fought game and I am very much here for it. The bronze medal battle should be just as good, with Askarov likely able to shut down the American offense to add another medal to his cabinet. After winning the gold medal in 2021, there’s a good chance the Americans go home empty-handed this year.


5B Switzerland defeats and relegates 5A Austria

The Swiss group just has a hair more talent this year and that should be enough to help them hold their spot in this tournament. However, this could really go either way.

Top 3 players on each team


  1. Marco Kasper

  2. Sebastian Wraneschitz

  3. Leon Wallner

After being a top-three player last year, goaltender Sebastian Wraneschitz should be the starter and could find himself as a top-three player again. However, this could be more due to the number of shots faced rather than wins from stealing games. Marco Kasper should be the top forward on this team, as the draft-eligible has spent time in the SHL and looked right at home this season. He’s reason enough to watch this group in the tournament. Finally, Leon Wallner may not have had a single point in the tournament last year, but he’s been producing in the J20 Nationell and the HockeyAllsvenskan this season, so perhaps this is his year to shine. Keep an eye on CHLers Senna Peeters and Vinzenz Rohrer as well.


  1. Cole Perfetti

  2. Owen Power

  3. Shane Wright

This is tough, as there are a number of players that could be top-three players on this team. Cole Perfetti is going to have a ridiculous tournament, and is a strong contender for MVP and top forward in the tournament. Mason McTavish could be right there with him as well. On defense, this could be a bit of a coming-out party for Owen Power, who wasn’t given the green light for the World Juniors last year. I expect him to be one of the better defenders in the tournament. Finally, we’ve already seen how Shane Wright steps up his game when it counts, and with the tear he was on in the OHL leading up to camp, I’m looking forward to seeing that continue. Olen Zellweger, Dylan Guenther, Kent Johnson, and Kaiden Guhle are some other top candidates to make this list, and we’ll see how 16-year-old Bedard is used.

Czech Republic

  1. David Jiricek

  2. Jan Mysak

  3. Martin Rysavy

Defender David Jiricek and forward Jan Mysak were top-three players last year, and I’d expect that to repeat this time around. Jiricek could be one of the better blueliners in the tournament, and Mysak should be the group’s top forward. The third spot is a bit up for grabs. I have Martin Rysavy here and he’s a player that always catches my eye and I could see him having a strong tournament. Other forward contenders include Jakub Kos, draft-eligible Jiri Kulich, and Pavel Novak, while defender Stanislav Svozil could impress as well. Keep an eye on Jan Bednar in net too.


  1. Topi Niemela

  2. Roni Hirvonen

  3. Ville Koivunen

If Raty was able to participate in the tournament, he’s a strong contender to be the best player on this team. This was one of the harder teams to nail down, as I don’t see many of the players on the roster having stand-out performances. Topi Niemela could be the best player on the team now and could be one of the better defenders in the tournament. Roni Hirvonen looks like the best forward of the bunch, with Ville Koivunen, Oliver Kapanen, and Kasper Simontaival right there as well. I’d love to see Brad Lambert rise to the player we all hoped he’d be, but we may see Joakim Kemell continue to outplay him here. Either Joel Blomqvist or Leevi Merilainen can hold their own in the net, but I’m not sure they’ll steal games for the team.


  1. Florian Elias

  2. Nikita Quapp

  3. Maximilian Glotzl

After the performance that Florian Elias put forward last year, there’s no question that he’s the top player on this team and will be leaned on heavily. It will be interesting to see if he can match last year’s output though, without Tim Stutzle and JJ Peterka. After him, I’m a fan of Nikita Quapp and if he holds on to the net, he’ll be a star player for Germany. I considered two defenders for the final spot, Maximilian Glotzl and Luca Munzenberger, but I don’t think either has that strong a hold on it.


