Barring a surprise, a difficult tournament to predict for the Finns, already short on top players and deprived of forward Joakim Kemell, a first-round pick from Nashville, and Topi Ronni, second-round pick from Calgary, who is under investigation for rape. Young defenseman Aron Kiviharju, a likely first-round pick in 2024, will also be out due to injury, as will New York Islanders prospect Jesse Nurmi, another winger. Lenni Hämeenaho, one of his team’s best in preseason games this summer, second-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2023, and already 17 points in 26 games in the Finnish first division, will spearhead the attack , just like Jani Nyman, second-round pick of the Seattle Kraken in 2022, 22 points in 28 games in the same circuit, but it will also require the contribution of 2024 draft candidates, Emil Hemming and Konsta Helenius.

A country in progress since the hiring of Bob Hartley to relaunch its hockey program a few years ago. They secured promotion to the top group in 2022 after Russia’s exclusion and surprised by reaching the knockout round, but barely avoided relegation last year. This nation never has big names and relies on a solid collective game to hope to remain among the world elite.

The leader on defense, Niks Fenenko, is back for a third year. This defender, ignored in the draft, nevertheless amassed 25 points in 29 games in his third season in Baie-Comeau. Sandis Vilmanis and Dans Locmelis, two forwards drafted in the fifth and fourth rounds respectively in 2022, will be the offensive leaders. They have a match to win, against Germany.

Germany’s best youngsters, Tim Stützle, Moritz Seider, JJ Paterka and Lukas Reichel, are all already in the NHL and aged 20 or older. Germany is at a low point and will fight to avoid relegation. Forwards Julian Lutz and Kevin Bicker are nevertheless NHL draftees, but there isn’t much depth on offense, and the defense is likely to struggle, especially with the loss of Rayan Bettahar to injury, a veteran from last year. Germany won’t have much support from their 2005 vintage, relegated to the world’s second group at the Under-18 Championship earlier this year.

The World Junior Championship is coming to Sweden for the first time in ten years, and this nation has the team to win gold. She is powerful in defense and attack. It will be led on the back end by offensive defenseman Axel Sandin-Pellika, a 2023 first-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings who already has 13 points in 25 games in Skelleftea of ​​the Swedish SHL.

Another first-round pick, Tom Wallinder, Lane Hutson’s teammate at Boston University, will also be there, as will Mattias Havelid and Elias Pettersson, drafted in the first three rounds in 2022. There’s no shortage of talent up front either. with Noah Östlund, Liam Öhgren, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, David Edstrom, Filip Bystedt and Otto Stenberg all first-round picks.

The absence of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Shane Wright and defenseman Kevin Korchinski, retained by their NHL organizations, hurts Canada. Of the 2023 squad, only Owen Beck, recalled in disaster at the end of the tournament last year, is back. The Canadian team nevertheless has talent, with the Boston Bruins’ last-minute loan of Matthew Poitras, first-round picks Conor Geekie, Nate Danielson, Matthew Wood, Oliver Bonk, Maveric Lamoureux, Denton Mateychuk and Braden Yager, not to mention likely 2024 first overall pick Macklin Celebrini, but this group doesn’t have the experience of previous rosters. Its two goalkeepers, Mathis Rousseau and Samuel St-Hilaire, will also be in their baptism and have never been drafted. Canada does not yet have a medal around its neck, but the collective play is the proof of everything at this tournament.

This country won its first medal since 2005 at the World Junior Championship last year and came close to surprising Connor Bedard’s Canada in the final. The loss of its trio of experienced defenders, David Jiricek, David Spacek and Stanislav Svozil, hurts, but the team will at least be able to count on the return of forward Jiri Kulich, the top scorer in the American League, on loan at the last moment by the Buffalo Sabres. Eduard Sale, a 2023 first-round pick, is also back, 2024 draft prospects Adam Jiricek and Tomas Galvas show promise, and the Czech Republic has a solid goaltender in Michael Hrabal, a 6’6″ giant from the Arizona Coyotes organization.

Poor Slovaks. They’ve seen some great young players grow up, Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, Filip Mesar, among others, but they’re without the top two at a crucial time because Slafkovsky and Nemec, the top two 2022 picks, are already in the NHL at just 19 years old. Slovakia obviously does not have the depth of Canada and the United States and will be rather deprived in the absence of these two pillars. We should therefore not expect to see her beat the United States or push Canada into overtime in the quarter-final match as she did last year.

Slovakia is nevertheless counting on the return of last year’s MVP goaltender, Adam Gajan, a second-round pick of Chicago in 2023. Defenseman Maxim Srbak, a second-round pick of the Sabers in 2023, is back for a third and final year. Filip Mesar should once again be the offensive leader, and Dalibor Dvorsky, 10th overall pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2023, 34 points in 20 games in Sudbury, isn’t down either.

The valiant Swiss often have the gift of surprising us at this tournament with an unparalleled hard work and maximization of their talent thanks to collective play. We would like to be able to say that the goalkeepers will be their strong point, since the son of the friendly former Canadian goalkeeper Cristobal Huet, Ewan, will be in front of the Swiss cage, but that should not be the case. Huet and Alessio Beglieri unfortunately aren’t breaking anything in the Canadian junior ranks. Maybe they will surprise during a tournament? There are nevertheless two third-year veterans on defense, Rodwin Dionicio and Nick Meile, but it is weak on offense aside from Miles Müller, 29 points in 30 games in Moncton.

Norway are promoted to the top group for the first time in ten years and will battle with Germany, Latvia and Switzerland to avoid relegation. On the other hand, this country can count on the return of 14 players from last year’s squad in the second group. And this team pulverized the competition by winning its five matches with a goal differential of 11. Goalkeeper Markus Rohnebaek will be in a third world tournament. He was almost unbeatable last year, but will face significantly stiffer competition this year. Defense is not Norway’s strength. On the attack, Michael Brandesegg-Nygard will be one to watch. He already plays professionally in the Swedish second division and could be a first-round NHL pick in 2024. Petter Vesterheim, also a pro in the Swedish second division, even participated in the World Championship for men last spring.

Even without Logan Cooley, the American attack will be formidable. Cutter Gauthier, Jimmy Snuggerud and Rutger McGroarty, three first-round picks in 2022, are back, and the USA will also count on a trio of gifted youngsters drafted in the first round in 2023: Will Smith, Ryan Leonard and Gabriel Perreault, son of former hockey player Yanic.

Injured last year, Frank Nazar will be making his first appearance, but he was the 13th overall pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2022, obtained in the trade for Kirby Dach. He has a point per game at the University of Michigan this winter. The defense is led by Canadian hopeful Lane Hutson, in his second tournament, and Ryan Chesley. Seamus Casey and 2023 draft prospect Zeev Buium are expected to form the second pair. This is a talented defense, but not strong. None of the four defenders are taller than 6′.