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2022 World Junior Hockey Championship: Group A preview

Take two of the tournament takes place this week.

Germany v Czechia: Preliminary Round Group A - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Eight months after the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship was cancelled, the slate has been cleared and the tournament will start fresh.

Since December, a lot has changed, and Russia is out of the tournament and have been replaced with Latvia in Group A. The Latvians join Canada, Czechia, Finland, and Slovakia.

There will be no relegation for the 2022 tournament which means that the same 10 teams will take part in the 2023 tournament that will start in December like normal. Players born in 2002, and who were eligible for the tournament in December will remain eligible, even if they have since turned 20.

The tournament will start on Tuesday, and although we have previews from December, there have been several changes to rosters.

Canada

OUT: D Kaiden Guhle, D Owen Power, F Xavier Bourgault, F Mavrik Bourque, F Dylan Guenther, F Jake Neighbours, F Cole Perfetti, F Justin Sourdif, F Shane Wright

IN: D Ethan Del Mastro, D Jack Thompson, F William Dufour, F Tyson Foerster, F Nathan Gaucher, F Riley Kidney, F Zack Ostapchuk, F Brennan Othmann, F Joshua Roy

Canada’s roster had a significant turnover thanks to players who were banged up during the CHL playoffs, or are preparing for NHL training camps. They lose arguably their top two defenders, and some firepower up front, but gain a lot of intriguing talent with players who played themselves onto the roster with strong second halves of the season.

Canadiens content: Although the roster loses Guhle, the additions of Riley Kidney and Joshua Roy will be very interesting to watch. Kidney may be soaking in some experience to play a bigger role in the 2023 tournament at the end of the year, but Roy was skating on the top line in practice on Sunday.

Czechia

OUT: G Daniel Kral, G Jakub Málek, D Michal Hrádek, D Michael Krutil, D David Moravec, D Jakub Sedivy, F Jakub Brabenec, F Tomas Chlubna, F Vojtech Jirus, F Josef Kolacek, F Jakub Konecny, F Sebastian Malat, F Pavel Novák

IN: G Pavel Cajan, G Tomas Suchanek, D Ales Cech, D Tomas Hamara, D Frantisek Nemec, D Stepan Nemec, F Jaroslav Chmelar, F Petr Hauser, F Daniel Hercik, F Adam Mechura, F Matous Mensik, F Matyas Sapovaliv, F Gabriel Szturc

The Czechs get to keep their highly drafted 2022 prospects in David Jiricek and Jiri Kulich, but there is a lot of turnover on their roster. Most of the players added to the roster are eligible for the 2023 tournament. A few months older, Kulich will be expected to provide the Czechs with offence if they are to make noise at the tournament.

Canadiens content: While one Canadiens prospect who was named a team captain is out in Canada’s Kaiden Guhle, Jan Myšàk returns and will be playing a big role for the Czechs. He is expected to be on the wing during the tournament. After a supporting role for Hamilton at the Memorial Cup, he will be expected to lead by example.

Finland

OUT: G Joel Blomqvist, D Karri Aho, D Ville Ottavainen, F Olli Nikupeteri, F Sami Päivärinta

IN: G Jani Lampinen, D Joni Jurmo, D Matias Rajaniemi, F Eetu Liukas, F Aatu Räty

While the loss of Blomqvist in goal hurts, they do get a big boost in Aatu Räty up front. He was going to miss the December tournament due to a positive COVID-19 test. His presence will provide the team with some much needed firepower. Other than that, there is very little turnover, and the team is largely the same one that would have competed in December.

Brad Lambert missed the team’s pre-tournament game with an injury, and his status for the start of the tournament will be something to watch.

Canadiens content: Oliver Kapanen will return to the team after taking part in two games in December. He will look to kickstart what is a very important season for him. His role may be reduced with the return of Räty, but there will be opportunity. 2022 seventh-round pick Petteri Nurmi will be someone to watch. The defender was on the team in December, but after being picked as an overager by the Canadiens, a lot of eyes will be on him.

Slovakia

OUT: G Rastislav Elias, D Simon Becar, D Samuel Knazko, D Simon Nemec, D Marko Stacha, F Martin Chromiak, F Samuel Krajc, F Jan Lasak, F Filip Mesar, F Juraj Slafkovsky, F Pavol Stetka

IN: G Patrik Andrisik, D Simon Groch, D Michal Laurencik, D David Natny, D Adam Stripai, D Boris Zabka, F Samuel Honzek, F Lubomor Kupco, F Martin Misiak, F Libor Nemec, F Peter Repcik, F Oliver Stümpel

No team is as hurt by the tournament’s timing than Slovakia. What should have been a celebration of the nation’s golden era with the top two picks in the 2022 NHL Draft plus a third first-round pick later in the draft, will see none of Juraj Slafkovsky, Simon Nemec, or Filip Mesar participate.

The good news is that there is no relegation, and that all three are eligible for the December tournament. It is likely they will get at least one of the players back.

They will rely on 2023 top prospect Dalibor Dvorsky to step up and provide offence. Another 2005-born player, Maxim Strbac also remains on the roster and the young talent coming out of Slovakia may not have peaked with the 2022 class.

Latvia

The Latvian team was the runner up in the Division 1A field, and was promoted to the top division. They are replacing Russia, who are suspended. Belarus, who finished first in Division 1A, is also suspended.

With no relegation, they can play in the tournament without pressure. It is their first time in the top division since 2017.

They have three drafted forwards on their team, Dans Locmelis (2022 4R, Boston), Klavs Veinbergs (2022 7R, Tampa Bay), and Sandis Vilmanis (2022 5R, Florida). They will all be eligible for the December 2023 tournament as well, and the team will be looking for them to provide offence.

Eleven players on Latvia’s roster have ties to North American club teams, including some players passed over in the 2022 NHL Draft like defenders Niks Fenenko (Baie Comeau, QMJHL) and Bogdans Hodass (Medicine Hat, WHL).

They will be in tough in this group, and likely see their game against Slovakia as the best chance of qualifying for the playoff round.