2024 World Juniors Preview - Perreault and USA an early favorite

One of my favorite periods of the hockey calendar has arrived. In one week, ten teams containing (most of) the best U20 players in the world will battle for the Gold medal at the 2024 World Junior Championship, which means I get to pen the 2024 World Juniors preview.

As a big soccer fan, I love international competitions and think it’s a joke that we do not see true best-on-best hockey. This is really the closest we get and for that reason, I relish this tournament.

It is also an exciting year to be a Rangers fan, as the Rangers will likely have three key players on the two most interesting teams at this tournament.

2024 World Juniors Preview – The Contenders

Team USA

Sometimes it is great seeing the Rangers with key players on Team Canada since it is such a challenging team to make, but to me nothing is more satisfying than seeing a Rangers prospect put on the Red, White, and Blue sweater. Not only is it convenient for USA/Rangers fans, but it also feels like a bit of a tradition for the Rangers after past performances from the likes of McDonagh, Kreider, and Stepan.

Sidebar; please Nike, just go with the classic Team USA template…the new ones are hideous

Gabe Perreault’s name should be written in Sharpie on the left wing of Will Smith and Ryan Leonard. Perreault leads the trio in scoring and has dominated challenging competition in his freshman season. That line will function as the 1A or 1B line for this stacked USA forward group.

I can also see Perreault getting powerplay time, but he will have to make the most of any opportunity he gets during the warm-up games.

The aforementioned NTDP line and fellow NTDP alum Cutter Gauthier (PHI) all play on BC’s top powerplay unit with Eamon Powell, so Carle may keep those four forwards together on a unit with Seamus Casey (NJ) or Lane Hutson (MTL). Regardless, the crown jewel of the Rangers prospect pool will have a big role to play.

Even without Logan Cooley, this is likely the deepest forward group the US has ever brought to this tournament. The group is so deep that leaving 2024 projected top-3 pick Cole Eiserman and 2023 1st-rounder Quentin Musty at home won’t hurt the team.

I was very surprised by the omission of James Hagens, who was one of the standout players in the summer showcase and by all accounts was one of the 14 best forwards at this camp. Hagens will almost certainly be the next American to be selected 1st overall, and he will lead this team at next years tournament.

A lot depends on the health of presumed captain Rutger McGroarty (WPG). If he is healthy in time for the tournament – which is looking increasingly likely after USA cut Hagens – it is looking like he will play left wing on the top line with Gauthier and Snuggerud.

Isaac Howard was a bubble player before camp but now looks set to play with Frank Nazar (CHI) and Gavin Brindley (CBJ), which was an excellent line over the summer. Danny Nelson (NYI) will anchor one of the best fourth lines I can remember on paper, and will be flanked by a combination of Oliver Moore (CHI), Gavin Hayes (CHI), and Quinn Finley (NYI).

On defense, USA is bringing two of the most dynamic defensemen at the tournament: Lane Hutson and Seamus Casey. They will be relied upon for maintaining control of games for the US.

Due to the need for a larger defenseman who is comfortable in transition to supplement the smaller offensive players, Drew Fortescue (NYR) seems like an obvious inclusion in the top 6. He has handled extremely difficult minutes for BC and plays the up-tempo transition-style game the US wants to play.

Keep an eye on 2024-eligible Zeev Buium. He has been one of college hockey’s best defensemen as a 17-year-old and has grown a couple of inches to hit the 6-foot mark. It is likely he will claim a role in the team’s top four and could cement his place in the top 10 of the upcoming draft.

The US will be backstopped by Jacob Fowler (MTL) and incumbent Trey Augustine (DET). Fowler has been the better player this year but USA hockey knows and loves Augustine. It’s expected that they split the group games and the real starter will be named in the Quarterfinal.

These are two of the best goalies at this tournament and provide the US with a massive advantage over Canada.

Team Canada

This is a weaker Canada team than we are used to seeing, presenting the US and Sweden with a tremendous opportunity. Fantilli, Wright, and Bedard were always expected to be in the NHL this season, so mentioning them as “misses” is not legitimate in my opinion.

That said, Zach Benson and Kevin Korchinski would both be star players at this tournament and will be sorely missed – it is worth noting that Benson could still be released although I think it’s unlikely.

Without Benson, the forward group is very good but lacks the consistent dynamic qualities we are used to seeing from Canadian teams. They are going to be relying on the fantastic Macklin Celebrini to be that game-breaker. While I don’t think betting on him is unwise, I do think Canadian fans should check expectations before expecting history to repeat itself with another draft-eligible star leading them to gold.

I am excited to see how Jordan Dumais (CBJ) performs at this level, given the inferior league strength of the QMJHL. Matt Savoie (BUF) will get the chance to shine in a top role for Canada, which he has not yet been given the chance to do at any level despite his pedigree.

