Day one at the 2011 World Junior Championships went as expected - tournament favorites Canada pounded the Russians, Norway realized that this wasn't a cross-country skiing or biathlon tournament, the Swiss blitzed the Germans and the Finns were pesky enough to steal a point from the Americans. Day two marks the debut of the Czechoslovakia - both The Czech Republic and Slovakia play their first games. Neither game is available on television.
Germany may not be headed for relegation, after all. After surrendering a 4-0 lead to the Swiss on the back of three power play goals, the Germans scored three goals including two power play markers. The Germans lost two forwards to misconducts in the first twenty-five minutes of the game, Tom Kuhnhackl and Marius Mochel were sent off for checking from behind and checking to the head, so the Germans were down two significant forwards for a majority of the game. Marcel Noebels and Matthias Plachta combined for eleven of Germany's thirty-five shots on goal in their wake.
Oiler prospect Martin Marincin makes his 2011 WJC debut against the Germans tonight. Marincin's excellent 2010 tournament raised his draft profile and brought his skill set to the fore and a big 2011 tournament would add to an already impress resume. He's not alone on defense though - Adam Janosik, a third round pick in 2010 by the Tampa Lightning and Peter Ceresnak, a 6'3" 209 lb. giant, ranked number one for all Slovak players in the 2011 draft by NHL Central Scouting. Like Marincin before him, Ceresnak plays for the Slovakia U20 team in the Slovak Extraliga against grown men, so he should have no problem with the physical games of the Americans and Canadians. Slovakia also brings forwards Richard Panik, a Tampa draft choice and Tomas Jurco, playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs, projected to be a top fifteen draft choice in 2011.
Puck Worlds like Slovakia for third in Group A, but I think this is a team that, on the strength of their defense, can compete with the Finns and possibly pull an upset to finish second in Group A.
The Norwegians managed only eleven shots on goal and surrendered forty-six during the 7-1 loss to the Swedes. Their only hope of avoiding relegation is going to come from some Hasekian goaltending. Sondre Olden, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick, was invisible offensively against Sweden and worse in his own zone. Denmark will replace Norway in the top division next year in a Scandanavian yo-yo.
The Czechs will ice a number of offensive talents including Columbus Blue Jackets second-round draft pick Petr Straka and 2012 top five pick Martin Frk. Frk has a chance to turn a great performance in the Tournament of Small Sample Sizes into eighteen months of hype leading up to the 2012 draft. If the Czechs were in Group A, they'd likely come out of it with a game in the medal round. However, Group B is has only one winnable game on paper and Norway is that game. Expect the Czechs to pound the Norwegians, and then lose three straight.