  1. Yaroslav Askarov

  2. Nikita Chibrikov

  3. Matvei Michkov

This Russian group has a number of players that could be top players, but I don’t think any of them will come close to what Askarov could do for the team. The team could ride him all the way to the gold medal. I’m expecting and hoping for an MVP-worthy performance. Nikita Chibrikov is a player that seems to shine on the international stage, and I’d expect no less in this event. Finally, we’ve all seen the Michkov show. It’s one of the best shows out there and Russia could utilize him as a top forward in Edmonton. If that’s the case, he’ll rise to the occasion. Of course, Fyodor Svechkov, Marat Khusnutdinov, Vasili Ponomaryov, and Danila Yurov will be demanding some attention here too.


  1. Martin Chromiak

  2. Simon Knazko

  3. Simon Nemec

As I’m fully in 2022 NHL Draft scouting, it was hard not to throw all of the Slovak trio on here, but at least Simon Nemec made the list. Juraj Slafkovsky and Filip Mesar could be deserving as well, but the team will lean heavily on Martin Chromiak and I hope he rises to that call. Defender Samuel Knazko should lead the back end and impress from there. Goaltender Simon Latkoczy has stolen my eye before, but I’m not sure they use him consistently in this tournament. Of course, I have to mention 2023-eligible Dalibor Dvorsky as well. This may be a first look at him for many, and I know you’ll walk away even more excited for the 2023 class than you already were with Bedard and Michkov.


  1. Alexander Holtz

  2. William Eklund

  3. Jesper Wallstedt

Alexander Holtz and William Eklund together again? Oh boy, this might be the most exciting duo in the entire tournament and the fact that they have proven chemistry together makes it that much more exciting. I’m expecting Holtz to be a top player in the tournament, and Eklund is right there with him. Holtz could very much be an MVP challenger. Eklund will be not too far behind him. In net and with this defense, Wallstedt will absolutely shine and will be one of the best goalies in the tournament. Book it. Other than these three, there are many prospects to choose from that could be top-three players. Emil Andrae and Simon Edvinsson on the back end, Fabian Lysell, Oskar Olausson, or Isak Rosen up front – this team is could dazzle.


  1. Simon Knak

  2. Lorenzo Canonica

  3. Noah Meier

Simon Knak is the top player on this roster, and he was a top-three player last year. If the Swiss manage to hold on to their spot in this tournament, he’ll be a big part of that. Lorenzo Canonica didn’t have the best outing last year in this tournament, but I’d expect him to build on that this year. On defense, both Noah Meier and Brian Zanetti should be top players, with draft-eligible Lian Bichsel right there with them. Some other forwards to watch are Attilio Biasca, Ray Fust, and Louis Robin.


  1. Matthew Beniers

  2. Jake Sanderson

  3. Sasha Pastujov

Last, but certainly not least, we all saw what Matthew Beniers did in this tournament as a draft-eligible. Now as a top player on this team, look for him to be a leader and a top forward in the tournament. Defender Jake Sanderson could very well be the best defender in the tournament as he looks poised to jump to the NHL level sooner rather than later. I’m expecting a big tournament from him. Sasha Pastujov is having a big year in the OHL, look for that to continue into this tournament. Matt Coronato, Chaz Lucius, Mackie Samoskevich, and Luke Hughes are a few more to watch that could very much impress.

Individual award predictions

  • MVP: Cole Perfetti, Canada

  • Best Forward: Cole Perfetti, Canada

  • Best Defenseman: Jake Sanderson, USA

  • Best Goaltender: Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden

This was tough. For top forward, Perfetti and  Holtz are the leading contenders – perhaps that’s obvious. They’re also the leading candidates for MVP unless we see a ridiculous goaltending performance. On D, Sanderson is my pick right now, with Power a 1B selection. The top goaltender comes down to Wallstedt and Askarov in my opinion, with the winning goalie of the Sweden vs. Russia semifinal taking it.

More Stories

June 12, 2024

Here are the top European 2024 NHL Draft prospects according to analytics

June 11, 2024

Here are the top North American 2024 NHL Draft prospects according to analytics

June 9, 2024

FCHockey releases 2024 NHL Draft Guide with immediate download

Get insider content and scouting reports you can’t find anywhere else.

Sign up now