It's the most wonderful time of the year! Yes, Christmas may be over but it continues on for all hockey fans around the globe. The World Junior Championships have begun in Sweden.
There is always a lot of hope for NHL fans when watching this tournament because of the fact that these guys could end up being key contributors to their favorite team.
There are also a handful of players that have yet to be drafted but will be later next spring. The bad teams in the NHL might be watching those guys especially close.
So after the first day, how much do we know about these teams? There is still a lot to be determined but the day was nothing short of excellent in terms of entertainment factor.
The 2023 World Junior Championships are officially underway.
Slovakia vs Czechia
Last year, Czechia broke a long medal drought (they took Bronze in 2005) by winning Silver. Of course, that left them wanting more coming into this year.
However, Slovakia had other plans as they defeated them 6-2. It was the largest margin of victory that Slovakia has ever had over Czechia. These two rivals match up well but Slovakia took this one pretty handedly.
Czechia had a 1-0 lead following the first period thanks to a goal scored by Dominik Rymon. However, Slovakia came out and dominated the second period in every way. They scored two goals (Servac Petrovsky and Peter Repcik) during that time and entered the third winning 2-1.
Things got even crazier in the third period. Slovakia added four more goals and the Czechs added just one. The Slovakians came to play right out of the gate this year but the Czechs have some work to do.
Slovakia next plays on Wednesday vs Switzerland while Czechis goes on to play Norway. Both of these teams are capable of getting wins in these matches.
Finland vs Canada
Team Canada has won the last two World Junior Championships. They took on Finland in the tournament opener and defeated them 5-2.
Canada is one of the favorites to take the whole thing again. They don't have that world-beating roster that they have had in years past but they are still very much able to take this whole thing down.
Macklin Celebrini is expected to be the number-one pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. A prospect with hype like him always has a lot of hype at the World Juniors. He lived up to it in the first game by scoring one of Canada's five goals.
Celebrini is having an incredible year with Boston University and now he's trying to add a Gold Medal to his resume during his draft year. So far, so good.
Matthew Poitras scored one of Canada's goals as well but it came with an empty net. He was added to the roster late as the Boston Bruins loaned him. He has played with Boston all year and done a great job as a rookie.
Pausing to come here and dominate is great for his development. It isn't at all surprising to see him score here (even if it was an empty netter) because there should be so much more room to make plays here compared to the NHL.
Finland is in a bit of a rut compared to where they were a handful of years ago. They played hard against Canada but they can come back in this tournament. One game doesn't have to define them.
Finland's next contest will come on Wednesday when they take on Germany. Meanwhile. Canada will also play again on Wednesday but they will go against Latvia.
United States vs Norway
The United States was supposed to destroy Norway. If they scored double-digit goals nobody would blink an eye. This USA team is as stacked as it's been in a couple of years while Norway isn't one of the usual powers of the hockey world.
However, this is a hard game and nothing comes easy. Norway gave the U.S. everything that they could handle in this one. The fact that it was 0-0 after the first period was very concerning.
However, the US broke through when Jimmy Snuggerud scored a goal to make it 1-0. The St. Louis Blues prospect is going to be a big-time scorer for them one day soon. Seamus Casey of the New Jersey Devils made a great play to find Snuggerud for the goal.
Gavin Brindley helped the Americans open the scoring as he scored twice in the second period. The Columbus Blue Jackets forward should have been a first-round pick last year but he fell to the early stages of the second round. Now, he is making a name for himself in this tournament.
In the third period, Norway pulled back to within two when Petter Vesterheim scored to make it 3-1. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect (former first-round pick) Isaac Howard added one later in the third period to make it 4-1 which would stand as the final.
Team USA pulled out the win and it is clear that they have another level that they can get to. Lane Hutson, Cutter Gauthier, Frank Nazar, Gabe Perreault, and Ryan Leonard all had assists but we can see these guys dominate even more as the event goes along. All of these guys will be in the NHL with their respective teams.
The US has Switzerland coming up on Thursday while Noway has their next one coming on Wednesday vs Czechia.
Sweden vs Latvia
Sweden took on Latvia in what turned out to be a very predictable domination. The Swedes got the best of the Latvians 6-0. Shots were 35-20 in favor of Sweden which moderately tells the story of how dominant it was for them.
Sweden is a hockey powerhouse while Latvia is still an up-and-coming hockey country. They have been involved in the World Juniors and the Olympics for a while now but they are still on the rise.
Anton Wahlberg (Buffalo Sabres) and Felix Under Sorum (Carolina Hurricanes each scored one goal while Jonathan Lekkerimaki (Vancouver Canucks) and Filip Bystedt (San Jose Sharks) each scored two. All of these guys were first or second-round picks.
Sweden will play next on Thursday against Germany. Latvia will now play Team Canada on Wednesday.