The defensive group, however, is certainly up to Canadian standards. Denton Mateychuk (CBJ) and Tristan Luneau (ANA) will lead the way for the Canadians, and they are complemented by other high picks such as Tanner Molendyk (NSH), Oliver Bonk (PHI), and Maveric Lamoureux (ARZ). Between those players, Canada’s blue line ticks all of the boxes in a way the USA’s does not, although I don’t think the gap is as large as some seem to.

Overall, this team is still littered with high picks and will be a contender, but I think they are a cut below the US and Sweden due to the lack of game-breaking talent. Their group stage will be telling; in years past Canada has had the fortune of avoiding tough groups but this year there is a legitimate chance they finish third in their group.


The Swedes will be without Leo Carlsson, but like the US, this is the best team that Sweden has sent to this tournament in a long time. They are strong down the middle with three first-round picks: Noah Ostlund (BUF), Filip Bystedt (SJS), and David Edstrom (VGK).

Ostlund will once again be flanked by long-time wing pairing Liam Ohgren (MIN) and Jonathan Lekkerimaki (VAN), the trio that led Sweden to gold over this US group at the U18s in 2022. Blues 2023 first-rounder Otto Stenberg rounds out a top-six group that will know how to put the puck in the net.

The back end is where Sweden will really shine, as they are clearly bringing the strongest group and will be led by Axel Sandin-Pelikka (DET). Sandin-Pelikka will be a strong contender for the defenseman of the tournament and will go toe-to-toe with Lane Hutson to lead this tournament in defensive scoring.

The supporting group is very impressive. Elias Pettersson (VAN) – yes you read that right – has transformed into a legitimate NHL prospect for the Canucks and was a standout in the summer. Fellow Canucks prospect Tom Willander will be relied upon heavily in games against the likes of Canada and the US to stop their high-end forwards. Salomonsson (WPG) and Havelid round out a group that truly does not have a weakness.

In goal, the undrafted Hugo Havelid is expected to start for the Swedes. While his size has hurt his stock as a potential NHL prospect, Havelid was probably the biggest reason the 2004 group of Swedes was able to overcome USA in 2022. This tournament will offer him a chance to make his case to be drafted in 2024 after being passed over twice.

The Best of the Rest


For all the talk of Canada missing players due to the NHL, I think Slovakia has been hit the hardest. Simon Nemec would be the clear favorite to be the top defenseman at this tournament, but Dougie Hamilton’s injury has thrust him into a prominent role for the Devils and he will not be made available.

Juraj Slafkovsky (MTL) has just seven points in nearly 30 games this season. He never should have been the top overall pick and his development has been irreparably damaged by the Canadiens. If he was drafted at pick 10 instead he would be playing in this tournament.

Despite these losses, Slovakia will still come into the tournament as a dark horse to medal. They will be led by Slovak hockey prodigy Dalibor Dvorsky (STL), 2023 first-rounder Samuel Honzek (GGY), Filip Mesar (MTL), and our own Adam Sykora, who returns for his third and final attempt at a gold medal.

Those four players, along with drafted players like Alex Ciernik (PHI) and Servac Petrovsky (MIN), should provide enough scoring power for them to finish second in Group B after the US. They will rely on Maxim Strbak (BUF) to quarterback their blue line and play 25+ minutes each game.


This Czechia team is not nearly as deep as the group that almost beat Canada last year, but they do still have a couple of players who could help lead a medal charge. Jiri Kulich is looking like an outstanding late-first-round pick for the Sabres, and I expect that he will be one of the highest-scoring players in this tournament.

Eduard Sale (SEA) is the other clear standout in the forward group, although he has really struggled to get going this year in the OHL and has serious flaws in his game. If Czechia wants to make a run he will need to help supplement Kulich as a play driver.

While the Czechs lost David Jiricek, his younger brother Adam looks set to step in and cement his status as a lottery pick in the spring.

Not a deep group but if one line really gets clicking and Michael Hrabal (ARZ) is locked in, they could threaten for a medal.


This is probably the worst team Finland has sent to this tournament in a while, but they are usually well-coached and play a mature style so I figured they were worth including. Missing Aron Kiviharju, a long-projected top-15 pick in the upcoming draft who was inexplicably cut last year, is going to really hurt this team.

Joakim Kemell will be another big miss, I am honestly not quite sure why he has not been released as he is hardly starring for Nashville’s AHL franchise.

The real name to look out for is Konsta Helenius. Helenius is having a fantastic year in Liiga, and will play a leading role for this weak team. A strong tournament should provide him the opportunity to solidify a top-10 role.

Ultimately, I don’t consider this team a serious medal contender, but all it takes is winning a Quarterfinal to give yourself a chance.

Final Predictions:

Group A:

  1. Sweden
  2. Canada
  3. Finland
  4. Latvia
  5. Germany

Group B:

  1. USA
  2. Slovakia
  3. Czechia
  4. Switzerland
  5. Norway


  • Gold: USA
  • Silver: Sweden
  • Bronze: Canada
  • Relegated: Norway


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